A few years ago, right before vaping culture went mainstream, I was trying to quit smoking. I picked up the habit in college, and I was getting sick of it. It smelled terrible, it cost money, my clothes reeked of smoke, and I was well past the point where smoking cigarettes made me “cool.” One of my best friends said I should try vaping.

At first, I was skeptical, but after I gave it a whirl, it seemed like the perfect alternative to smoking. It mimicked all the familiar movements of smoking–taking a puff, breathing out “smoke,” having something to do with my hands. I didn’t have to deal with ashy cigarette butts or dirty ashtrays. The water vapor was clear and calming, and the acrid stench that clung to my hair and clothing was finally gone.

But a few months ago, I started to realize that I had swapped out one addiction for another. I spent hundreds of dollars every month at my favorite vape store in Flagstaff, stocking up on juices and buying fancy new pens. I could barely last an hour at work without having to step outside to vape. And everything you’ve heard about vaping being a “healthy” alternative to cigarettes? Vape juice contains nicotine–the same chemical in cigarettes that gets you hooked. I knew I had to swap out this expensive habit with something more constructive.

When I first tried my hand at knitting, I probably held a vape pen in my hand just as much as the knitting needles. Knitting was fun, but for someone who had never tried it before, it was also stressful. I kept finding excuses to take breaks and “come back to it later”–in other words, forget about the whole thing and pick it up the next day.

It’s a miracle that I ever completed my first project: a set of pale blue baby booties. But finishing the booties made me feel energized, so I decided to try again. When I started working on a blanket, I found myself getting increasingly engrossed in the project. I started using the vape pen more infrequently, and finally, I went an entire day without touching it at all.

The whole experience made me realize that what I needed wasn’t a cigarette or a vape pen, but something to keep my hands busy. And I realized quickly that knitting is a lot cheaper and a whole lot healthier than breathing in nicotine-infused vapor. I was enjoying myself, and best of all, I had a reward at the end of every project: a handmade gift for my friends and family members.