how nicotine stays with you – WFHB

By: Annika Harshbarger

Vapes, cigars, Cheyennes, chewing tobacco and Zyn, all products that Taylor Brandenberger has used during his 10 year relationship with nicotine.

Middle School

Nicotine has been present in one form or another in Taylor’s life from a young age, starting with his dad. It wasn’t until his dad decided to quit that he found out.

“I accidentally saw a text,” said Taylor, “one of my parents’ church friends…it was like I pray God puts a bad taste in your mouth anytime you think about tobacco.”

Later in life he found out how his dad kept his addiction secret.

“If he had a little bit in his lip while around us,” said Taylor, “instead of just spitting into a container, he would just swallow it.”

It was in middle school that Taylor had his first experience with nicotine. His older brother had been chewing tobacco and spitting it into a tall screw cap monster energy drink.

“I took a big old swig of it and immediately was like that’s not monster and then went and threw up,” said Taylor.

Years later the smell of wintergreen grizzly chewing tobacco still makes him gag.

High School

At 16 with friends at his cousin Lauren’s house Taylor hit his first vape.

“There was a part of me that knew I wasn’t supposed to be doing it,” said Taylor.

After getting his license Taylor was able to drive to a gas station in his hometown of Middlebury just south of the Michigan border and buy his own vapes. At 16 Taylor had a very different thought process than he does now.

“I got time. I’ll quit,” said Taylor, “brush it off then fast forward, you know 10 years later, and I’m just now…finally quitting regularly vaping.”

Juuls were introduced in 2015 when Taylor was 17. The e-cigarettes became popular in high schools across the country including at his school, Northridge.

“I think part of me didn’t realize how much nicotine was in it,” said Taylor, “and then like slowly realizing, Oh shit I just gave myself a nicotine addiction.”

Taylor Brandenberger, June 2020. Photo courtesy of Taylor Brandenberger.

Freshman year Taylor never bought a vape instead he used his friends’ vapes.

“I could basically feed the minor addiction that I still had,” said Taylor, “for some reason that made me feel a little more justified. I’m like oh I don’t have a problem.”

At 21 that all changed. After a day of working at a covid isolation shelter in Bloomington Taylor walked over to the nearby gas station and bought his first nicotine pod. He started to hit his vape around 100 times a day.

“It almost became muscle memory,” said Taylor, “my brain almost goes to reach for it when I would be going up and down steps or like getting into the car.”

It got to a point that while Taylor had covid he was still hitting his vape and used a delivery app to get pods while isolating.

“It had me on a leash,” said Taylor, “the nicotine was in control of my day to day.”

Three years and about 3,285 pods later he started thinking about quitting. After hurting his knee at work by simply stepping wrong he had a realization.

“I am not necessarily a young teenager anymore,” said Taylor, “unless I put effort into it my body is just going to deteriorate from here on out.”

Post College

It was Jan. 23rd, 2023 that Taylor drowned his battery in a video posted on his instagram story and fully made the decision to quit. Now 26, Taylor is weaning himself off of nicotine, using zin pouches and a metal straw necklace that allows him to breath in air when in the past he would have reached for his vape.

“There’s been times where..I use the last one in my tin… but then I don’t immediately go out and get a new one,” said Taylor.

Accepting that he had an addiction and making the decision for himself and not because others wanted him to, made all the difference.

“[I] definitely still have a bit of addiction,” said Taylor, “it is a much better relationship, healthier…I have a little bit more control over it and am less shackled by the substance.”

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