Secret Smoker having trouble
by Jimmy1981, Mar 17, 2011
Hi. I just turned 30, and Ive been a "secret smoker" for the past 15 years and Im worried that I'm going to have trouble owning up to it. I'm just wondering if anyone else is a closet/secret smoker and how they have dealt with it?

I grew up in a non-smoking household and not many of my friends smoked growing up, but I always wanted to try it when I was younger, so I didnt get around to sneaking my first cigarette until I was 15. Because I didnt hang out with many smokers, I tended to do most of my smoking very infrequently and very privately, sneaking a few cigarettes by myself in the morning before school or afternoon after school. I continued to smoke off and on throughout the rest of my teenage years, smoking a bit more routinely when I left for college, but still never socially identified myself as a smoker, probably partly because my mother was so against it, and partly because I went to college with a few of my good friends from high school who were anti-smoking. The trouble was, that deep down I really loved smoking, even though it was bad for me and thought I wanted to be a smoker, but I just didnt like all the social stigma attached to it.

I continued to be an infrequent/light "secret smoker" until about 8 years ago when I started grad school, when my daily smoking really took off, and I started to have to go to great extremes to conceal my smoking. I went from smoking a few cigarettes every few days, to smoking at least half a pack a day, often times more, every day - almost always privately, in a way so as to maintain my public image of being a non-smoker. Stupid I know. For about two years when I lived alone, around 6-7 years ago, I got up to where I was smoking almost two packs a day and still trying to keep it secret. Always changing clothes, washing my hands or face, taking showers, brushing my teeth, chewing gum or breath mints, spraying myself with extra cologne, all while making a point to not smoke in my car or in my apartment. I had a covered balcony at my apartment building towards the back of the complex where I could chain-smoke in total privacy, and I would frequent various spots on campus where I could sneak away for a few crafty cigarettes in relative anonymity. You'd be suprised how well you can conceal the fact that you smoke 2 packs a day from your non-smoking girlfriend when you live alone.

Then my lovely non-smoking girlfriend moved in with me during her freshman year of college, which was my last year of grad school. That forced me to substantially step up my concealment efforts, and grudgingly cut back on my beloved smoking. Over the course of that year my secret smoking dwindled down to around a pack a day, all done either on campus, or away from my apartment, and done so that I'd have the chance to clean up and change clothes before I saw her again. After I graduated I got a 1 year internship in a different city and my non-smoking girlfriend transfered schools so she could follow me, which was sweet. During most of my internship year I continued to secretly smoke almost 1 pack a day, which got harder and hard to conceal, despite my increasing aptitude and I slowly cut back to where I was only secretly smoking around 1/2 a pack a day by the end of the internship. With my employer, and girlfriend being so staunchly anti-smoking, it pretty much meant I had to keep hiding my smoking.

Also during the internship year when I turned twenty-eight I got engaged to my lovely nineteen year old non-smoking live-in girlfriend, who then became my non-smoking wife, all while continuing to hide my 1/2 a pack a day smoking habit. After the internship I got a good position with a local firm, with two bosses who were also very anti-smoking. Yet the long hours and stressful workplace pushed me to feel the need to smoke more than ever, so I continued my elaborate ritual of secretly smoking, going to the gym to shower and change into non-smoking clothes before going to work, and often doing the same on my way back home, just so I can get that much needed nicotine fix. So for most of the past two years Ive kept up this routine, usually secretly smoking at least 1/2 a pack a day, but occasionally smoking a 1-2 packs a day when my lovely non-smoking wife leaves town to go visit her family.

Now as I turn 30 I find myself confronted with the reality that while I really do love smoking and am probably addicted, I know its not only bad for my career but also bad for my health, as I have found myself with near constant upper respitory tract infections and smokers cough these past two-three years. Then as I come home after sneaking yet more cigarettes, I look at my sweet little 21 year old house wife who looks so happy to see me, and I nervously avoid her and head straight to the shower to change clothes and 'wash up'. She has never said anything about it, never found any cigarettes, and never made any effort to ask me any questions about it, but I'm begining to think she's starting to suspect something. I feel guilty when I look into her eyes. Not because I lie to her, because technically, I figure Im not lying if she doesnt ask; but I also feel guilty because I realize that with my family history of heart disease and cancer, its entirely possible that if I dont quit this secret smoking I could end up dying in my late 40s or 50s, leaving no one to support or take care of her and any children we may have. Theoritically I understand these risks, yet I still think that I long to smoke, like Im trying to ignore some bizzare death drive that I dont even begin to understand.

