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smoking in nursing school. It helped relieve the stress of
school. But years later, something happened to make her think twice about
her smoking habit.
Nancy was working as a nurse and was exposed to
someone who had a bad case of pneumonia. As a precaution, Nancy was checked for
pneumonia. The X-ray revealed that she didn't have pneumonia—but her lungs did
show early signs of emphysema. "It scared the daylights out of me," Nancy
So Nancy started to think seriously about quitting. But
quitting was harder than she thought it would be. It took her 3 years and 30
tries before she was able to quit smoking for good.
Quitting was a struggle. Back
then, she didn't understand that she was addicted to the nicotine in
cigarettes. She thought that quitting smoking was all about willpower. And at
that time there weren't a lot of tools available to help someone quit smoking.
The patch had just come out, and she hadn't heard much about it.
So Nancy found herself in a cycle of quitting and relapsing—smoking for a
few weeks between each attempt at quitting. Despite what felt like repeated
failure, she didn't give up. "It was the fear of not being able to breathe"
that kept her motivated to keep trying to quit, Nancy says.
nurse, Nancy knew firsthand what it was like to struggle for each breath. She
worked in an intensive care unit where many of her patients suffered from lung
disease. "I really made myself focus on the future of my life. I want to be
skiing when I'm 70. I don't want an oxygen tank."
Nancy hit upon a key that helped
her quit for good. "Finally what woke me up—after 3 years of failure—was the
realization of what happened when I relapsed," she says. She figured out that
when she drank alcohol, it made her want to smoke. She decided to quit drinking
for 6 months to see if that would help her stay away from smoking. It worked.
So Nancy decided to give up alcohol permanently "I quit drinking not because
alcohol scares me," she says, "but because when I drink, I want to
Surrounding herself with people who believed in her and
supported her efforts to quit also really helped her. Nancy was lucky to have
friends like that. Most of her friends were nonsmokers, and they all enjoyed
outdoor activities together. When Nancy was out hiking or biking with her
friends, she thought less about smoking.
Nancy hasn't smoked in decades. Now she passes on her success to others by teaching stop-smoking
Nancy's story reflects her experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Nancy, to protect her privacy.
For more information, see the topic
August 15, 2013
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & John Hughes, MD - Psychiatry
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