Committed to quitting: What inspires me to quit smoking

Sue Sims inspires me to quit.

We all know what smoking can do to your heart. It’s no secret. That’s why I always felt like such a jerk for smoking – I was breaking my own heart and putting myself on the waiting list for heart disease, stroke, COPD and a host of other nasty ailments.

Even though I was smoking less than a half a pack a day, I was beginning to see and feel the effects of smoking. So, in December I asked my doctor for a prescription for some smoking cessation pills, knowing that I have to quit. Again.

I told my friend and colleague Sue Sims about my quitting. I’ve known Sue for nearly two years, but never knew until recently how smoking affected her life.  Sue applauded my efforts when learning I was quitting. Why? Because Sue knows first-hand the devastating impacts of smoking: It claimed the love of her life.

She had been married to Don Sims for forty years. High school sweet hearts, Sue and Don were best friends, partners in experiencing all that life brings. According to Sue, Don had been a heavy smoker, starting as a teen. Two packs a day were the norm despite Sue’s pleading for decades for Don to stop.  Finally, Don did quit smoking about eight years ago, after a doctor told him that if continued, he would die. But the damage done was already too great.

She described how heartbreaking it was to see how smoking began to steal Don’s health and his quality of life. Eventually, Don’s condition deteriorated to the point where he had to be put on oxygen. After that, he became bedridden. He was only in his mid-fifties when this happened.

Then, in the fall of 2012, Don caught pneumonia.

Don was admitted to the hospital and put on a ventilator. The damage smoking had done to his lungs was so immense by that time, there was simply no way for him to breathe on his own again.

After two weeks of breathing only through a ventilator, a decision had to be made. There were only two options. One was to perform a tracheotomy, allowing him to breathe without the use of his nose or mouth to support the ventilator tube. The other, death.

Sue tried to explain to me what it was like to have to sign a document that acknowledged her husband wouldn’t be seeking the tracheotomy. I tried to fathom what this surreal experience must have been like for her, but I knew there was no way that my wildest imaginings could ever, even in the slightest, provide a measure, a fraction, of what she must have been feeling as she slid that pen across the dotted line.

Since she’s shared this story with me, there’ve been a couple of times that I’ve had an impulse to smoke, inspired by pure reflex and an innate compulsion born of nearly two decades of self-destruction – really, that’s what smoking is: self-destruction. But, I’d pause, breathe deeply and think about Sue and Don and the urge to pick up would subside.

I want to thank Sue for sharing this story. She has inspired me to stay committed to quitting more than she will ever understand: I will live longer in part because of Sue and Don.

If you’re a Blue Care Network member and need help quitting smoking, there are free resources available to you, like our Quit the Nic program and smoking cessation products that can help you beat this addiction. Make today the day you decide to save your life!

Photo credit: Lisa Goodson

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