Back to Blog Home >>
I’m sure that most of you have heard of the Great American Smokeout
. If you haven’t, it’s an event held every November, and it’s designed to give smokers a special day to consider kicking the habit. I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the serious health risks and the high cost of smoking, because I believe that most of you already know the facts. What I will do is talk about my personal struggle with smoking and how I beat the nearly impossible task of kicking the habit.
I started smoking at the tender age of 12, which at the time didn’t seem like much of an issue because I believed I was young and invincible. In retrospect, it was a huge issue because I ended up smoking for the next 17 years – ouch. I started smoking on a dare and remember getting very sick afterward. You would think I would have gotten the hint, but I didn’t and I continued to smoke until I was 29 years old. I’m proud to say that as of today I haven’t smoked in 3 years and 10 months. What I’m not proud of are the unknown effects of the choices I made on my body. I can only hope that quitting at 29 was early enough to stop the damage.
When I was growing up, smoking was very glamorous and it seemed like almost everyone did it. I saw it on TV, in the movies and I even remember buying candy cigarettes on the chewing gum aisle of the store by my elementary school. There were no Truth
campaigns or commercials that illustrated the harmful effects of smoking. While these commercials are great at drawing attention to the health concerns, they don’t address the hardest part of quitting. Kicking the nicotine was relatively easy because I could chew some gum or put on a patch. The tough part was breaking my mind and body of the habits created by smoking.
They say it takes three weeks to make a habit, so imagine the difficulty in trying to stop something you had been doing every day for over 884 weeks. Sure, I could go without a cigarette for a few hours and sometimes even a day, but how could I stop the triggers that caused me to think about smoking? A few of mine were coffee, waking up, meals, driving and – well, you get the point. This is what I struggled with the most. I knew if I was going to kick the cigarettes, I would have to kick the habits.
When I was gearing up for my final attempt at quitting, I sought out the help of my doctor. While he applauded my efforts, he cautioned me about the three’s – 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months. He said if I could get past these three milestones smoke-free, then I would be on my way to possibly quitting. Having these milestones as targets gave me that structure I needed.
February 11, 2009, was my first smoke-free day, but this go-around, I made some changes. The first was that I decided to tap into my faith and pray to the Lord for help. I knew that believing in someone greater than myself was the most important step on this journey. The second big change was enlisting the support of my wife because I knew she would lovingly hold me accountable. Thankfully, I never felt pressure from my wife to quit. Her way of encouraging me was very unique – she let me know she wanted me around long enough to grow old with her. But having been with me for the previous attempts, she also told me that she would be there to support me no matter what. The final change I made to help me quit for good was using nicotine gum, and it made all the difference in the world. This replacement therapy program gradually stepped down the nicotine levels in my body and gave me the opportunity to focus on breaking those well-formed habits I mentioned earlier.
Through faith, family and determination I was finally able to kick the habit for good and I’m happy to say that this February will mark my 4th
year of being smoke-free. Quitting was by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but I did it – and you can too! Trust me when I say that I know what it looks like to be on the ground looking up at that almost impossible mountain. But, I also know what it’s like to go through the valley and come out on the other side. Just last night my wife and I went for a walk and we laughed and talked the whole time. I wouldn’t have been able to do that four years ago, and it’s just one of the many reasons I’m glad to be smoke-free.
As a Florida Blue Center leader, I’d also encourage you to participate in the smoking cessation classes that are offered at many of our Center locations. Check the calendar online
or on our free mobile app
to see when the next class is offered. Or, if you’re a member, meet with one of our Care Consultants so they can find a class that is convenient for you. For this and all your health needs, our Center staff is here for you!
You know I enjoy hearing from you so feel free to drop me a line in the comments section. Until next time…