In 2015 I was diagnosed with COPD after smoking for 25+ years. My physician told me I could either quit smoking or die, and that's when I made the decision that I was going to give up the deadly habit that was killing me. I'd already tried hypnosis, nicotine patches, the gum, and even prescription medication. None of that had worked for me. Vaping was something I'd made jokes about until I my diagnosis. Suddenly, the idea wasn't funny. I knew I had to quit, so I decided to give the strange electronic cigarette idea a try.
On August 7, 2015 my life was irrevocably changed. On that morning I woke up unable to breathe, gasping for breath, and positive the end of my life was coming that day. Two weeks prior to that date, there were noticeable changes that alerted me something was wrong. I was beginning to aspirate food into my lungs every two or three days. I was also having some extensive dental work done and all those things combined into one visit to the hospital that would make me rethink my life completely.
When I arrived at the hospital I couldn’t breathe, think of a fish being out of the water and you’ll get an idea of what it felt like trying to get any air into my lungs. My blood pressure was severely elevated, my chest felt like I was having a heart attack, and I knew unless something happened immediately, my life was over.
Let me backtrack a little so you can understand what led up to this moment. Thirty years ago I became a smoker. It started with just sneaking cigarettes, I was only sixteen at the time, to a full-blown habit where I was smoking a pack a day. That escalated over the years to become a two pack a day habit, where I couldn’t wake up in the morning without reaching for a cigarette to function. Coffee, cigarette, and waking up were synonymous.
In February of 2001, I began working as an OJT (on the job trained respiratory technician). This was still legal in Alabama at that time. I saw on a daily basis the devastating effects that smoking would take on my patients and desperately wanted to quit the habit. I attempted everything available during those days to stop. Nicotine patches, hypnosis, nicotine gum, and then went so far as asking for a prescription medication to help me stop smoking. None of this worked. Of course, I tried cold turkey but I wasn’t one of those people that had the ability to give up a lifelong habit that way. For me, I was stuck smoking, there was no hope for me to ever quit.
On that horrible day on August 7, 2015, I was resting in that hospital bed as a patient instead of a caregiver. Some of the people taking care of me were former coworkers (I was laid off in 2008 due to cutbacks at the hospital). Many of them still smoked themselves. After breathing treatments, multiple tests, I was diagnosed with COPD. No surprise to a person who’d worked in that field. I was sent home with nicotine patches and knew from former experience my chance of succeeding were minimal.
As a mother to five children, allowing cigarettes to rob me of my opportunity to be a part of their life was unacceptable to me. It was on that drive home from the hospital that I remembered seeing one of those strange electronic cigarette shops. I’d bypassed that place a hundred times on my way to the grocery store and rolled my eyes. Electronic cigarettes? What a joke! That was my thought. Suddenly the thought wasn’t funny anymore. What if that was the key to me giving up smoking? Wasn’t it worth a shot?
I remembered a friend on social media that talked about vaping and called her on my phone as I headed into the brick and mortar vape shop. To say I had no idea what I was doing was an understatement, but she’d been doing this vaping thing for years. I looked around this place, and okay, it reminded me of some of those crazy shops in Florida that stoners hung out at. I’m sure you know the type of place I’m talking about.
They were blowing billowy clouds of vape and it took everything I had not to roll my eyes at the scene unfolding. With my friend on the phone, I walked up to the counter and handed the woman behind the counter my cell. This friend (who to this day I call my lifesaver), told the shop worker exactly what I needed. I was shown how to use a device called an Eleaf i-Stick with twenty watts (don’t worry I had no idea what that meant either yet), a Kanger aerotank version two, coils for that tank, and a bottle of something labeled as cowboy liquid with a pg/vg ratio of 50/50. I’ll get into what all that means in the next chapter.
I pulled in a draw from that tank skeptically and my eyes widened. This was pretty close to those cigarettes I’d been smoking for the last thirty years as far as flavor, and I walked out of that store feeling like I just might have a shot at quitting with this nifty little setup in my hand.
I threw those nicotine patches in a cabinet once I returned home, and continued using my new electronic cigarette device. I had purchased a nicotine level in my liquid that was 18mg. The first thing I noticed was I didn’t have a craving to light up another cigarette. This vaporized steam gave me everything I needed. The sensation of having something in my hand, the oral sensation of pulling the steam into my mouth while releasing what looked like smoke as I exhaled, and the relief that I didn’t have to pretend some nicotine patch on my arm was going to take away the life-long habit I had of doing all those things.
Over the next two weeks, I didn’t touch a real cigarette, even if I got a craving for one it was so insignificant it was easy to pick up my vaporizer (electronic cigarette) and put that need away. In my opinion, those that try electronic cigarettes without adopting this method, have a harder time putting down real cigarettes for good. Training your brain to see that electronic version as the real thing, in the beginning, is a huge plus. For me, smoking was a habit and an addiction, both of those things had to be altered for me to make vaping work.
Things I noticed along the way that changed for the better. After two weeks, I could lay in my bed at night without coughing, I no longer needed an inhaler for shortness of breath, and I could walk around my house without getting dizzy or tired. My taste and smell improved significantly. I can’t begin to explain how incredible it is to taste foods properly again, of course, something you wish you could mute, but knowing they are there is usually a good idea. Fast forward to July of 2017 and my lung capacity according to the physicians Pulmonary Function Test, and my lungs are normal. This is a personal testimony of how vaping worked to save my lungs.