Don't wait to quit smoking

  • Published
  • By Bob Hall
A New Year's resolution is too far away, start smoking cessation as soon as possible.

Let's be serious, how many people do you know who made a New Year's resolution and actually managed to keep it longer than a week or so?

I, personally, can not think of one. In fact, most of the folks I know who have made New Year's resolutions may have kept them through sundown ... New Year's Day.
Most New Year's resolutions are way too unrealistic.

I admit though ... I'm guilty of it as well.

Throughout my 20-plus years in the Marine Corps, I don't how many times I resolved to quit smoking.

I'd pretty much chain-smoke all the way up to midnight on New Year's Eve, crumple up the empty pack, throw it and my lighter in the trash, and then say to myself "that's the last one."

I swear ... I must have done this 10 or 15 times, and every year it was pretty much the same.

About three to four hours after waking up, on New Year's Day, I'd find myself eventually succumbing to the nicotine fits and withdrawals, and then driving down to the local convenience store for a pack of smokes and lighter.

Trying to quit smoking is one of the hardest things I've ever attempted, military career and all.

I've been faced with some pretty crazy stuff, like eating beetles and grubs during jungle survival training in the rain forests of Honduras; jumping out of a perfectly functioning helicopter into the Pacific Ocean in the middle on the night; tromping through four-, five- and six-foot piles of volcanic ash from the still-erupting Mount Pinatubo and - well, you get the picture.

I eventually quit smoking ... nearly five years ago.

The point I'm trying to make here is that you don't need to wait until New Year's to make a resolution to quit smoking. You can do it now.

I quit on Jan. 30, 2006, not New Year's Eve or New Year's Day; not my 40th birthday or my kid's birthday. I quit on a Monday.

To be honest though, the original quit date I set was supposed to be in November 2005, but I pushed back to December then back again into January. When I was finally ready, mentally and physically, I quit.

This is why it's so difficult to make, and keep, a New Year's resolution.

You really do need to be mentally and physically ready to pull it off. I was ready on Jan. 29, 2006, and so on a cold Alaska Sunday night, I went out on my back porch and smoked my last cigarette.

And I haven't had one since.

I'll be the first to admit, it wasn't easy. Fortunately, I didn't have to go through the process alone. I had help; the Health and Wellness Center's smoking cessation program.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nicotine is the psychoactive drug in tobacco products that produces dependence. Most smokers are dependent on nicotine.

Nicotine dependence is the most common form of chemical dependence in the United States.

Research suggests nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine or alcohol.

This explains why it's so hard to quit. And why it's even harder to do without support.

The HAWC can offer you several options to help you quit tobacco, and the smoking cessation class offers a support network of other folks trying to quit as well.

The HAWC has a whole program designed to help you quit; whether you're an active-duty military member, retiree, family member or Department of Defense civilian employee.

If you're considering quitting tobacco, you should consider contacting the folks at the HAWC and getting registered for the Tobacco Cessation Program.

Taking the Tobacco Cessation Program class is the easy part. It's not like they hook you up to a bunch of electrodes for electro-shock therapy or anything like that. Though that too would probably work, what the HAWC has to offer is much easier.

For me, it was "the patch." A couple of weeks of weeks on the patch and the nicotine was weaned from my system. And today, I can proudly say that it's been almost five years since I've even touched a cigarette.

The HAWC still offers the nicotine patch as a means to help quit. They also offer nicotine gum and prescription medications that have been proven to help as well.

But you've got to attend the classes the HAWC offers.

The HAWC offers classes at its Arctic Oasis location the first three Thursdays of every month at either 8 a.m. or noon. Classes are also offered at the Education Center on the Richardson side of the installation on the first three Tuesdays of every month at noon.

Evening classes are available upon request.

The folks at the HAWC said they'll even bring the class out to individual units, upon request, and tailor the class to meet the unit's training needs.

Call the HAWC at 552-2361 to sign up.

Lastly, I wanted to mention that Thursday is the official day for this year's "Great American Smokeout."

Now, I am by no means telling people to quit smoking on Nov. 18.

Heck, I never quit for the day either. I bring it up as a reminder. I am asking you to think about quitting. Ultimately, it needs to be your decision to quit.

Your spouse can't make you quit. Your children can't make you quit. The doctors can't make you quit. Nobody can make you quit.

Only you can make yourself quit.

But you don't have to do it alone. The folks at the HAWC are there to help you.

In fact, on Thursday, individuals considering kicking the habit are encouraged to call or just stop by the HAWC for a one-on-one consolation. This is not something the HAWC does on a regular basis, so I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity.

I believe it was Vince Lombardi who said, "Winners never quit and quitters never win." Well, he obviously wasn't talking about quitting tobacco.

I would have to rephrase this quote, and take out the word never.

It takes a lot of physical courage and mental fortitude to quit tobacco.

"When it comes to tobacco; winners quit and quitters win."