Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 - Nicotine Sticks

Name: Mckenna ...
From: Murray, Utah
School: University of Utah
Votes: 0 Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 - Nicotine Sticks

Nicotine Sticks

Nicotine
Sticks

I
was about 5 years old, it was a cool summer night. My dad is on the
porch, taking a phone call from his brother. In one hand, his phone,
the other a cigarette glowing brightly in the dark of the night. He
takes short drags, and inhales, then exhales a small cloud of smoke.
This was the first memory I have with drugs, a vivid one at least.

From
there, I could name a hundred memories where I saw a cigarette
involved, the hushed whispers at night, the heavy coughing that
followed a drag. My dad was addicted, too addicted to let go of his
precious nicotine sticks for any reason, even if it meant bringing
his wife and children to tears when he was wheeled off the operating
room. He was a smoker for nearly 35 years, starting when he was a
young adult living in revolutionized Iran.

I
don’t know much about how it started, or the earlier phases before I
was born. The parts that I do know however, were ugly. It was 1/2 a
pack to an entire one daily, the constant (yet comforting) smell of
smoke lingering on him and the furniture. It was the fear and tears
when school began teaching us about smoking and how dangerous it was.
“Baba, you’re hurting yourself. You might die if you keep
smoking them,” is what I remember my sister pleading him. She
was flipping through a booklet given to her at school, showing
cartoon lungs in a jail cell. “That’s what your lungs will look
like, aren’t you scared baba?”

It
was my mom pacing the kitchen, talking to my sister and I, as we
devised plans to try to curb his smoking. It was getting bad; he
coughed too much. It was becoming two packs a day, cigarettes were
showing up in new places inside the house. Talks of death, surgeries,
and other scary topics for a 9 year old to talk about, were becoming
more and more common.

It
was tears, being asked to pray and everything in our power we could
possibly think of. It was 2012, a chilly October night. He was sent
to the hospital; deemed he needed a heart transplant that couldn’t
wait. At the time we had no insurance, no more money coming in. Two
young girls and a stay-at-home mom, cracked voices and tears inside a
suffocating hospital room. Even then, he had the strong smell of
cigarettes lingering on him, just like it always did.

The
surgery was a success, but my dad was home bound for a while. He quit
cold turkey, we threw away all the remains of his stashes and cleaned
the house. For once in the 9 years we had lived in that house, there
wasn’t a single cigarette or lighter to be seen, just a man on the
couch, breathing steadily. Watching him kill himself and nearly die
to his addiction shook me to the core, and scared me beyond belief.

The
thought of a cigarette ever reaching my own lips was paralyzing, yet
I followed down his path years later. It was during my high school
years that I was introduced to the drug that nearly took him away. It
started as trying it out. A single vape puff, one cigarette stick. I
found myself being drawn into the euphoria it brought me, and the old
memories before things got bad.

Before
I knew it, I was illegally buying cigarettes, smoking them with my
older coworkers. It was constant clothing changes, vaping tanks and
throwing boxes in smaller boxes. What was a weekly thing started
becoming a daily, then hourly. There were times I felt like I was
dying, because I wasn’t able to cram in a smoke break. Was this what
my dad had suffered through, but for 35 years longer than me? Was I
going to end up like my old man, or make the choice he wasn’t able
to? It was getting harder and harder to cover up, those around me
continuing to fuel my addiction, it was becoming harder to breathe
right.

It
was early July, when I decided to curb it. I sold all my vape
supplies, gave away my cigarettes and asked for a couple days off.
“Family emergency,” I had said, “if I’m not around to stop it
now, I promise you I’ll be out of work for a month instead.” It
was actually hell, fighting headaches, blackouts and dizziness all at
once. It felt like my mind and body were on fire, the world was so
loud and unbearable. After day five, some of the dizziness subdued,
and things very slowly became manageable. I struggled with relapse,
crumbling to a chemical that gave my brain a buzz, and brought
temporary bliss before fighting it all over again.

It’s
tough to say, but as of now, I’m only a couple months clean. Things
have been tough, especially fighting off the craving and saying no to
the causal offers I get. But, a couple months is better than where I
first began, and what it could’ve been if I wasn’t clean, or
didn’t ever try to stop. My childhood should’ve been enough to
scare me away, but sometimes you have to look death straight in the
eyes before understanding just how dangerous it is.

My
addiction taught me so many things, even if it was something that
brought me demise. I now understood just why people started, why
people quit. Everything I could’ve ever needed to learn about
people and their nicotine addictions, just addiction in general. It’s
so heavily frowned upon, such a hush hush topic. Whatever substance
you use, and how you use it. People often overlook the lines of
addiction, and only accept the “good” kinds (there are none).
Cute fruity drinks at the bar, vaping and smoking for the sake of
aesthetics. Huffing glue out of desperation, purchasing multiple
packs, and little baggies, all ‘disgusting and shameful.’
Addiction is something to be both frowned upon, yet glorified. It’s
a beast, a killer. The more people understand that, and know the
limits between safe and dangerous, it might just save one more
person.


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Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 - Nicotine Sticks
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