"QUITTERS CAN BE WINNERS"

 

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QUITTERS CAN BE WINNERS

By

Vic Johnson

This is not just another story on how to stop smoking. This is a true account of an actual living person that got hooked on cigarettes at an early age and smoked heavily for over 20 years. Quit at age 40 and has added, so far, 31 years to his life.

THE ADDICTION BEGINS

As an inquisitive 8 year old that looked up to his father, who smoked, I wondered what it would be like to try smoking cigarettes. One day the opportunity presented itself. My mother was at the hospital having my little sister. I was at home with my oldest brother that was recuperating from a severe ax cut to his foot. He accidentally cut it while taking down some trees.

My Dad had left an open pack of cigarettes in the living room and I decided that he would not miss a couple. I went out to the porch where my oldest brother was and announced that I had found some cigarettes and I was going to try smoking one.

I struggled with lighting up one and managed not to set myself on fire. The first couple of drags on it were nasty tasting and I thought to me this stuff is nasty. Oh, if only I had quit there. But I thought to myself just about every grown up I know smokes these things. If I wanted to be like my Dad and the rest of the male adults I knew I had to learn how to smoke.

To my oldest brother I was just testing myself and since I was his favorite little brother he didnt tell on me.

A few months after that experience my other brother, three years older than me, came up with a full pack of cigarettes. He and I went to the old barn and sat down on some hay bales and lit up. I dont know how we didnt set the place on fire. But I was determined to try again to learn how to smoke. After I took a few puffs on my cigarette my brother told me that is not how you smoke. You are just drawing in the smoke and blowing it back out. You have to inhale the smoke and then blow it out.Now I had no idea what he meant. Inhale how do you do that?

After a couple of demonstrations and much coughing and choking on my part I got the hang of it. The smoke still didnt taste all that good but I noticed that I could tolerate it. This was a classic example of peer pressure. Only this was with a sibling and I readily participated in the smoking session.

Well this episode with cigarettes turned bad. My father caught us and we were pretty scared. My Dad knew how to dish out punishment. Although he wasnt too hard on me because he figured that it was my first time and that I would not continue to smoke. Little did he or I know that it was just the beginning? I was on my way to being hooked on cigarettes.

I still would sneak a smoke every now and then. Back then a pack of cigarettes would last a couple of weeks because of the fear of being caught. My nicotine addiction was getting a good hook on me without me realizing it.

By the time I was in my teens I was smoking on a fairly regular basis. Even wrote my own permission slip to smoke at the designated smoking area at high school. I went to an all boys parochial school that was taught by an all male clergy staff. It was a small school with a graduating class of approximately 17 to 25 boys.

The principal and some of the other staff smoked. Since I was a day student I had to have a permission slip. So I wrote it and signed my Moms name to it. Smoking at an early age could also make a liar out of a young person. Besides, in the 1950s smoking was popular.

We were allowed to smoke for 10 minutes after lunch in the area just outside of the entrance to the cafeteria. This smoking area was outdoors with no overhead shelter from the elements. I should have realized then that smoking could be an unsociable activity. I have often wondered how the others that used that time to smoke have faired health wise.

I worked afternoons, evenings and weekends at a local service station during my high school years. Made some spending money and spent it on cars, school tuition and cigarettes. It also gave me the opportunity to have a few extra cigarettes each day. I was hooked on smoking but I mistook it to be controllable.

Since my Dad smoked I didnt have to worry about him smelling it on my breath. But I was still a cautious smoker. However, my father was a lot smarter than I realized. Or maybe I was just real stupid.

On one occasion I remember my Dad telling someone that if a person drank beer or smoked they could mask the odor by chewing a particular brand of chewing gum. I thought that I had heard a gem of information that would help keep my smoking addiction from being detected.

One Saturday night when I was a senior in high school I came home late chewing that particular brand of gum. For some unknown reason my Dad was up and heard me coming in. He summoned me into his and Moms bedroom and he said, you are chewing Brand name gum, have you been smoking or drinking?Even though I had had a beer with some of my friends I certainly wasnt going to admit to drinking. So I told him that I had been smoking. This of course was also true. He gave me a stern lecture about smoking and lying about it. Then he went ahead and gave me his permission to smoke. Something about the lecture and his disappointment in me would not let me smoke in front of him for a couple of years.

Being an independent type of person and wanting be on my own, one week after I graduated from high school, I left home looking for a job. I went to Falls Church, Virginia and moved in with my older cousin, his wife and two children. The rent was very reasonable. Ten dollars a week included a bedroom and meals, if I made it home in time. Cigarette smoking was allowed.

After spending the summer at odd jobs I landed a job with the U.S. Post Office. A job from which I eventually retired.