I just wonder if anyone else has also been a closet/secret smoker, and if so how have you dealt with it?
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Member Comments (16)
by ViolaBow, Mar 18, 2011
Wow! That is a mighty effort on your part! I can't get over it. If you have the tenacity to achieve this for so long, I am positive you can quit!!

You don't love smoking. You just think u do. You must often be in withdrawal so you would know what to expect. Goodness. It won't be so hard to quit for you I don't think. You just have to want to do it. REALLY want to do it. Its not like you are having an affair or anything and I suspect your lovely 21-year-old, nonsmoking wife probably has some idea!!

Fess up. With her support it will be even easier for you. Sorry I can't offer advice as I haven't been in your predicament but u do have my empathy. You will both be relieved it is out in the open and you won't have to keep living such a "hard" life and I imagine that really is a hard life!!!

Good luck!
by Beckysmokes, Mar 18, 2011
like i have hear of closet smokers before, but your story is totally facinating. honestly i never really understood it myself because im totally addicted to the social side of smoking as much as im addicted to the nicotine, so im just real upfront about my chain smoking.

but i used to know this girl who was totally trying to hide the fact that she was smoking from her parents and friends and from a guy she was dating, and it was funny because i knew they guy and he was like a sometimes smoker himself but just really lowkey about it so i guess she didnt know. it was even wierder because her dad was like in the airforce and had smoked for years then quit then started secretly smoking again and was also totally trying to hide it from his family when he caught his daughter and me smoking behind their backyard shed one night, and we totally saw the pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket! its like there is this whole society of secret smokers, keeping secrets.

if you want to be a smoker, just be a smoker and your wife will probably understand. she probably know already and is just being nice about it. plus your wife is like alot younger than you, like nine years younger, so she will probably be ok. as a girl who likes to date or hook up with much older men myself, i can admit that i tend to be ok with whatever they want to do, as long as they are respecting me and not cheating or anything like that. you dont want her to feel wierd so you would feel better about your smoking if you were just more open about it. but if you dont want to be open about smoking, then you should just quit and you will feel better about it that way too.

interesting situation thought, hope everything goes ok.
by teko, Mar 20, 2011
Interesting. I agree with ViolaBow, it shouldnt be a big deal for you to stop with as much energy as you put into hiding it.

I could never hide it is my problem. I would just simply disappear from society because I was spending so much time in the closet! No one would no me!

IMO, just lay em down, they are not worth all the drama and all, so just lay em down and hang on for dear life till the pain passes. Sort of like giving birth actually
by Jimmy1981, Mar 21, 2011
Thanks for your vote of confidence. I'm kinda torn, because on the one hand I agree with you and ViolaBow that if I applied half as much effort that I spend hiding my smoking on instead trying to quit smoking, then I'd probably be able to quit.

This may seem like a silly distinction, but I think there are people who dont like smoking and want to quit but cant quit because they are addicted - which is Not the catagory Im in; and then there are people who do like smoking and dont really want to quit - and may still be addicted, which is probably more accurate for me. So for me its not a mere matter of beating the chemical dependance on nicotine, I think I could do that if I wanted to. For me its the psychology of wanting to want to smoke. its like desiring to desire.

Some people desire smoking in and of itself. I think I enjoy that, but that I desire to desire smoking. It sounds convoluted, and I suppose that it is, but its an important part of why I seem to end up in this bizzare situation. If I could have my way, without feeling guilty, I might have just come out and been an open smoker years ago, perhaps back in high school or at least college - I could have dealt with whatever family stigma is assigned to smokers when I younger, ten years ago or earlier, so that by the time I entered the workforce I would be more comfortable with the public image of a smoker.

Even if I had gone that route - and been more open about my smoking and my identity as a smoker, I could still choose to quit smoking at some future point and engage in that battle when the time was right. maybe it would have made the struggle of quitting make more sense if everyone understood me as a smoker first. Plus, perhaps feeling the full brunt of the social stigma of being a smoker in today's non-smoking world would give me that much more genuine motivation to quit smoking all-together, but by hiding it and keeping to a discreet 6-10 cigarettes a day most days, I have side stepped both the social advantages and disadvantages of being a smoker and am left with only the bare enjoyment and the harsh health consequences.

