I remember it was a cold, dark night. I was back at my house in Columbia, and I believe I was in elementary school at the time. Back then, my dad was barely ever home, and this particular night happened to be one of those rare occasions where my mom was not home either. Fortunately, my sister was home to babysit me (sidenote: she is 12 years older than me), but at the time, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen her around the house for a good 30 minutes (sidenote: I was kind of needy). So I searched around the house, and finally I thought to look out the little windows to the side of the front door. I could just barely make out a dark figure at the door, with puffs of smoke slowly seeping out the figure’s mouth. The glow of a lit cigarette was also evident. A couple minutes later, after I ran far away from the front door, my sister came back inside. I told her I saw someone (“or something“) smoking right outside our front door. She seemed kind of panicky at this point, but then she replied, “Oh, it was just our neighbors, the Silvermans!”
Nice try, but why blame our nice Jewish neighbors?
Fast forward to the present, and my sister is still smoking. Note that she was just a small girl at a pretty shitty high school at the time of the incident described above; now, she’s a high-powered account executive in her early 30s. She has tried quitting on several different occasions, and just recently, she went about a month without lighting up. But she succumbed to the temptation this past week, blaming it on work stress, and that I could “never understand” how hard it is to really kick the habit. And honestly, I probably never will. From what I can tell, based on her addiction, as well as that of my father and my significant other, the lure of nicotine is terribly strong. It does not matter that the scent of tobacco stains everything she wears. It does not matter how many times my mom has tried to scare my sister with all the ailments and potential disabilities she could develop from a smoking habit. It does not matter that she knows all of this, because that is how true addiction works I guess.
I want to be as supportive as I can, but it’s admittedly becoming tougher by the day. She herself talks about how life was really hard for her, and that our mom was barely ever around when she was growing up. She sometimes gets annoyed with me, saying that she could have been working towards a medical degree too if only my mom was around to encourage her academic growth (she’s doing just fine work-wise though…I mean she’s making more money than most doctors ever will).
She mentioned that she started smoking due to peer pressure (which is weird to me, because I’ve always seen her as such a tough, intimidating person…), and she figured no one around the house would try to stop her. I was fortunate enough, in hindsight, to constantly have my mom there to supervise me and my development into the (arguably) healthy, neurotic asshole that I am today. I was lucky that our family’s financial situation was a million times better, just as I popped out into the world. I did not have to go to the high school my sister graduated from – instead, I ended up attending a much more competitive, high-ranking school (not to mention, most of the students I knew there were more interested in sabotaging my class rank than trying to get me to smoke). But it makes me wonder how much more susceptible I could have been to peer pressure and the lure of cigarettes, alcohol, or other types of drugs if my privileges were not available to me.
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