As young as 16 years old was I when I first lit a cigarette of my own. It was during a school trip. My girlfriends and I took turn in lighting a Virginia Slim in our hostel room. Checking our reflection in the mirror with a slim cigarette in our hand seemed cool for teen girls like us back then. We felt as if we were adult, mature.
From then on I started to smoke more and more, secretly. Fast forward two years later, I regularly bought my own pack of cigarette. In that period of time I had switched from brands starting from the very light Virginia Slim to Dunhill Menthol to Marlboro and the heavy Sampurna (Indonesian cigarette brand with a dash of clove, no filter. It tastes sweet). One day that pack of cigarette peeked out from my school bag, catching my mum’s sight. She saw it! I was terrified. That evening came the verdict from both my parents: they said they wouldn’t raise my week allowance to which I replied, no problem because at that time I earned extra from dancing.
I remember my father told me he prefered me smoking at home for he was aware there was no point of forbidding me not to. He said, he was young once and he recalled the teen psyche, the urge to experimenting with things. And me, I was so relieved and happy having such cool parents. My father was a bohemian/hippie comic artist so it was not an average Indonesian parenting style. Some of my girlfriends who also smoked, whose parents were friends with mine, happily came to my house to enjoy some cigarettes on regular basis.
Then I met my husband. He was not a smoker. When our relationship got serious, I considered to quit. One year before we got married I came visiting him for 3 weeks. I managed not to smoke while I was with him. A year later after moving to The Netherlands I quit, cold turkey.
It was hard the first couple of days, apparently my body was busy detoxing itself from nicotine. Note: I smoked a pack consisting 20 cigarettes in two days. There were times when I longed for a cigarette for example after meals, hanging out with friends or just in the morning by the tea. That was when I began to explore why I needed to lit one. Was it the taste, the feeling of having something in my hand or just a habit? The answer was different day by day, depending on the mood but I had successfully quit smoking. That was it! I underwent no special treatment, I read no book, used no nicotine patches and the likes, I just quit smoking cold turkey. It was in 1995.
I was able to differentiate liking, needing and wanting the cigarette. According to neuroscience, there is a reward center in our brain that release the pleasurable neurotransmitter dopamine. In to this article from Harvard How addiction hijacks the brain
Dopamine release is so consistently tied with pleasure. Addictive drugs (read: nicotine) provide a shortcut to the brain’s reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine.
I wrote this as my contribution to World No Tobacco Day. As an ex smoker whose father passed away due to lung cancer I would gladly spread the awareness of nicotine danger. In the short-term after quitting smoking your taste buds become better, no bad breath and the skin glows. In mid/long-term it will reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Read more about World No Tobacco Day on WHO site.
Good luck to those who are trying to quit now or even some who plan to!
Featured image is from Freepik