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Michael's Vaping Story

Posted by Michael Brader. on

Michael is the owner of Hawke's Bay Vapour, and his story starts before he was even born. Take a read, it's honest and raw, and something a lot of people can relate to. 

I started smoking 9 months before I was born in the late 60s. I didn't light one up myself until 15 years later, but my Mum smoked while she was pregnant (no one really knew then), and both my parents smoked inside the house throughout my childhood. A cloud of smoke (and now vapour) is as comforting to me as any other childhood memory.

I was quite opposed to smoking in my early adolescence, and couldn't understand why my parents wouldn't just stop, since they acknowledged that it was bad for them and bad for us. I knew nothing of the nature of addiction then. I finally started smoking at 14 or 15. I'd be lying if I said I knew the exact reason, but it was probably as simple as wanting to fit in.

What I do know is that it was pretty easy for me to be a smoker. Between them, my parents were smoking 3 cartons a week, so lifting whole packets was a breeze. And it wasn't like I didn't already smell of smoke. By the time I finished high school I was a pack a day smoker. And a happy one at that.

And that's the way things stayed for the next 25 years. I gave up briefly in the early 90s after being talked into a Smokenders seminar by a girlfriend, but when things went sour between us a few months later I was straight back to my old friend.

These days I sometimes think about the opportunity cost of smoking. Not the direct effects on my health and my wallet, but the things I might have done if it wasn't for my addiction. Everybody who has been hooked on anything knows that you end up tying particular acts to your habit, and that your brain becomes hard-wired with that association. For me, one of the strongest was having a smoke while I was on the phone. This was so bad with me that when the phone rang, my first movement wasn't towards the phone, but towards my cigarettes. And if I couldn't find them, many times the call would go unanswered. Looking back now I wonder what opportunities I missed out on because I couldn't find my smokes in time.

I don't dwell on it long though. Smoking offered some opportunities as well. I could always skip out of work for 10 minutes, and when I did I'd meet smokers from all over the company at a time when they're relaxed and chatty. Smoking knows no class or job title barriers. They all have to huddle outside in the cold. And if you want to start a conversation with someone, you always have an opening line. And something that the anti-smoking and anti-vaping zealots never seem to understand: de-normalisation and marginalisation will only work so far, until the people on the other side band together and form a community.

Fast forward to about 6 years ago. By 2008, the toll of smoking on my body was becoming apparent. Also drinking too much, sitting around on my fat arse all day and eating too much. But we're here about the smoking. I had an awful cough, one that would occasionally wake me up in the middle of the night and convulse my entire torso so much my ribs hurt all day. I had to quit, and so I did. Cold Turkey. I decided to do it, smoked my last cigarette during my walk to work, and became a non-smoker. Or so I thought.

I actually lasted 18 months. Long enough to feel that I had beaten it. I started feeling better almost immediately, the cough disappeared after a few weeks, breathing and sleeping became easier. Between that and all the non-smokers who were happy for me, I mostly felt good about myself. But it wasn't all roses. I put on nearly 2kg a month throughout the time I wasn't smoking, I found I couldn't concentrate at work, and I'd had to stay away from my smoking friends most of the time, especially if alcohol was involved. I was living a non-smoking life, but it didn't appear to be mine.

And so I started again. Knowing I didn't have to. I chose to resume smoking. Better a shorter life I enjoyed than some extra years as a pretender. The cigarette was king, and it was easier working his fields than surviving in the forest. And that's where I thought the story would end. But Reddit intervened. I don't know how vaping first made it to my front page, but it did, and I started reading. I was pretty hostile to the idea at first, but when someone at work offered to give me his e-cig I thought I'd give it a try. I was pretty underwhelmed.

Later I would find out it was a 0mg cig-a-like whose cartridges had been sitting in a drawer for a couple of years. All I knew was that it produced next to no vapour, had no throat hit and all in all was a waste of time. That set me back quite some time. PSA: Don't vape forward shitty gear to first timers. When I did decide to try again I did my research on Reddit and ended up with an eGo style starter kit with CE4s. Nothing special, but capable of producing vapour.

I've smoked two cigarettes since receiving the kit. One was on the first night.. I was lying in my hammock in the backyard (a favourite smoking spot) and I must have kept my CE4 inverted for too long, and suddenly I had a mouthful of juice running down the back of my throat. Despite having likely ingested a day's worth of nicotine in 10 seconds I did what I always did when I was stressed and had a smoke. The second was a couple of months later when I had one just to see what it tasted like. It tasted fine, but didn't make me want another.

From that point on my story tracked pretty similar to the others I had seen on Reddit:

  1. See better gear
  2. Buy better gear
  3. Wait for vapemail
  4. Keep waiting
  5. Vapemail arrives. It's Xmas
  6. Calculate new break even point and resolve to stop buying new gear
  7. Go to step 1

If I had to summarise why I think vaping worked for me, it would come down to this:

  • I treated my vape like my smokes. It went with me anywhere they would
  • I made it my hobby and eventually my livelihood
  • I involved myself in the community, mostly lurking but always reading

And that's it. If you've read this far, thanks. And if you're mostly a lurker like me, that's awesome too. The existence of this community is changing people's lives for the better. Even at its worst it's better than if it wasn't here.

So that's it. That's Michael's story and how the seed was planted for Hawke's Bay Vapour.