Letter to the editor: Vaping helped my addiction

A vaper using an electronic cigarette/photo submitted

A vaper using an electronic cigarette/photo submitted

My name is Joshua Reynolds and I am two things: an addict that hasn’t had a drink or drug in over three years and a vaper. Don’t think the two have anything in common? Let me share my story.

I was hooked on pain meds and was an IV user. Not only were the drugs addicting, but the method of delivery was as well. It gave me something to do while I was looking for my next fix. In recovery, it’s recommended to stay busy and acquire a network of sober friends. This is where vaping saved me and a few others that I personally know. It is not merely a way to quit smoking, but much more.

Vaping helps my addiction in a few ways, such as keeping my hands busy and allowing me to be social. Isolation is bad for a recovering addict and personally directs my mind in bad directions. Socializing helps me immensely.

About a year-and-a-half ago I started to become a recluse. I was two-and-a-half years clean, something that was an accomplishment and helpful to reflect on. My job was miserable and started to make me feel out of place; I wanted to change in my life. I have health issues that sprang from my former lifestyle and quitting smoking was suggested before it and other health factors gave me a heart attack at age 34. This is when I started using an e-cig. It was a little starter kit I bought off eBay, nothing special but pivotal to my life.

The standard e-cig wasn’t doing it for me and I started trying other vape devices. After I found one that was satisfying, I started using it full-time. Personally, this was an accomplishment. It made two things disappear that would have taken me to an early grave: drug addiction and smoking cigarettes.

As I continued to vape, I began to explore the culture and industry. I became a connoisseur of flavors. The fact that it gave me something to do with my hands made me want to get into it even more.

My reclusiveness immediately began to decrease after going to local shops and meeting people that shared my interest. Then I learned that there was an entire vaping community. There was already a community of people like me in the recovery world, but I started loathing meetings. However, they were a social outlet for an hour at least.

The meetings were not keeping me clean. My sobriety stemmed from an internal desire to improve my life. Meetings are no doubt essential in early recovery and serve a wonderful purpose, definitely something that should be mandatory. They connect you with people that actually know what it feels like to have to admit complete defeat by alcohol and drugs. The meetings served their purpose, but recovery is different for each person. What works for one may not work for another.

While I was a miserable hermit that hated his job—and people in general—a change began to take place. I started trading vape gear and was introduced to new people. This is how it all began for me: I struggled to find a way to end my addiction, then bought a little e-cig pen and all of a sudden a community of people entered my life. I still wasn’t a people-person at this point, but that started to change.

Instead of going to shops to buy things I may not like, I could trade things I didn’t like for things I had never tried. This required me to meet and interact with new people. As it went along, I started to enjoy meeting people. It was turning into a hobby for me. Each new meet was an opportunity to learn from another person’s experience. The local shops were a wealth of knowledge and places to see the new stuff. I loved going and trying the juice as well as talking to these “strangers.” It began to resemble NA meetings for me. I now consider some of these “strangers” family.

The fact that vaping filled so many gaps in my life was a miracle. It was a trifecta, if you will: the urge to do something with my hands, nicotine cravings and being social were all fulfilled. My doctors were happy. They have repeatedly told me that they would rather have me vape than smoke. The only down side they saw was that nicotine is an addictive substance, but coffee contains an addictive substance as well.

I now direct my energy to something that’s not going to lead me to jails, institutions or death. The social aspect pulled me out of a seriously depressing time in my life. The fact that I found friends that have something in common that wasn’t drugs was amazing. Are there people that vape that don’t live wholesome lives? I’m sure they are out there somewhere. I have met at least eight people that are in recovery and we agree that vaping and the vape community have had a very positive impact in our lives.

The benefits of vaping are large in number for this addict. My doctors approve of it, the studies show there are benefits, but yet they want to destroy our communities across the country. From this addict’s perspective, it would be a detrimental blow not only to thousands of small businesses across the country but to all of us that vape. Vaping has saved my life not only in the way of smoking but has given me a life with meaning. If vaping can save one addict, then it will serve a great purpose.

My purpose of this letter was to show another side to vaping not only in our local community but nationwide. Not only can addicts find a meeting while they’re in a new town, they can find a local vape shop and feel welcome. The fact that the vape community mirrors the recovery community is amazing. As an addict, I like to feel welcome in a new area and learn from people.

It’s a great feeling for me to travel and have two places that I will always be welcomed.

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