I close and lock the stall door. I dig through my purse until my fingers find the piece of plastic they are yearning for. I bring it to my lips without a thought. I could have walked back to my dorm after my class before experiencing the “dizzy,” but I want it now. I stand in the stall, holding my phone in one hand and the vape in the other, waiting in deep anticipation for the shivers to begin. In a sick twist of fate, the vape slips from my hand, bouncing off the bathroom floor and out of the stall. There is silence as I freeze, watching the shadows of girls at the sinks. I frantically collect my purse from the hook and swing the door open. “Is this…someone’s?” The girl is holding the pink disposable in a paper towel. I should just leave it. She’s uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable. “It’s mine.” I grab the piece and shove it in my pocket, my face hot. I don’t thank her. I wash my hands and leave, my stomach curdling and my eyes on the floor. Why didn’t I just wait until I got home? The “dizzy” had been ruined and my pride tarnished. I pat my pocket as I walk, ensuring the piece is safe.

There was a time when I didn’t consider my yearning for nicotine an addiction. It was just something I liked, something I craved, something that was fun. It didn’t feel unreasonable to pool together change from around my room to buy a vape, or to drive a mile or two out of the way to go to a location that didn’t I.D. It was in these moments, like the one in the restroom, that my ideology started to shift. The feeling of dependency becomes pronounced when there are outsiders watching the struggle. It’s the opposite of solidarity; the others don’t understand why I’m standing in the bathroom with this piece of plastic. There is almost a mirror effect, in which one can see their shortcomings reflected in the eyes of another.

Photo from a gas station that did I.D., but we were only there for a fun photoshoot, not to restock. My vape was in my pocket.

Surrounded by other vaping college kids, I find it intriguing that so many of them are willing to share. Of course, among familiar faces, there is always the willingness to help a fiending friend. But in groups of total strangers, at parties or other functions, people would ask for a hit from someone’s vape, and they would oblige. This isn’t necessarily universal, but that solidarity resurfaced again in the sharing of nicotine. Everyone who is addicted to nicotine knows how it feels to be without it. The dependence exists in all of us, and many individuals are willing to allow the less fortunate to obtain a “dizzy” when they ask. There is no mirror reflecting the discomfort of the situation, no viewer highlighting the way the asking is almost begging.

The craving for the “dizzy” drove my days. The experience was almost sacred, this moment alone with my head buzzing and my body half-floating. I would plan my schedule around when I could find a private place to hit my vape, and until that time, it remained tucked away. I knew it took about two and a half hours for the nicotine to leave my system and my body to reset, closer to three for a more intense “dizzy,” and so I would patiently wait. It gave me a feeling of control, of power over my nicotine usage. I had self-control. I didn’t need nicotine. I just wanted it.

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg looks into the formation of habits within the brain. In an MIT experiment from the early 1990s, researchers placed rats into a maze with a piece of chocolate at one end. After going through the maze repeatedly for a week, researchers found that the rats’ brains were less active while completing the maze, as they had formed a habit of completing the maze in a certain way in order to find the reward–chocolate. “This process,” Duhigg writes, “–in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine–is known as ‘chunking,’ and it’s at the root of how habits are formed.” This research also posited the habit loop, a three-step process which occurs within our brains: cue, routine, reward. Duhigg continues, “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making.” Once a cue or a trigger of some kind takes place, the brain wants to divert focus to other tasks and allow the routine to occur.

The habit loop can be helpful, because if you can control the cues and rewards in play, you can create new habits. It can be unhelpful, however, when cues and triggers are constant. Everywhere. 

While perhaps I did not need nicotine, it sure was hard to ignore.

Want some Italian-American cuisine at a discounted price? Head to Isabella Restaurant with your student I.D. for 10% off your meal!

By Sophie Rounds

Sophie Rounds is a rising junior at Loyola University Chicago, double majoring in creative writing and Spanish. She loves to read and wishes she were a better cook. When she is not reading or writing, she enjoys singing in several choirs at her university and thrifting with her friends.

For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourages them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing, and services.  At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.


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