The other aspect of this is that since no one really knows I smoke now, no one would really know if I quit. Even if I come clean and tell my wife that Ive been a closet smoker all these years, its not going to make me smoke less around her than I already do - which is already zero. If anything Id be tempted to use it as an excuse to ask her to let smoke more without feeling the need to hide it from her all the time. Moreover, I dont know how good those studies are that say that smoking just 5 cigarettes a day is just as bad as smoking 1.5 to 2 packs a day (which seems so utterly illogical to me); but if that were by chance true, then how could I ever coutenence trying to explain to my family why I might have lung cancer in my 50's and would still have kids in school - it would be an absurd tragedy that I know I should take steps to avoid.

Its just that its hard to quit something that you may have only half way committed to, but that you still are facinated by the other half that you didnt committ to. I dont know if this explaination is doing justice to my conflicted feelings on this, but I hope it at least makes sense.
by teko, Mar 21, 2011
My husband smokes a pack a week. His doctor told him that he didnt smoke enuff to worry about quitting. Ya know, If I could only smoke a few a day, I wouldnt worry about it either, but the problem for me is the reason I started smoking and I think if we all think about it, the reason we started will tell alot about how hard it will be to quit. IMO anyways.

Like I started smoking when a neighbor pushed a cigarette in my face and said smoke it, during a very very traumatizing event in my life. That cigarette made me lite headed and it seemed to calm me. Well, after that, every time I got upset or out of control of my emotions, I would grab a smoke. It was just a few at first, then the next thing ya no I was a 2 pack a dayer.

So everytime I get upset or stressed, I want to smoke! I always liked it and enjoyed it immensely but I got to a point where I knew it would kill me and I no longer had a choice to do it, if I wanted to live that is. It has been almost 3 months and the anxiety and panic attacks are an issue for me. But you see, they were the reason I started smoking to begin with, not that I get that way because Im not smoking. So now I have to deal with the anxiety and panic and anger in a different way, one I should have learned all those years ago instead of the smoking to cope with it all. Now I take paxil and it is beginning to kick into gear just in the last couple of days. I have a ways to go but I will do it this time. I do not want to die grasping for air that I cannot get into my lungs. That would be a horrific way to go imo.

Your problem is rooted in why you started in the first place and your right when you say that you just like to smoke. I think the mental part of it is much more of a problem than the physical addiction itself.
by ViolaBow, Mar 21, 2011
Ah there is the difference Jimmy. I have been a 31 year smoker who ended up hating it but it took me a long time and a very hardcore addiction to reach that point. I was smoking 50+ a day and spending about $27 a day on my addiction and now I am on a disability pension so it got up to the point where I was selling some very collectable records and CDs I have spent years acquiring much less than their actual value. After they go, its the house and then I will have to rob banks or prostitute myself to sustain this addiction. Thankfully the music has been my cut-off point. I can't bring myself to part with them just to smoke the rewards. So I have to say I hated being ruled by something so much and ended up hating them.

That is how I know I have finally quit. That and the fact that I realised all of a sudden I only ever smoked to stave off withdrawals (which for me were horrendous). I don't know why I was blind to that really obvious fact for so long :)

You on the other hand actually do enjoy it. So I do see the difference. Big time. I am an all or nothing kind of girl. I can't just half do something. I either do it or I don't. I have tried...boy have I tried! It just doesn't work.

This leaves you only two options then.

You either fess up or carry on as you are. I don't understand the question though. Are you asking how do ppl cope with it mentally or how do ppl find more sneaky ways to keep smoking? I did that at school! Toilet blocks are usually good....mints etc. You seem to be doing all that...

