Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
November Spotlight - Quitting Tobacco
Jim Mullendore served as a Marine in Vietnam. He started smoking in boot camp and soon found cigarettes helped him cope with the rigors and stress of combat. After Vietnam, he continued to rely on cigarettes as a companion when stressed and company when isolating.
A few years ago, Jim obtained treatment for PTSD related to Vietnam. He wanted to enjoy life again. He learned he couldn’t change the past, but he could acknowledge and accept painful memories and emotions, without dwelling on them in the present. He also realized that hiding in his home playing computer golf and smoking cigarettes were just unhealthy ways of trying to avoid memories of Vietnam.
Jim decided he wants to return to Vietnam with his son to “close the circle” and reclaim his power from the war. He knew the tropical climate would be hard to take if he was still smoking. Even though he tried to quit many times before, he made up his mind it was time to say good bye to tobacco.
Jim enrolled in the Truman VA Tobacco Quit Program to learn how to quit. He learned about the physical, psychological and habit parts of his tobacco addiction. He discovered he was actually smoking 3 packs per day! In the classes, he thought about how to change his routines and use healthy coping strategies to overcome the urges to smoke. He focused on the benefits of quitting, even though he already had health problems from smoking. He wrote down his reasons for quitting to help stay motivated. He used nicotine replacement (patches and lozenges) to take the edge off the urges while practicing new routines and coping strategies.
Soon the urges came less often and were not as strong. More importantly, Jim found the urges no longer controlled him! He would accept the urge and allow it to pass using deep breathing and keeping busy with other activities. He rewarded himself with a new coffee maker after one week of not smoking. Soon Jim was breathing better and had more energy. He was accomplishing chores around the house he had been putting off. He was amazed how much he could get done when not taking smoke breaks. Food tasted better, and he no longer smelled like an ashtray!
Jim recently celebrated one year of being tobacco free. He has saved more than $4,000 dollars since quitting. He now walks up to 5 miles a day with his dog, Jack. He also volunteers at the Veterans Home and Truman VA. Jim and his son are finalizing plans for the return trip to Vietnam.
Jim has his life back. He wants other Veterans to know it is never too late to quit tobacco, no matter how long you have been smoking. He is a believer in the Truman VA Tobacco Quit program, and says the education and coaching helped him successfully get the tobacco monkey off his back.
To learn more about your quitting options, ask your VA primary care team for a referral to the “Thinking about Quitting” class offered monthly at Truman VA. For more information about quitting tobacco, contact Dr. Joe Hinkebein at 573-814-6216, and visit: