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Steve's Story - Saved my Life

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PinnacleHealth saved my life. They saved my finances. What they do is a great thing for people. “Thanks” cannot do it justice.

Half of my lifetime was spent using tobacco. I started smoking when I was 16, and quit a year ago when I was 32. I was smoking at minimum, two packs a day. Sometimes as many as three.

You have no idea the power that it had over me. Smoking was controlling my life.

My dad was a smoker and a year prior he had died of cancer. That was not enough to make me stop.

I have a wife and three children between the ages of 6-10 who wanted me to stop. That was not enough.

I was to the point where I would hide it from my family. If we were going out to run an errand, I would smoke before we’d leave the house, and after a five-minute car ride I’d have another.

I was devoting my life to NOTHING.

I had gone through a smoking cessation class in 2005, which worked for the duration of the class. Once it was over, I went right back to smoking. I had tried the patch, medications – nothing worked long-term.

My wife saw that PinnacleHealth was offering a Tobacco Cessation class at the Friendship Center in Lower Paxton Township. I told her if she signed me up, I would go.

Going into the first class, I figured it could go either way. Having tried many times before, I was expecting to repeat the cycle yet again.  I was hopeful, but given what I had been through already, I was not expecting positive results.

Shannon, who led our class, really helped beyond just quitting. She made herself available and explained all of the information that was provided.  She recognized that I am a very detail oriented person, so she suggested that I keep a log book of when I smoked, called a “Pack Track,” every day to find out when, where and what my emotions were when I smoked.

Through my Pack Track, I discovered that I was smoking every 20 minutes. In my 10-minute commute each day, I was smoking between one and five cigarettes.

Shannon helped me realize I was self medicating to get to the next break.

The first two weeks of the class was easy. You are strong because you have firmly decided to quit.

The third week gets harder because you lose that initial willpower/momentum.

Every Tuesday for eight weeks, there would be a check-in. Shannon would give us more information, affirmation and just listened to us. It helped to have somewhere to go once a week to keep focus.

Since I had tried the patch before without success, I asked Shannon if, on my worst days, I could use the patch AND gum. She checked into it and said that yes, I could use the smallest piece of gum, but only on my worst days. Since she was associated with PinnacleHealth, I knew that she wouldn’t give me advice that would hurt me or my progress and my long-term goals.

Don’t think it was easy; for the first few months, my body was in total shock and misery. The fourth week through three months was torture-- crying, screaming, short-fused, tired, constant sickness of nose/throat and body. I wanted to sleep and indulge myself with food and possessions and things to do. I dreamt of having smoked and would wake up relieved that I actually did not relapse. It’s like it’s all coming out of you, but not without putting up a fight.

I constantly was thinking about cigarettes. My thoughts were not only that I wanted to smoke, but wishing that I could smoke and not have any problems, or that I would have gone a couple more years before making this final quit.

After about six months, I started to think, ‘I am really doing this.’  You start to let your guard down. Every time I did something that I hadn’t in a while I would get the strong urge to pick up a cigarette. For example, I went to a concert in the winter: got the urges; went to the beach in June: got the urge; Ate at Olive Garden and wanted to go outside and smoke after dinner. Spring is here, boy would I love to smoke. Once I would do these things once or twice, I was able to do it without strong urges after. I still get these from time to time.

But once I started to see the good things that were happening, it encouraged me to keep going. Seven months to the one-year mark, the urges started to die down. This is the part where I started to realize that I had made the right choice.

After the seventh month I was more interested in doing other things with the money that I would have spent on cigarettes.  I was going on trips and baseball games, having family and friend get-togethers. I would think of smoking occasionally, but a lot less than before. It’s amazing how much money you’re literally setting on fire when you smoke. I carried around a money tracker, along with my “Pack Track” in my wallet every day for a year. At the end of the year, I discovered that I had saved $4,380 by not smoking. As a result, we’re better off financially and able to do these “extra” things that we couldn’t before.

After the one-year mark, I rarely think about it. Once in a while I get an urge, but it is a passing thought. I am aware of being better off without it and my mind and body likes this answer.

Today I feel 110 times better than I did before I quit. I can definitely tell my lung capacity is higher. I’m in my mid 30s, and when I was smoking, I couldn’t run up steps without getting winded. Now I have more energy through the day. I don’t have sore throats as often, and I’ve noticed that when I do catch a cold, I seem to recover much quicker. Cigarettes took away all of my energy and stamina.

Since I’ve quit, I am much more likely to think things through. I am more methodical in how I approach a problem, and no longer fly off the handle in an argument. I am able to pause, think and talk things through now. I no longer have the guilt that I had when I was exposing my kids to the smoke. Overall, I have a whole new perspective.

My advice to someone who’s trying to quit? Find a program like PinnacleHealth’s. It’s a good starting point. And if you fail, try again. You will hear the same things over and over, accept it for what it is. Be open to new ideas, no matter how stupid it sounds, try it. And always be honest with yourself.

I cannot believe that I was able to do it. I’ve always had a good life, but PinnacleHealth has enhanced it that much more. PinnacleHealth saved my life. They saved my finances. What they do is a great thing for people. “Thanks” cannot do it justice.