I don’t really know how to start this post, which is weird, because I usually know how to begin posts and have no clue how to end them. I guess I should start when I had my first drag of a cigarette. It was winter and I was 14 and my cool senior friend handed me hers, asking me if I wanted to try it and — oh my god, I am such a cliche. Good lord, I need to stop my life from being some adult version of Degrassi. Okay. I’ll just skip to the part where I started smoking regularly.
Throughout college, I worked on film sets frequently. Being a deeply anxious person, I have always found it easier to occupy my hands and thoughts with things that do not include socialization. Try as I may to present myself as a calm, normal human being whose confidence lies equidistant between zilch and Kanye West, I am almost always screaming on the inside and wondering when I will next get to binge watch television with one other person, if not alone. As such, I found that smoking made it easier to (A) make conversation with other people who smoke and (B) stop those who hated smoking to not speak to me at all. Either way, it took some of the pressure off of me.
During sophomore year of college, I lived with a close friend who was also a smoker. Had we not lived together, I don’t think either of us would have gone through nearly as many packs a week, but we absolutely loved sitting on our porch, drinking 40s (we were young and I’m sorry, Sam’s Liver) and talking about this guy or that one whom we were fond of at the time.
I didn’t think of myself as addicted (again, walking cliche) because I would stop for weeks, even months at a time whenever I was staying with my parents or when my asthma would get particularly painful. But when I was able, I would smoke whenever I drank. I drank whenever I went out, and I went out constantly during those years. I was a generally miserable person throughout quite a bit of college and I would try to compensate for that by planning events, getting all my friends together, going to parties, whatever. And the more social a situation was, the more likely it was that I would go through a pack of cigarettes in a matter of 3 hours.
As one might imagine, this is not a sustainable lifestyle. It’s gross. Like, really gross. You cough up stuff the day after that would fit in in a bad Masters Of Horror episode. Your chest sometimes hurts so badly, you’re afraid to leave home without an inhaler. It’s exhausting and it doesn’t get a whole lot better until you slow the fuck down. Except it’s also awesome.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t say smoking is “awesome” because technically, it is not. It is incredibly bad for you and its effects can be devastating. Unfortunately, it is also deeply enjoyable for me and I have no idea why. Well, it’s presumably because they have nicotine and other chemicals that make it enjoyable, but the act of smoking itself has so many positive memories in my mind.
Porch talks, weekend-long parties, awkwardly chain smoking with somebody because neither of you has the balls to make the first move even though it’s so clear you want to kiss. Like sunny drives to Crystal Cove and medium-well fries at In N Out, cigarettes are part of some of my favorite memories. Except unlike those drives and fries, smoking offers no real benefits beside the immediate emotional and physical gratification; no sustenance, no calories, no fresh air. (Because it’s opposite of fresh air, naturally.)
So, why am I here now? Well, I’m attempting to quit smoking. Er, I’m going to quit smoking. (By the way, I just automatically typed that as, “I’m going to quit something.” I clearly am not good at setting my mind on things.) But I do need to. I already have a plethora of stupid health problems that I can’t control; I might as well stop a behavior that will only add more preventable illnesses on top of those. To not stop would be very stupid of me, though I have “quit” before and never really stuck to it, so I already feel rather dumb.
That said, the health reasons are admittedly not really what got me to want to stop. The reasons I really want to quit: wrinkles. My skin is starting to look like shit. I look tired, my complexion is dull, my eyes have increasingly bad circles underneath despite the fact that I get more sunshine, use higher quality products, drink less and sleep more than I did for years.
I never had bad skin besides a few blemishes at once, primarily on my chin (stress, phone, etc.), but for the past couple years, they’ve been popping up all over — especially near my mouth. Smoking contracts your blood vessels and deprives your skin of oxygen, which keeps it from healing when it’s damaged. I have little dark marks on my chin from these and it bums me out to cover them up day in and day out.
My lips are the place you can see it most; they used to be on the pillowy soft side, but they have gotten increasingly wrinkled over the past 3 years or so. I can see it when I apply red lip glosses, in particular, as they tend to bleed out. I’ve tried so many different products but, ultimately, it is foolish of me to continue a practice that will only counteract my efforts.
Plus, we all know how messed up the longterm effects of smoking can be on your face. Severe wrinkles, facial skin sagging, spots — it’s all stuff I desperately do not want, but can already see blossoming on my appearance. Changes I certainly contributed to by drinking, smoking and rarely sleeping throughout college.
Obviously, I put myself into this mess. I take full responsibility for that and I am trying to change it, so this will be a feature I occasionally do wherein I document the differences between my face and health now and later, as well as the products I use. Hopefully, there will be some type of change — and that being held accountable via public embarrassment of failing on The Gloss will be some sort of help. It’s been a while since I did a good ol’ e-shaming on myself!
By the way, got advice, questions or suggestions? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear ‘em.