In the fall of 1959 I married the woman of my dreams and the mother of what was to be our only child. She never has smoked but she tolerated my smoking up until the day I finally quit. We settled in Falls Church and began to raise our daughter. My wife was born in West Virginia but moved to Falls Church at an early age. She is the youngest of nine children and most of her brothers and sisters lived in the Northern Virginia area. With my relatives living only an hour or so away it was a good place to get a start in our married life.

One day in the summer of 1961 my father had the occasion to visit us. We talked about quitting smoking and he declared that as of that day he was quitting. I half heartedly agreed that I would quit also. That agreement, on my part, didnt last through the evening. My Dad did not smoke another cigarette after that day. He had and still has tremendous will power. I was hooked but I didnt have any idea how bad I was hooked. At that time I was smoking maybe a carton of cigarettes every two weeks.

In the spring of 1964 after a particularly cold, snowy winter I decided I needed to transfer to a warmer climate. I was lucky to find an opening in a little town on the East Coast of Florida that was known as Eau Gallie. It was pronounced Oh Galley. Great town, nice little family and a good job in the sunshine. Life was good.

THE ADDICTION CONTINUES

As a letter carrier smoking was allowed in the office as we set up our mail for our daily deliveries. They had small clip on ash trays about the size of a small cup holder and about 2 inches deep. During the two hour time period that it took to sort the mail I would dump my ash tray a couple of times. I was becoming more and more addicted. I smoked a pack to a pack and a half a day.

In 1968 after much suffering from many ear infections, sinus infections, bronchitis, and a bout with pneumonia I was told that I needed to quit smoking if I wanted to get healthy. I tried and tried but just could not quit. I was truly addicted to cigarette smoking.

Over the years that I had carried the mail I developed a severe back problem that necessitated an early retirement from the Postal Service.

Even though my wife had a good job at the telephone company we were not able to live at the standard that we had become accustomed. We moved back to Maryland in June 1973. My Dad told us that if we would move back north he would give us a parcel of land to live on. We would have to make our own arrangements as far as housing was concerned. It was a deal that we could not pass up. We bought a mobile home and had it set up on our property. During this time period I was on prescription drugs for my back problem and smoked almost two packs a day. I tried to quit smoking on numerous occasions but just could not do it. Even at times when I was hospitalized for my various health problems I could not quit. The true desire to quit just was not there.

SICK AND TIRED OF THE ADDICTION

In the spring of 1980 I had another severe bout with bronchitis. Again I went to my local doctor and he prescribed various medications to combat the infection. Again he recommended that I quit smoking in order to improve my health. On the way home from his office I made the decision. This time I would quit. I had had it. Enough was enough. I would not smoke another cigarette. No more coughing and hacking. Even though I was doing just that due to the bronchitis problem. No more stinking, smelly clothes from smoking. No more layers of dark brown nicotine film on the towels when cleaning the car windows. No more burn holes in my clothes or car upholstery. Remember I had been smoking for over 20 years and had developed a 3 or more pack a day addiction. Well this was it. No more would I be a slave to that tiny round cylinder of tobacco. I had actually developed a hate for the thing that had come to dictate my life and life style. My mind was made up and there was no way it could be swayed.

To say that it was easy to quit would be an out right lie. It was not easy but it was not near as difficult as it had been in the past. As a matter of fact I laid up my unfinished last pack of cigarettes on a shelf in the bathroom. Each and every morning when I was shaving I could see that pack of cigarettes in the mirror. But somehow from somewhere the determination to quit was a much stronger desire. After a couple of months of seeing those cigarettes every morning I just reached over and threw them in the trash can. I was done with cigarettes and smoking. Finished. I can truthfully say that I have not missed smoking. A strangely funny reflex thing happens to me though. To this day, 20 years after I quit smoking, I still instinctively reach to my chest pocket for a cigarette. Oh I dont want a cigarette. As a matter of fact being around heavy smoking makes me nauseated. Just an unconscious habit.

My taste buds returned in about six months. Food for the first time in years had some taste and it smelled good. As a matter of fact my sense of smell had become very sensitive. And that is a good thing. Clean smelling clothes. Good tasting food. No nicotine smears on my car windows. No more debilitating illnesses. No chronic ear problems, chest colds, sinus infections. My life was good and my health was getting better and better. I had kicked a terrible life debilitating habit.

CIGARETTE SMOKING AND THE DEVASTATING CONSEQUENCES OF IT HOWEVER, WERE NOT THROUGH WITH ME..

In the summer of 1983 my back problem and health in general had improved to the point that I could return to work at the U. S Post Office. After several months of working in a very dusty and heavy cigarette smoke environment I noticed that I was having difficulty breathing, a lot of dry coughing and severe pains in my upper back. The symptoms of pleurisy, or so I thought. I had had pleurisy a couple of times during the course of my smoking life and these were similar symptoms.

