Stories of Hope
Health Scare Convinces Smoker to Quit 40-Year Habit
Article date: November 6, 2012
"First you have to make up your mind that you want to quit. Make a commitment. It's going to be hard; you might even have a setback. You're going to need help. You can't do it by yourself. You need someone like a personal friend or Quit For Life coach to encourage you. Once you make up your mind you're really going to try, I think you're going to be successful."
The day he had his heart attack was the last time Arthur Davis smoked a cigarette. He’d tried to quit several times before, but the heart attack was a wake-up call that Davis couldn’t ignore. He knew if he wanted to recover and stay healthy, he’d have to stop smoking.
Davis started smoking as a teenager in the ‘60s and soon developed a pack-a-day habit that would last for more than 40 years. He said smoking cigarettes was more common in those days. “Back then for us old-timers smoking was a kind of social norm – it was accepted.”
Davis entered the military and was deployed to Vietnam, where he said just about everybody smoked. Cigarettes were included in field rations and soldiers traded with each other for the brands they liked.
By the time he retired from the military and began working for an IT contractor, Davis had a serious lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). His wife, children, and grandchildren – all nonsmokers – encouraged him to quit, and he knew he should. He said, “I had even started smoking low tar and nicotine cigarettes, thinking it was going to help, but I was fooling myself.”
It wasn’t until he had his heart attack last November that Davis was able to make the commitment to quit smoking for good. He had 3 stents inserted into the arteries around his heart and spent a week in the hospital recovering from the surgery. His doctor told Davis he had to quit.
Quit For Life program
Davis knew he couldn’t do it on his own. So he called Quit For Life, a program included in his employee health benefits package. The Quit For Life Program operated by the American Cancer Society® and Alere Wellbeing is a phone-based coaching and Web-based learning support service to help people quit smoking. The program employs an evidence-based combination of physical, psychological, and behavioral strategies to enable participants to take responsibility for and overcome their addiction to tobacco. Davis was matched with a coach who helped him identify his triggers and develop techniques to work through his cravings without picking up a cigarette.
For example, Davis had been in the habit of lighting up every time he got into his car. His Quit Coach encouraged him to chew nicotine gum instead. That worked so well that Davis can now often chew regular gum when he gets behind the wheel. Another big trigger for Davis was after meal time. Instead of smoking, he now drinks a cup of coffee.
When Davis first quit, he chewed 5 or 6 pieces of nicotine gum a day; now he’s down to 2 or 3. He still gets cravings, but they’re not as strong as they used to be. Davis’ doctor says his lungs are clearer, and he has begun taking walks.
An unexpected bonus from quitting is all the money he’s saving now that he’s not buying cigarettes. In less than a year, he saved $1,500 – enough for a down payment on a new car. Davis said, “There will be no ashtrays in that car.”
Davis said, “First you have to make up your mind that you want to quit. Make a commitment. It’s going to be hard; you might even have a setback. You’re going to need help. You can’t do it by yourself. You need someone like a personal friend or Quit For Life coach to encourage you. Once you make up your mind you’re really going to try, I think you’re going to be successful.”
November 28 will mark Davis’ one-year anniversary since he stopped smoking. He plans to take his biggest supporter, his 12-year-old grandson, out to dinner. Davis said, “Just knowing my grandson was going to come over and check on me was enough to say, ‘I’ve got to do it.’”