No butts about it, quitting is tough 2008.01.03

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

By DAVID GREEN

After the first six months have passed, it gets easier. That’s what a Morenci resident named Doug was told about breaking the addiction to nicotine.

Don’t believe it, he now says, because it isn’t true.

“It was better than day one,” Doug said, “but it wasn’t easy.”

Doug had the satisfaction last August of making it to his fifth smoke-free anniversary. He thinks he has nicotine licked, but this wasn’t the first time he quit.

“I quit once for six months,” he said. “I guess I wasn’t ready.”

Doug used a nicotine patch the first time he tried to give it up. That was back in the mid-1990s, and after the six months passed, he went another seven or eight years—laying out a lot of cash to keep the habit going.

The cost of smoking was an annoyance, but not so much to force him to quit. Doug went through the price increase routine that many smokers follow.

“When it gets to $2 a pack, I’ll quit,” he remembers saying.

But he never did, at least not until Aug. 1, 2002, when an increase in the Michigan tobacco tax would push the price of a pack to $5.

That wasn’t the only factor. His wife said she wanted him to be around for a long time and she wished he would consider quitting.

“I think I had three cigarettes that day,” Doug said, and he hasn’t had one since.

No patch, no support class, nothing but will power and a true desire to quit. He knows that’s what was missing before.

“This time I made up my mind that I was all done,” Doug said. “I went one day at a time and it’s stretched into five and a half years. I’ll bet it was three years before my hand stopped going to my shirt pocket after lunch for the cigarette that was no longer there.”

Two-fisted approach

Drew, another local resident, remembers sitting in a doctor’s office a few years ago and being asked how many packs a day he smokes. The last time he was in for an annual check-up, the nurse asked, “How far do you run each day?”

Running is what helped him push aside a 20-year addiction to nicotine—that and a medication called Chantix.

When Drew started running, it didn’t take long for him to realize the effect that smoking had on his lungs. But everyone knows that. He needed more. He credits his girlfriend with making the difference.

“She did not insist I quit, but she began mentioning it and we began talking about it,” Drew said. “I realized—or realized more—that smoking was negatively affecting my health, wasting my money, excluding me socially, and making me smell nasty.”

Drew says it wasn’t enough to simply know he was foolish for smoking. He needed to get a clear understanding of what it was doing to him.

“There is realizing one is a moron, but then there is understanding why one is a moron. This understanding is what really helped me turn the corner.”

He asked his doctor for advice and received a prescription for Chantix, a non-nicotine medication.

“He warned me it was expensive, but it was really half of what my smoking habit cost me a day,” Drew said.

Chantix made the fight easier, but he still battled with the urge, especially in the evening after work. He kept one thing in his mind—the run when he got home.

“When everything else is falling to pieces, I can look to my run for inner peace, plus mental and physical exertion,” Drew said. “That probably sounds weird, but that is what running has developed into for me.”

He thinks quitting would be tough without a physical activity to help take its place and to provide feedback on physical changes, but Doug went without one. Maybe that was a mistake since he gained 20 pounds instead.

“To stop that craving, I guess you focus on food,” Doug said, but that’s all right with him.

He still remembers a nurse practitioner telling him that it’s healthier to gain 20 pounds than to continue smoking.

“The sense of smell that’s returned is unbelievable,” he said, and ditto for the taste of food.

“If I’d known I stunk that bad, I would have quit years ago,” Doug said.

Drew agrees: “I now wonder how non-smokers could even stand to be around me.”

Both men agree that a true desire is needed for success.

“You can have your folks hounding on you to quit, your kids hounding on you—which I did—but until you’re really ready yourself,” Doug said, “it’s going to be a struggle.”

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