I have always heard people say, “Now is not a good time to quit!” There is always a time when you are less stressed, less busy or maybe more devoted to becoming healthier. I am here to tell you not to listen to those people.
When I started working at MD Anderson in January 2000, I was smoking two packs a day, and had been smoking since I was very young. In 2002, I transferred to Laboratory Informatics, where we support several clinical and research areas around MD Anderson. After talking to some of the doctors and seeing the inner workings of the hospital, I made the decision to quit smoking.
However, I was under so much stress when I made that decision. My mother was moving to Texas, and I was going through a bad divorce.
Getting help from the Tobacco Treatment Program
One of my co-workers recommended that I reach out to Bill Baun, program manager for MD Anderson’s employee wellness program.
Making that call was very hard, but I realized I had nothing to lose. Mr. Baun came to our support room, talked with me and made me comfortable and secure in my decision to quit smoking.
He put me in contact with Tobacco Treatment Program, which provides tobacco cessation counseling and support to MD Anderson patients and employees. That was the beginning of my new life.
Although it was not a good time to quit, I learned that there is no such thing. As a nurse explained to me, quitting smoking is harder than some illegal drugs. When I asked why, she explained that tobacco is easier to get than drugs, and that makes it that much harder to quit.
How I learned to cope when I quit smoking
I am not going to lie. It was hard to quit smoking. But the support from the counselors was outstanding and made the transition to quitting smoking so smooth. I feel like they not only gave me my life back; they gave me a better one. To this day, I still have urges for cigarettes from time to time, but every day it gets easier to deal with.
I saved the money I used to buy my cigarettes and used the money to buy a motorcycle. It’s funny, the money I spent on cigarettes in one month paid for the bike. Every time I wanted a smoke, I went for a ride to remind me that I did not need it.
If I could give one person advice to quit smoking it would be this: There is no great time to quit, you just have to make up your mind and want to quit. A little change of lifestyle can start a domino effect, and your decision to quit could help others decide to do the same. However, you have to start by being honest with yourself. I did it, and so can everyone that wants to.
Life after tobacco
I have been smoke-free since 2002, and have not looked back. Although I no longer have the motorcycle, I have had some big life changes. I now coach three sports for the Special Olympics and am part of a group that provides support and raises funds for families living with autism. I also am part of a support group for fathers of special needs kids. It is a great little group.
Every time I see Mr. Baun, I make sure I thank him for putting me in contact with the Tobacco Treatment Program. I would love to personally thank the group that helped me quit. I had support from friends and family and all the support here at MD Anderson. I could not have done it without them.
The Tobacco Treatment Program offers tobacco cessation services, including in-person behavioral counseling and medications, to MD Anderson patients, employees and dependents at no cost. Patients and caregivers should ask your their Anderson doctor or nurse for a referral.