Calling it quits

The word quitter usually has a negative meaning, but when it comes to giving up a smoking habit, the exact opposite is true: Quitters are winners.

An eight-week-long program that partners the Webster County Health Department and the UnityPoint Health – Trinity Regional Medical Center Smoking Cessation Team, is helping smokers become winners that quit.

Lee New, of Fort Dodge, smoked for 52 years.

“I started when I was 12,” he said recently. “I used to hide cigarettes in the back of my coat.”

His wife, Jana Lee, quit with him. She smoked for 41 years.

“I started when I was 18,” she said.

Working towards a common goal helps them.

“We were pretty motivated,” she said. “We quit cold turkey.”

The couple got through the initial cravings and after-effects of going without a nearly lifelong habit, but it wasn’t always easy.

“You get irritable, but you realize what it is,” Lee New said.

Still, they were successful.

“We’re still married,” he said.

One device that helped a bit was a fake cigarette. To make it, Jana Lee stuffed a tuft of cotton into an empty pen tube. It helps give the smoker the sensation of drawing on a cigarette.

“She even had a ribbon tied around it like a diploma,” her husband said.

Lindsay Kavanaugh, community wellness coordinator with the Webster County Health Department, said each of the eight smoking cessation classes offer a variety of topics. They begin by simply helping the smoker think about not smoking, learning how not to and gaining the desire to quit.

Each individual can pick their own “quit” date, she said; participants are not pressured.

In addition, one night’s class includes a panel of former smokers who share their experiences with quitting.

Other class sessions feature discussions with a personal trainer, a dietitian and a pharmacist.

“Many of them fear gaining weight,” Kavanaugh said. “On average, it’s 8 to 9 pounds.”

People who quit smoking also encounter stress. She said classes give them healthy alternatives to smoking to cope with that.

Kavanaugh is happy with the success rate among the class participants.

“We had nine out of the 10 quit,” Kavanaugh said, referring to their smoking habit “We hope they continue.”

Beverly Harrison, of Fort Dodge, first smoked as a teenager.

“I quit four or five times, then went back,” she said.

Some times are harder for ex-smokers to cope with than others.

“In the morning,” she said. “I really want one.”

Harrison has tried other methods,

“I tried the patches, the gum,” she said. “I even went to a hypnotist.”

They didn’t work for her; what has worked for her this time are the others in the class.

“I just think the support is really good,” Harrison said. “Being with others who are going through the same thing is really good.”

She is already feeling better.

“I don’t cough at all now,” she said.

It’s not uncommon for a smoker to relapse once or twice before quitting for good.

Wendy Teske, of Duncombe, had that experience during a night out with friends.

It wasn’t a good one.

“My mouth tasted like nothing but an ashtray,” she said. “It was nasty.”

What happened next is something that possibly only smokers – or ex-smokers – can really understand.

“Then I had three more,” Teske said.

Mike Smith, a respiratory therapist at Trinity Regional Medical Center, offered a consolation.

“If you do have a setback,” he said, “try again, don’t let it rob you of the whole thing.”