AN EXPERIENCE ABOVE THE WAISTLINE-11.pngSmoking is pretty bad, right? Of course, it is. There have been countless studies on the effects of smoking and how bad it is for our health, especially in the long term where it can cause lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Australia has been a big no-smoking advocate for years now, to the point where they are constantly bumping up the price for a pack of cigarettes and going as far as trying to ban smoking everywhere except your own backyard. Every time some media outlet talks about smoking there is comment after comment condemning those who do smoke, some even telling smokers to kill themselves because they are trash and are going to die anyway. People constantly talk about the health risks and that smoking is the devil. Now, I’m not here to tell you that smoking is okay or that you should smoke etcetera, I am here to tell you why I smoke because no one understands that I don’t just have a ‘dirty’ habit or that I am disgusting for smoking – yes, I have had someone say that to my face. Believe me when I say that I wish I wasn’t a smoker, it would benefit me a lot more both short and long-term if I didn’t smoke but I do smoke and I deal with it.

Like I mentioned before, non-smokers are always verbally bashing smokers both in person and online. It’s a never-ending occurrence that will never go away, not until smoking is illegal altogether. They tell us we are a waste of space or that we waste both our money and the governments’ money (medical treatment for diseases we caused by smoking). I agree, we definitely spend a crap ton of money on cigarettes and medical treatment, should the time come. When people pay us out or are plain rude to us, they forget that a fair few of us started for a reason, some people didn’t even start by choice. Everyone gets so caught in how disgusting and harmful smoking is that they forget that smokers have feelings or that we smoke for a reason, reasons which I want to share with you.

So, you see a lot of older people that used to smoke or still do that started due to normalcy. In some countries and times, it was strange not to smoke. Some kids were peer-pressured into smoking, which is still something that happens today. I wasn’t peer-pressured into smoking per say, although I got into the bad crowd in high school where smoking and drinking was a normal thing for us. It wasn’t peer-pressure, it was more like it was just something I did during this time. I stopped smoking for about a year after I stopped hanging around with that group of people. When I graduated school, that’s when I started smoking again during schoolies. That was a little bit of ‘acting cool’ though as I was with a group of people that I wasn’t really friends with, that picked on me a little bit while I was there, so I smoked to have a little freedom to myself if that makes sense. When I got back from schoolies mum found my pack and ‘threw it out’ – I later found out she hid them for like 3 years before giving them to me one afternoon.

My reasons, mentioned above, aren’t very good excuses for why I smoke. I actually sound like an idiot for using those as my ‘reasons’ even though they are usually very common reasons amongst younger smokers. When I went to TAFE in 2014 I started smoking and haven’t stopped since. I wasn’t ‘addicted’ straight off the bat. I could have quit whenever I wanted to (I know that sounds cliché or whatever but it’s true, I don’t really have a very addictive personality, never have). I smoked for two reasons back then and those reasons are still my main reasons to this day.

I suffer from pretty bad anxiety (You can read about it here) and it flares up mainly when I have to answer the phone or when I am waiting for something like a phone call or interview. My biggest issue is calling someone who isn’t my mum, dad or Gilly. I will literally have a panic attack over it. Smoking helps me to calm down. I can get my heart rate down, I can breathe better (weird, but that’s what happens to be),  I get more confidence to actually stand up, take a breath and go do whatever it is I have to do. I know there are other ways to control anxiety. I’ve tried it all – CBT, meds, psychologists, the works – and none of those have helped me when it actually matters. Yeah, they teach you how to control your breathing or whatever but it doesn’t work fast enough or well enough for me. When I have a cigarette I can feel my whole body start to relax immediately which helps to calm me down quicker.

Now, this reason is pretty much the same reason as the previous one but in a different context. I used to have a very, very short fuse and was generally a somewhat aggressive person most of the time – I’m short and petite so a little aggression got people to take me a little more seriously – I still am aggressive sometimes and still have an incredibly short fuse but I try not to act or respond badly where possible. I found that smoking calms me (I know it’s supposed to do that) down quickly. I remember when I was studying, I had a class called Conflict Management – oh, the irony – anyway, a friend of mine was paying me out because I’m Irish and just making fun of that fact. I was pissed off but it didn’t put me over the edge until he full on dropped my laptop on the floor. I was ready to stand up and punch him as hard as I could. I know if I did that I would be instantly kicked out of class and possibly TAFE so I got up, got my stuff and left for a smoke. After class, my other friends came to check on me and I had calmed down so much at that point that it was like nothing had ever happened. It may sound bad but I have avoided a few fights and altercations that could have been a hell of a lot worse had I not walked away and had a cigarette.

I’m not trying to tell you that smoking is okay or has any good qualities to it but for me, it keeps me sane, calm and relaxed when I need it most. Obviously, if you have anxiety, don’t take up smoking, try everything else and one of those methods will work. I definitely don’t condone smoking but I won’t be a prick about it if you do. Basically, if you know someone who smokes, ask them why. Don’t just assume they are an addict and can’t stop, some of us really do have a reason. Smoking definitely isn’t the best way to deal with anything but it does actually help some people and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that.



NB: Photo courtesy of The Sun


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