*This post was written by a Ventura County young adult.
How was I lucky enough to be hanging out with the most popular guys at school? I was at a friend’s house when his older brother came home with buddies, including a senior that I and every girl at school crushed on. There I was kicking back with the cooler, older crowd trying to act like I was just as cool. So when they handed me a beer, I took it. At that point I had already tried alcohol and I though, “Why not?”
When they handed me a cigarette though, I refused. They were in disbelief that I didn’t just take it. I giggled and said that I was fine, that I didn’t smoke, but they persisted that I should at least try it. So I took that too.
I continued to light up for eight years after that first cigarette, thinking that smoking made me seem like such an edgy person. At first, it was only when I was out at parties with friends. Next thing I knew, a pack would only last me three days. I’d smoke while driving, after each meal, on a work break or to calm my nerves before/after a big test. Cigarettes became ingrained into every part of my day. I tried to quit here and there, but it never lasted very long. I was truly addicted. I resigned myself to being a smoker for life – the last thing I ever thought I’d do.
My father’s parents both smoked and it caused them a long list of health problems. My grandmother passed away at the age of 50, when I was only 6 years old and my grandfather passed away just a few years after her. I never liked when they smoked and my dislike for it only intensified after they passed. They were ripped away from me much too soon and I still blame cigarettes for their poor health and early deaths.
During the eight years that I was a smoker, the guilt of knowing that my grandparents wouldn’t want me to surfer like they did ate away at me. One day, I met a guy that would become my boyfriend. He didn’t like that I smoked, but being a former smoker himself, he didn’t judge me or my feeble attempts at quitting. He accepted me for who I was and thought I was cool enough to become his girlfriend. I finally realized that I didn’t need to smoke to be cool. I had the chance to quit cigarettes and be myself – so I took it.