How Nicotine Addiction Gripped A Secret Smoker’s Life
I am a closet smoker. If a closet gay is someone who hides his real sexual preference, I am someone who hides my vice from everyone. To the people around me, I am a cigarette-hating health buff. Inside, I am a chain-smoking someone struggling with her addiction and lying to herself.
I lived a double life, and it just didn’t cause me pain. It also alienated me from my husband and my son.
I came from a family of non-smokers. I was dared to smoke a stick by a friend when I was 14. I did not like it at first as the smell of the smoke made my head hurt. However, I was scared I would lose my group of girlfriends. I got used to everything months later.
By 15, I smoked a pack a week. I never bought cigarettes or smoked in my childhood home. To my parents, I was still their dutiful daughter. There were times, though, that mom looked at me funny. It was like she knew I was hiding a secret.
I was so glad when my college years came. It meant I was free to do my own thing. Being far away from home felt great, too. I only stopped smoking those few times I had to come home. At school, my usual fix was three to four cigarette sticks in one day. More if I felt stressed out or I had to study hard for my exams.
Progression to cigarette smoking was defined along a three-stage trajectory: non-susceptible smokers were those who said they would not try a cigarette or smoke in the next year; susceptible nonsmokers were those who could not rule out smoking; and smokers. —
Into The Closet
I met my husband while working at a business firm a few months after my college graduation. I liked him so much that when I learned he was a nonsmoker, I introduced myself as one, too. I never smoked throughout our six months of courtship or the next six months after we got married. I thought that that was it. I was done with the habit.
Then, one day, for a reason I could not remember, I had a stick. That led to my reverting to smoking again.
At first, I smoked one to two sticks a day. My husband tolerated it. After all, he also enjoyed a shot or two of his favorite alcoholic drink after work. My smoking and his drinking became our bonding time. However, over time, I noticed that I kept on getting my husband tipsy because the more he inebriated, the more I could smoke without him seeing it. It takes my husband two hours to pass out drunk. I have smoked my way to almost a pack within that timeframe.
Then our bonding time was not enough for me to get my fix. I took to getting up earlier than my husband and smoking for a few minutes before anything else in the morning. Then I would repeat the process at night – excusing myself early and lighting a stick or two before taking a bath to wash off the smell from me.
Smoking cigarettes has been identified by researchers as one of the most difficult addictions to quit. What else could account for the fact that despite the staggering evidence documenting the detrimental effects of cigarette smoking to one’s health—and the rising costs associated with indulging in this bad habit—that individuals persist in their pervasive consumption of tobacco products. — Azadeh Aalai Ph.D.
Keeping my secret was getting harder and harder the more I crave for my nicotine fix. I excused myself from family outings so many times so that I could stay at home and smoke my cigarettes to my heart’s content. On family events I could not refuse, I would volunteer to be the purchase girl for everyone, the perfect excuse to hit the gas station for a pack and smoke two or three sticks for a few minutes.
I encouraged my husband to have “boys’ time” with our son every week, an excuse to get me smoking in the house freely. I lived for these times, and I built my life’s schedule with my vice as the top priority.
For many long-term smokers, cigarettes have become a fixture in daily life. At some point, however, nearly all people who smoke wish they didn’t—and strongly desire to do something about it. — Marni Amsellem, PhD
Coming Out A Fake
Coming out of my closet is hard but I felt now is the time to do it, now that my resolve to quit is still strong. I could not continue living my double life anymore. Not one of my friends or co-workers knows that I’m battling nicotine addiction. My husband knew I smoked, but he did not expect it would be to this extent.
Lastly, I want to be clean for my son. The fear that I would die early because of my vice has a firm grip on me. I do not want to be burdened by it. I just want to be free.
- Lisa, 31 years old (Her testimony during a group therapy session in rehab just a week after her last smoke.)