My parents were both 2 pack a day smokers, so I was exposed to smoking early and often. It was back in the day when mom could still send us to the store to buy them for her, and to get them to quit smoking, we used to conveniently "forget" the smokes. Once mom and dad quit, smoking wasn't tolerated in the house at all.
I had my first cigarette at the age of 13, courtesy of my older sister. She was angry with my parents, and her response to that anger was to smoke in their house. Specifically, in my room, with a fan facing out the window. I still remember the head rush I got from that first drag.
I seldom smoked, but occasionally would take a drag or two, but those were few and far between. When I was drinking, I smoked more often, but not very regularly. The more regular stuff started when I started playing poker with the guys in my lab. We would smoke little swishers (swisher sweets cigars, look like cigarettes, really). They always seemed great for concentration and for keeping me awake. This would be the beginning...
When I graduated from college and was interviewing for jobs, I did a lot of driving, and I picked up a pack of smokes to keep me awake as I drove cross country. It worked wonders, and I would use the technique whenever I needed a pick me up. I would smoke when I had a road trip, or when I was at the bar, then put them down for weeks or even months. But the head rush always kept me coming back.
My smoking continued in this pattern for years. Then, life reared its ugly head. I was in my second year of tech school working on a degree in automotive technology. I fell and injured my rotator cuff, and was in rehab for weeks. Then, the worst day of my life (i'm having a panic attack thinking about this...) happened. I found out from my orthopedic surgeon that I would have to quit working as a mechanic if I wanted to keep the use of my shoulders. My boss fired me because I could no longer work in the shop, and my boyfriend of 9 months decided he was tired of waiting for sex and forced himself on me. All of this on the same day. It was one of the first times I smoked (I was a virgin at the time) in response to an emotional event. I found it allowed me to shut off the emotions for a while.
I finally found a new job dealing blackjack and selling pulltabs, and I went into counseling to deal with the rape, but I was still hiding behind the smoke screen. At work, I dealt with a lot of people, but never let anyone in. One day, I was sitting behind my table when a striking redhead walked into the bar. I took all his money and we talked for hours. We started dating, and (partially in subconscious response to the rape) quickly had a more intimate relationship. I fell in love quickly and was blind to his faults. After dating for a year and a half, we got married.
It was the best of times and the worst of times, as it often is with an abusive partner. I had nowhere to turn, so I turned to cigarettes. I smoked in response to outbursts, I smoked when I was happy. I smoked when grad school frustrated me. i smoked all the time, and I was truly hooked. When I got divorced, I smoked to deal with the pain. Cigarettes were my constant companions, my best friends.
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