The Final Blow: Maddie Cole Column


Maddie Cole, guest columnist

I was 12 years old at my neighborhood park with a group of close friends when my best friend at the time handed me a Juul. This would be the beginning of a seven-year battle with addiction that the younger me never saw coming. 

Many people in my life vaped, from uncles and cousins to my friends, and I knew none of the life-long consequences. Vaping was very normalized, and as a teenager, I had easy access to a variety of drugs. For the cheap price of $20, I was able to get four refills for my Juul and deteriorate my health, and a small “buzz”. When I entered my middle school restroom, the fruity vape aroma would engulf me. It was nearly impossible for me to refuse because I would be surrounded by others passing around Juuls. When I watched others rip a Juul, it reminded me of the satisfaction vaping brought me. When a vape is there in front of you, intrusive thoughts take control and vaping becomes impossible to avoid.

I never consciously recognized when the addiction started. I promised myself that initially, I would just use my friends’ vapes. After a month, I started buying my own, and soon after that, I started buying vapes every two weeks so I could always have one with me. Years later, I started buying extra vapes out of fear that I would run out, and the panic that would ensue.

As I fell deeper into the addiction and my tolerance for nicotine rose, the refills that would originally last me a week began lasting only days. Juuls and other devices were easily attainable through classmates, and convenience stores that did not ask for identification. I could also easily order vapes online through websites that sold paraphernalia with next-day shipping directly to my house. Before I had my driver’s license, I could order vapes directly to my house.

My relationship with my parents crumbled when they found out I was vaping. After being caught countless times, I lost my parents’ trust and respect entirely. I would undergo random drug testing and would pay my friends to have their younger siblings pee in a bottle so that I could pass the drug tests. It took years for my parents to begin trusting me again, and to this day, our relationship still lacks trust. 

My mental health was severely impacted by the cravings and withdrawals I went through when attempting to quit. I made a total of seven attempts to stop vaping before I could say I had been nicotine-free for a whole year. Due to the exposure to nicotine during my adolescence, it was very difficult for me to completely quit. My group of friends attempted to stop vaping collectively in the past, but as soon as one person started vaping again, everyone else would start again. 

Even before I attempted to quit using nicotine, daily withdrawals severely impacted multiple aspects of my life. The first thing I did when I woke up was reach for my vape. As I turned onto my street, I took a hit long enough to subdue the cravings until I was in my room in order to hide my addiction from my parents. At dinner with my family, I’d flee to the bathroom to hit my Juul to ease the anxiety vaping created. 

When you are addicted to nicotine, it becomes another layer of anxiety in your life. When I was not actively ripping a vape, I would become stressed, irritated, and extremely anxious. Stress would engulf me while I sat in class as I pondered on how long it would be until I could relieve my anxiety by vaping in the bathroom. 

The impact that ripping a vape had on my adolescent life has followed me even long after quitting. Now as a college student, I am surrounded by others that vape and I am tempted daily. As someone who has experienced the negative effects of nicotine addiction firsthand, I strongly urge you to avoid vaping or to consider quitting if you already do. The physical and mental tolls of addiction are not worth the temporary pleasure that vaping may bring. Addiction can rob you of your health, finances, and relationships, and it’s not easy to break the cycle. If you’re struggling with addiction, seek support and resources to help you quit; don’t let vaping control your life.