Name: Yash Jaiswal
From: Tuscaloosa , Alabama
From Chocolates To Cigarettes
“To this day, I still remember the time I smoked cigarettes for the very first time—around five years ago—mainly out of curiosity, partly out of peer pressure. Speaking the truth, initially, I didn’t find this issue worth concerning since I knew I wasn’t a regular smoker whatsoever. Besides, in general, I was also doing really great both inside and outside of the classroom. Hence, I thought few occasional smokes wouldn’t be really troublesome.
I believe then occurred the incident that initiated my nicotine and alcohol addiction— a long term separation from my loved one. This traumatic experience negatively affected my mental health to a large degree. I started struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that I couldn’t obliterate. It shattered my sense of security, left me disconnected, and completely made me unable to trust other people. I wasn’t well acquainted with many ways to cope with anxiety and depression back then. I somehow found solace in drinks and cigarettes. The immediate sense of relaxation nicotine created amidst an emotional trauma completely overpowered me, and I didn’t even think for once whether what I was doing was ethically right or wrong. I am not entirely sure whether I chose cigarettes or ‘cigarettes chose me,’ but whatever happened afterwards completely turned my world topsy-turvy!
Soon, I started smoking two packs a day. To add insult to injury, I also started drinking heavily. Speaking the truth, the alcohol and smoke did indeed provide me an escape from the agony, which is why I continued excessively smoking and drinking for the next six months. However, I soon started realizing that the calming and comforting effects these addictive substances create are only for a brief period; in reality, I am not permanently deleting that phase of my life where I have gone through the mental pain. I understood that I might just have to carry that traumatic experience with me for the rest of my life since it’s already became a part of it. I also noticed that apart from wasting precious time and money, I am also destroying my mental and physical health. Now, I couldn’t focus on my studies the way I used to before. I also started having respiratory complications which greatly affected my performance in swimming, track and field, and soccer field. Hence, I soon started thinking about ways to quit my addiction with cigarettes and alcohol. After having thought for a considerable period of time, one day, I just left the company of my smoker friends. I came to my hometown and asked my non smoker friends and family to help me quit drinking and smoking. Eventhough it was hard in the beginning, I am proud to say that it worked, and now I drink or smoke only on occasions, like a party or a boys night out.”
My personal history with addiction isn’t unique whatsoever. Each and every day thousands of youngsters worldwide start using alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs (amphetamines, cocaine, heroin etc.), or prescription opioids (hydrocodone, morphine etc.). And, there are infinite number of reasons behind taking this heavy step, including PTSD symptoms, psychological traumas, negative moods, stress relief, pleasure, peer pressure, parental influence, genetic factors, media influence, and many more. I believe most of the people have a legitimate reason behind choosing substance abuse. Many people who smoke do so because they believe it calms them down. For some people, a good, stiff drink can have a soothing effect during stressful times, for instance stress from job, family responsibilities, or monetary or fiscal problems. People who use drugs may like the feelings of excitement, confidence and connection with others which some drugs can elicit. People also believe that drugs help them relieve feelings of boredom. Many young people live in communities that suffer from deprivation, unemployment, low quality infrastructure and housing. In such communities, drug supply and use often thrive as an alternative economy and makes illicit drug abuse another aspect of their society.
Nonetheless, whatever the cause is, I can speak from my experience that ‘addiction only leads to dire consequences even if you feel these substances are fulfilling their intended goals initially!’
Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol not only damages or weakens a body’s systems, but also poses fatal heath risks, including but are not limited to lung cancer, heart diseases, and strokes, the top three leading causes of death in United States. There are additional risks for female smokers who want to be mothers in near future: Smoking makes it more difficult to get pregnant, and research reveals an increased risk of infertility for women who smoke. Also, chronic, heavy consumption of alcohol is already known to cause brain damage, especially in conjunction with alcohol; the combined effects of alcohol dependence and chronic smoking are associated with greater regional brain damage than chronic alcoholic drinking or smoking alone. Not just this, having a smoking habit also affects your relationships with your loved ones. You miss spending time with your family and friends. You don’t have enough money to spend on the people you love. (A pack a day smoker can spend at least $2000 per year on purchasing cigarettes.) And, you don’t even set good examples for your children. Research reveals that children who are raised by smokers are more likely to become smokers themselves. Most importantly, these substances do not even help you with the long-term expected goals, for instance whether you smoke, drink, or use drugs, you know these substances only create immediate sense of euphoria, do not obliterate the real memories. So, in conclusion, what really are the advantages of starting smoking or drinking in the first place!? If you haven’t realized yet, you will realize eventually that there isn’t really any!
I am really grateful and happy that I successfully reduced smoking and drinking considerably. And, there is a also a good news that everyone else can quit as well, eventhough it’s a little complicated process. Firstly, I believe if you decide to quit, you should have a specific goal in mind. It might be to quit entirely, to quit some addictive behaviours or substances (but not all), to reduce the amount of time or money spent on addictive behaviours, or to reduce the harm of an addictive behaviour. For example, many drug users decide to quit heroin or meth but continue to drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes or marijuana. Many heavy drinkers have the goal of just one drink a day or only drinking socially. I believe getting clear on your goal before putting it into practice is helpful for success in changing an addictive behaviour. Now, once you are clear on your goal, you may still need to prepare to change, which includes removing addictive substances from your home, as well as eliminating triggers in your life that may make you more likely to use those substances again. Apart from this, you should also take time to talk to your friends and family who will support you in your goals without being judgmental if times become hard. You might also want to let those friends you drink, use drugs, or engage in addictive behaviours with know that you are planning to change. They maybe supportive—or they might not understand. Either way, it’s a good idea to let them know of your goal and what they can do to support it (even if that means taking a break from the friendship for some time). For alcohol and drug addictions, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor or local drug clinic about whether you need medical help in quitting. A good therapy can help you to cope with uncomfortable feelings and help you unravel the irrational thoughts that keep you addicted. Seasons In Malibu, California, provide such world class therapies that could profoundly help you with substance abuse, alcoholism, and mental health.
I understand that quitting is certainly not easy or straightforward, but a determined will, good support group, and treatment program will certainly help you achieve it when you are ready. I believe if each individual learn from their, or others’, experiences and follow the necessary steps, we could surely make a happy and prosperous global society free of smokers.