‘Don’t stop stopping’ | health beat

At 16, Janet Hale had a great admiration for one of the dearest members of her family.

“She was so cool,” said Hale, of Grandville, Michigan. “I wanted to be like her.”

So when this family member started smoking, “I started smoking too,” Hale said.

That was over 50 years ago.

A member of his family later died of complications from cancer.

But Hale, now 71, continued to smoke – through her teens, through her young adult years and well into her 60s.

“I was the only other person in my family who smoked, but I couldn’t quit,” Hale said. “Everyone hated it.”

It wasn’t until Hale experienced incessant bouts of coughing that she began to entertain the idea of ​​quitting smoking.

“That was about five years ago,” she said. “I went from menthol to non-menthol cigarettes and went from one pack a day to three cigarettes a day. But I just couldn’t give up those last three.

Hale knew she would need help.

Overcome difficult obstacles

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is estimated to cause approximately 480,000 deaths every year.

The good news: the number of smokers has declined in the United States in recent years. In 2005, about 21 out of 100 adults were smokers. In 2020, that number has dropped to about 13 in every 100 adults, according to the CDC.

Hale wanted to be counted as a non-smoker.

To that end, she met with Libby Stern, a licensed social worker and clinical program specialist who oversees the Tobacco and Nicotine Treatment Program at Spectrum Health Lifestyle Medicine.

“Jan and I met about five years ago when she joined what was then our Quit 101 program,” Stern said. “She completed the program, participated in individual counseling and successfully quit. But after about five months, Jan relapsed and started smoking again.

“And that’s typical of people trying to quit. I like to reassure people that “relapse is common, but not required”.

Lifestyle Medicine offers a three-phase smoking cessation program that connects people to a support system that can help them quit smoking.

The three phases are Let’s Talk Tobacco, Quit Smoking and Keep Calm.

“All of our tobacco and nicotine treatment programs are virtual. The starting point for all participants is a series of four sessions, called Let’s Talk Tobacco,” Stern said. “Whether you’re looking for more information about the quitting process or are considering or planning to quit, this is where it all starts. These sessions provide information about nicotine addiction, medications, the quitting process, as well as behavioral and cognitive processes.

Upon completion of this program, participants can move on to the Let’s Quit Tobacco program for group coaching. This series helps them get through the hardest part: quitting smoking.

Let’s Quit is more intensive and includes one individual coaching session followed by five group coaching sessions. The goal of Let’s Quit is to create a comprehensive, personalized quit plan that will work.

Hale had already quit — yet again — when she joined the Let’s Stay Quit support group at Stern’s invitation. The Let’s Stay Quit support group meets twice a month.

“I finally made it in January 2021,” Hale said. “It’s been almost two years. Libby thought I could offer encouragement to others who are trying to keep quiet.

Hale said she understands relapses all too well.

The most important part, she said, is to try again and again. This is the advice she shares in the support group.

“One of the biggest things for me was accountability,” Hale said. “I had my family holding me accountable.”

During difficult times, she learned to reach out to family members for help.

“I knew if I was too lonely I could light a cigarette,” Hale said. “So when I had a 45 minute drive to a family reunion, I called my family to ask for someone to pick me up to make sure I didn’t smoke on the way. They were happy to do it.

Hale received encouraging text messages from family members every day, applauding her daily success.

This support became important in its resolution.

“Years ago I was diagnosed with ADD – attention deficit disorder – and an anxiety disorder,” Hale said. “My family would say I’m a very laid back person. But inside, I felt anxiety. And cigarettes had become an incredibly ingrained way to deal with that kind of stress. They kept me calm.

Through the coping skills she learned through the Lifestyle Medicine smoking cessation program and through counseling, Hale found ways to manage her anxiety and cope with the challenges of each day.

“That’s the second thing that helped me succeed – the various aids,” she said. “The types of aids you choose to help you quit smoking really depends on the individual. We are all different. There are drugs, patches, nicotine gum and apps that you can use on your phone.

Delay and distract

Hale said she found medication to reduce nicotine cravings worked best for her.

Another approach she learned: delay and distract.

“Wait five minutes, distract yourself with something else, and the craving will pass,” she said. “Change your routines from when you smoked.”

Stern and the Lifestyle Medicine team are adding another tool to their toolbox: a smartphone app called Clickotine.

“It’s a very engaging app,” Stern said. “It sends you relevant information such as how much money you’re saving, tips for managing stress, deep breathing exercises and all sorts of nudges to help you stay on track. We’ll introduce it via Lifestyle Medicine this winter for smoking cessation participants and we are excited to add it.

You need to find the aids that work for you, Hale said.

“Two years later, I’ve gained weight from not smoking, although I’m losing some of it again,” she said. “But my breathing is better and I feel better. I just had a check up with my doctor and he said my lungs were clear.

“The best advice I have is, ‘Keep quitting.'”

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