Join the Quitters: Great American Smokeout at UNH Nov. 14 & 15

Join the Quitters: Great American Smokeout at UNH Nov. 14 & 15

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

“Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet about 43.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes — nearly 1 in every 5 adults.” American Cancer Society  

 

My smoking story:

I started smoking at 18, and continued to smoke for about 10 years. I worked as a manager for a construction company, and everyone smoked. My parents smoked. My husband smoked. It was simply a part of our culture.

I had tried to quite multiple times, more than I can count, really. I quit during my pregnancy, but then gave into temptation and started again, though I would only smoke outside. I tried to quit once my son was old enough to know what cigarettes were, but again, was soon back to old addictions.

Each time I quit, I had no plan. I would simply think about quitting, try to cut down by allowing myself only a certain number of cigarettes a day, and then would fail miserably. I would feel guilty about exceeding my daily allowance, would beat myself up, and then would cave and tell myself I would try again “when I was ready”. I can remember people telling me I couldn’t do it; instead of motivating me, these statements rang true, and would only serve to cut into my morale.

The excuse I tended to use was that I was too stressed to quit. I rationalized that since I didn’t drink alcohol, or use drugs recreationally, that I should be “allowed to have a vice.” This, of course, was completely ridiculous. Smoking did make me relax, and it did give me a reason to take a break when work or life in general became too demanding. There are ALWAYS stressful situations in life; telling myself that there were too many of those situations was simply a way to allow myself to continue to do what I wanted: smoke.

And I wanted to continue to smoke because it made me feel good: I liked the tingle I would get after taking my first drag. I liked how my heart would kick and beat a little faster. I liked how I was able to take a 10-minute break and just SIT STILL (though the fact that I could do this and not smoke at all didn’t cross my mind). I liked that smoking was a great way to meet people (other smokers) and that it was an easy way to excuse myself form situations I wanted to get away from.

I was finally able to quit, for good, after my father and mother died in within three months of each other. My mother suffered from comorbid diseases which were a direct result of her smoking. My father (who was my best friend) was diagnosed with stage four, metastasized lung cancer. While caring for both of my parents (along with my brother), I began smoking again as a way to release tension, to “take a break”, and as a way to cope, chemically, with a terrible situation.

Ultimately, this horrific series of events, combined with the knowledge that I was chemically dependent on cigarettes, contributed to my developing a plan to quit. I visited my doctor, accepted the fact that I needed help to quit, and received a prescription for Chantix. I choose a medication start date, and a quit date. I told my son I was going to quit, and why. Most importantly, I got my husband to quit with me. More than anything, I actually WANTED to quit; smoking had changed for me. It was no longer the enjoyable, stress-relieving activity it had been. Smoking had become a slow way to die before my time.

I am happy to say that I have been smoke free for more than a year now. I still crave a cigarette, sometimes multiple times in a day. I hold onto the idea that the cravings are going to go away eventually, whether I smoke or not. What isn’t going to go away? The disease, pain and heartache that I and those I love would suffer if I were to give into those cravings.

Kate A. Crary

Program intake and triage coordinator / Ombudsman liason

NH Community Passport Program

UNH IHPP

 

 

From the editor: Before I finally quit, I spent a full year smoking one cigarette a day. Just one. By then, it wasn’t just about nicotine addiction anymore. It was the habit. Knowing I would never be able to have a cigarette with my coffee, while drinking a beer, when I was talking on the telephone—it felt like losing a good friend. 

Scientists have long equated the physiological as well as behavioral difficulties of quitting smoking with trying to kick heroin. Sounds dramatic, right? But think about it: one cigarette a day for an entire year. I’d winnowed my habit down to one cigarette a day and was still smoking.

Kate Crary of the Institute for Health Policy and Practice at UNH quit when she was 28. And then again when she was pregnant. And when her son was old enough to know what cigarettes were. And after her parents both died. Now, as of today, she has been smoke-free for more than a year (See sidebar story) because, she says, she finally developed a plan.

On Thursday, Nov.14, and Friday, Nov. 15, Health Services and Healthy UNH will team up to help people come up with their own plan to quit smoking. (Support is available throughout the academic year as well.) Students from the Substance Awareness Through Functional Education peer education program will man a SmokeOut Station at the MUB from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., providing tips on how to quit using tobacco. They also will have Free Quit Kits on hand.

Kits also are available regularly at the pharmacy at Health Services. Each kit has educational information and tools to help with cravings. The materials can be download at Virtual Quit Kit. 

Research shows that people are most successful quitting smoking when they have support. Beyond the Great American Smokeout, Health Services offers quit-smoking support on an ongoing basis through, among other options, education and counseling, biofeedback, massage therapy (prices start at $40), and guided meditation.

Eligible Harvard Pilgrim subscribers can receive free telephone or online counseling services, quit tips and much more at 800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669). Or, sign up for HP’s QuitSmart program at an 18 percent savings. Read more information here.

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • About half the people in the U.S. who continue to smoke will die because of the habit.
  • Each year about 443,000 people in the U.S.die from illnesses related to tobacco use.
  • Smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined.
  • Cigarette smoking accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancers deaths.

For more information visit Healthy UNH, Health Services or the American Cancer Society.