Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
You Can Quit Tobacco!
Veteran Richard Fiske thought he’d never be able to quit smoking. He started as a teenager and was up to a pack a day when he enlisted in the Marines and served in Vietnam. Following his military service, he worked as a flooring installer in Colorado. He was in great shape most of his life and wonders if the hard work and living at a 9,000-foot altitude delayed the consequences of smoking.
However, at 62 years of age, he had trouble catching his breath when working. Within four years, he could no longer tolerate the higher altitude and moved to Missouri. He hoped the lower altitude would improve his breathing, but he now needed oxygen throughout the day. He could no longer walk or play with his beloved Labrador Retriever without difficulty breathing.
When his VA doctor talked to him about quitting tobacco, Richard felt it was no use. After all, he had tried so many times before, even using hypnosis, the patch, and other medications. Nothing seemed to work and he assumed he would be a smoker until he died. He reluctantly agreed to attend a “Thinking About Quitting” orientation class. Attending this class gave him some hope, although he still doubted he could quit.
Richard enrolled in the Truman VA Quit Program. He says “I learned nicotine addiction isn’t just a physical thing.” He never thought about how the habit and psychological part of tobacco dependence kept him hooked. He enjoyed the camaraderie of being with other Veterans trying to quit tobacco. The class was never condescending or made smokers feel ashamed. In the first three sessions, he made a plan to manage the physical, psychological and habit parts of his addiction. Session four was quit day! Quitting with the other Veterans made him feel he was part of a team on a mission.
Within two days, Richard came to the VAMC without his oxygen tank! While the first few days were rough, he now knew how to get through urges to smoke, and that they would only last three to five minutes. He felt more confident that he could quit for good. The remaining classes taught him how to live as a non-smoker and prevent relapse.
Richard is now tobacco free for six months. He no longer feels like a “second class citizen” or has a sense of shame about his inability to quit. “It’s just a freedom. I can now walk my dog without lugging the oxygen along! I can enjoy life again!” He looks forward to hugging his grandchildren and no longer smelling like an ashtray. He wants to be around to see them grow up.
Richard wants other smokers to know that “If I can quit, anyone can quit!” He encourages Veterans who are concerned about quitting tobacco to consider the Truman VA Tobacco Cessation program, even if they doubt they can quit. The program gave him the confidence, support and tools to be successful.
To learn more about your options for quitting, talk with your VA provider, contact Dr. Joe Hinkebein at 573-814-6216 or visit www.publichealth.va.gov/smoking/quit_smoking.asp