Good luck with it!!  

by ViolaBow, Mar 21, 2011
Final question, what is it you actually enjoy about smoking?
by FakeName, Jun 10, 2011
Hey Jimmy,

Yeah I'm pretty much a "closet smoker" I guess. I'm 18, male. I always wanted to smoke since I was little. I smoked butts or whole cigs left on the ground when I could starting in high school. Nothin big. It was just really fun to do something bad and it was just sooooo exciting. Seriously. I would get boners. lol. So then 3 years ago my mom and I went to Europe and I was working in this kitchen at a language school. I got to hang out with the kids after they got off and I started bumming cigs off them. I had one of my friends buy a pack for me and then I started to smoke one after work in this beautiful field away from everyone so no one would know. I smoked about 1-2 a day or more, rationing them out until our departure date.

I wanted to get addicted. I love the smell of smoke, especially the inhale or a whiff of second-hand smoke. I loved just hanging around kids and smoking. It was just fun. After smoking with my friends, I saw my mom come over. I said goodnight to her then made the mistake. I gave her a hug. She smelled smoke and asked if I smoked. I fessed up. So disappointed. I couldn't sleep that night. I felt horrible for letting her down. Later we talked and I told her I liked it and whatever and she was just really bummed out. She was like "I didn't bring you here to learn how to smoke" and whatever and I tried to tell her that it was inevitable. That if I didn't start now, it was going to happen. I don't think she's ever seen me smoke.

When we got back to America she kept saying crap jokingly about me smoking and it made me sooo embarrassed. I HATED when she brought it up and later I told her that it was because smoking and people who smoke are REALLY looked down upon here and I cared about my image a lot. I told her I'd probably never smoke since it was so socially unacceptable here which is true.

Then, near the end of my freshman year of college, in April or so probably, I got the worst hankering for a cigarette. What triggered it was I was looking at a blog fuckyeahindieguys that had glam shots of indie guys smoking. I'm almost positive it got beautiful images of beautiful people smoking and made me want to smoke and be handsome. Funny but true. So it was raining, cold and horrible and I bought my first pack of cigs on my own. The first one was horrid and I was cursing myself. I smoked a second one and it wasn't as horrible. I was surprised how short they lasted. Marlboro Reds. It wasn't fun trying to hide the smell from my roommate and everyone else. Also, my university is a no-smoking campus. Even better.

That's actually one reason why I chose the campus because I didn't want to start smoking again and I knew it would be easy. I remember doing a report on the bad effects of smoking such as mouth/lung cancer to deter me from smoking.

So I started smoking on campus but there is NO WHERE to do it. Unless you do it behind the parking garage but then if you're there everyone knows you're smoking. So then one night I was sitting down, took my first puff of my cig and one of my suuuper conservative friends, who I think looks up to me because I'm the "good kid" turn's the corner and recognizes me. It's dark. I put the cig out and put it in my pocket. I look over. The Reds pack is right beside me. I don't bother trying to put it away. If he asks, I'll fess up. He says "so you're having your 'quiet time' too?" I say "yeah... somethin like that." AAHAHAHAHHAHA. So he sat down near me for a little bit and it's cold. I have my coat on and I was going to sit there as long as it took him to go away. He walks away after like 10-15 mins. Then I take a walk, trying to find a place to smoke. I do but it's terrible when you can't just enjoy your cig. I didn't smoke too much after that. It was way too risky around there. Waited till school was out. Got home, started smoking one a night then my throat got all nasty or whatever. I smoke when I feel good. Funny huh? I think it has to do that I started in the field and felt good. So I'm getting tired of writing now.

I'm with my mom for the summer and I'm smoking about 1 a day-ish. I do it at night. I sit out and listen to the calm night. I had my wisdom teeth out 5 days ago and I didn't smoke for about 10 days before that so I think that's a victory. I suggest trying to just do 1-3 a day. From what I've read, if you really want to smoke, enjoy a little bit instead of quitting right now. I would also really suggest to fess up to your wife. If I was she, I might think you're cheating or something. Don't act suspicious like that. She'll assume the worst. Smoking isn't as bad as cheating.
So I'm really successful at hiding it now. My brother knows I smoke, he does and he doesn't care that I do or doesn't say anything to me. Sometimes a pack a day! I can't believe it! I'd hate feeling horrible all the time.

I'd like to keep it at one a day or less for me. I don't want to be hooked but I do enjoy smoking from time to time.
by yabmeister, Jun 15, 2011
You've written my story almost exactly! Bottom line: told the wife; now smoke in front of her but not the kids. She's OK with it. Sometimes she says "Maybe I'll start." but never does.