I want to start out by thanking James at the Ashtray Blog for the opportunity to guest post. I was reading his story about diabetes and vaping and thought about my own health, my vaping, and how it has impacted my life. I guess that’s pretty normal when you hit the age of forty, okay forty-one! I suppose I will start where most stories do, at the beginning.
Smoking from A Young Age
I started smoking at a young age. My first memories of smoking are from 6th grade. A school buddy and I would sneak packs of cigarettes out of his mother’s carton and run off to smoke them. That memory is a bit blurry now, but certain pieces stuck with me. For instance, I am not sure whether it was the park near his house or the university quad where we ran off and hid. However, the memories of the rebellious nature, the taboo, and the excitement of possibly getting caught still stick with me today.
I am the son of a Presbyterian minister, so it’s almost mandatory that I was an unruly child. It’s almost like it’s inherent in the nature of minister’s children to question traditional values. I did it, my sister did it, my cousins, my mother, I could go on (we have quite a few preachers in our family tree). Smoking was one of those things that made me different from the expectations people had of the typical minister’s son.
By the time I was in my second year of high school I was smoking a pack and a half a day, if not more. By the age of twenty I was easily a two and a half pack a day smoker. Lucky Strikes were my poison of choice. I was sure I would NEVER give them up. Come hell or high water, I was going to die young and die a smoker.
However, also while in my early twenties, I met my beautiful and wonderful wife to be. As usual we didn’t do things traditionally. We lived together for at least 8 years before getting married. We never wanted kids, and we both smoked away happy as can be.
Trying to Quit
One year before we got married, she, and by proxy, I quit. Yes, this is weird, but it was crème of tartar mixed in orange juice that did it. I don’t know how or why but that did it. I was smoke free but very unhappy about it… for a year. I started back up again the day of the wedding ceremony and never looked back.
Between the year 2000 (when I got married) and April of 2011, I began to notice more and more health problems were creeping up. I was never a health nut. I didn’t exercise, I am obese (what American isn’t?), and I already had a long history of depression (with a long list of anti-depressants to go with it). Most of all, I didn’t care. That was the kicker, I just didn’t care.
However, during those specific years (2000-2011) I began to see the impacts of the life I had led, and choices I made. I was diagnosed during that time with: sleep apnea, bronchitis or pneumonia ever winter (multiple times), waking up and coughing to the point of retching almost every morning, cranial hypertension, infections, gall bladder failure, and to top it off, type-two diabetes.
As the problems stacked up I tried again and again to quit smoking in those last few years. Yes, I tried the crème of tartar and orange juice again, nope. Patches, I smoked while wearing them. Gum, I smoked while chewing it. Lozenges, I smoked while sucking on them.
Medication, let’s stop there a minute. I had depression already, but was STILL prescribed cessation medication. The doctor knew my medical history, and knew my lifelong issues with depression, but the only tool in his arsenal was patches and medication. That was probably one of the worse times in my life. I wanted to throw myself off a building, or drive into a tree or wall, or walk into the busy street. It was the single worst time of my existence culminating in panic attacks that sent me to the hospital twice, and kept me off work for almost 5 months. To this day I still have to take medication to manage the panic attacks albeit a much lower dose.
Switching to Vaping
So by this point I am sure that James is reading this saying “umm… what happened to the short paragraphs and the vaping”? I’m getting there James! It was very late one night in December of 2011. I was dozing off and waking up, when I saw a commercial on TV for electronic cigarettes. To be honest I don’t even remember the name of the company but somewhere in my half asleep, half awake, existence it stuck in my head.
The next day I began researching electronic cigarettes. I had the usual journey: the super mini, the 808, the “big battery” 808. I officially had my last cigarette April 1st 2011, although technically had been vaping since February.
So what changes have I seen in my health? I am a pretty open guy, so I have no issues sharing. I was 365 pounds when I started vaping, my blood pressure was on the very edge of being too high, my blood sugars regularly ran in the 400’s (90-100 is normal for most), I got pneumonia or bronchitis at least twice every winter.
Now, while not great, my weight is 330 pounds, my blood pressure is normal, my sugars are running under 200, and I did not get sick at all this winter. I do not wake up coughing a retching and I am feeling so much better. Can I contribute this to vaping alone? No. But, I want to return to a point I made earlier to wrap this up.
At one point in my life, I didn’t care about my health, or that smoking was going to kill me. I can, and will however, cite vaping as the main contributor to changing that mindset. I scoffed when the patches, gum, and workplace health committees talked about a support community being one of the biggest factors in quitting. However, I am convinced that vaping has greatly reduced the harm I was doing to my body by smoking. But it was the people, the vaping community that reduced my stubbornness and feelings of hopelessness in never being able to, or caring about quitting.
That is the reason I blog. That is the reason I call my blog VapersVoice. It was the voices in the vaping community that changed my life. Shook me and yelled “WAKE UP” there is a way forward. I thank each and every person who contributes to that every day whether I write or story or not. That’s my story, and the journey continues. Peace, Love, and VAPOR. Oh, and “VAPE LOUD, Vape Proud!”