I went to the doctor and he examined me and prescribed having chest X rays done and told me to stay home for a week and then he would see me again. I thought it was strange that he didnt prescribe any antibiotics. But I went home and took it easy. The cough and pains persisted. Went back the next week and he insisted that I have another X ray done and come back in three or four days. I still had a dry cough and back pain when I took a deep breath but it seemed to be easing somewhat. After reading the x rays the doctor told me that I had something that he could not properly diagnose without an experts input. Therefore he recommended a specialist in Washington, D.C.

This specialist office was just that. A specialist. He had his own X ray equipment that he could readily read, special breath volume testing equipment, and overnight blood work. Each and every patient had his undivided attention and what ever amount of time it took to explain his findings. After my first visit with him he told me that I needed to be hospitalized in order to run some more thorough tests. He explained that he had certain suspicions about my problem but could not be positive until he ran the other tests and that he would not give me any diagnoses that would alarm me unnecessarily.

The doctor sent me home and told me to stay close to the phone and that he would call me as soon as he could get me a bed in the hospital. That was on a Monday. The next Friday he called and said that he had a hospital room and I should report on the next Wednesday. I drove myself to the hospital expecting to have just a few tests and be on my way in a day or so. Was I in for a surprise! The tests started that afternoon. Blood work. More extensive x rays. Friday I was scheduled for a bronchioscopy. It was explained to me that a small tube containing a tiny light and seeing device would be inserted down my throat into my lungs and then the Doctor could see what the problem was and take biopsies of anything suspicious. I would be sedated and it would be fairly painless but very uncomfortable. At this point my breathing was becoming more and more labored and the pains in my back were severe. I agreed to do whatever was necessary to get rid of the pain and shortness of breath.

At this point I feel I need to warn you, the reader, that the following is a little graphic and disgusting. But bear in mind that I am describing a consequence of my years of cigarette smoking.

If you have ever seen an automobile speedometer cable you have an idea of what the tool resembles that the nice nurse and doctor proceeded to feed down my throat. Now true I was sedated and they had sprayed my throat with a local pain killer but the gag factor was almost overwhelming. I was determined that I could do whatever was necessary to get this job done.

Mind games. Attention distraction. What ever it took. They told me that if I felt like I was getting to the point of vomiting to let them know because they would have to immediately stop and remove the device. Throwing up with the device inserted could cause a lot of damage. If I got to the point that I could not handle it I was to raise my right hand. No problem Doc take as long as you need I can handle this.I thought, no I knew, that I could handle it. That is until the Doctor had been probing around down there inside of my chest for a few minutes and them let out a small uncontrollable curse word. My right hand flew up like a scared crow in a corn field.

They removed the coil of wire and the Doctor apologized for being so verbal. He stated that he didnt like what he had seen and he would come in and discuss his findings as soon as I got settled back in my room.

This was about 2:00 PM on a Friday afternoon. He came into my room about 3:30 and started to explain his findings. There was absolutely no doubt I had lung cancer.

I had been diagnosed with Lung Cancer. How could that be? I had quit smoking three years earlier. The mere mention of lung cancer brings all kinds of horrible thoughts and images to ones mind. Death not being excluded. Chemotherapy, terrible side effects, sickness, loss of ones hair. All these questions ran through my mind in an instant.

But my doctor would not allow any of those questions to go unanswered. He was most patient and ready to answer each and every question in a comforting and reassuring manner that I could understand.

According to what he had seen the cancer was extensive in my left lung but he had not been able to check the right lung. According to the X rays that he had taken the cancer was growing exponentially. That meant that it was doubling its size every time it grew. It had doubled in size since the Wednesday X ray. I had time over the weekend to decide if I wanted him to do an exploratory operation on Monday morning or check out of the hospital and get a second opinion.

The exploratory would consist of another bronchioscopy. Only this time it would be performed while I was completely under anesthesia. They would examine the extent of the cancer and then proceed accordingly. If I woke up without an incision on my left side it would mean that it was inoperable and other measures would have to be taken. That bridge would be crossed when and if we came to it.

If there was an incision it would mean that they had taken the steps necessary to remove the cancer.

Needless to say the news was frightening. My wife and I discussed the only option I had been given and we decided not to wait for another opinion. We would go ahead with the procedure.

Monday morning seemed like an awful long time away when you receive such news on a Friday afternoon. Lots of time for soul searching and self blame. How could I be so stupid as to smoke all those years?

Saturday afternoon I drug myself down to the chapel for mass. The pain in my back was still reminding me of what I had done to myself.

However, during that religious service, an unexplainable calmness took over my mind and body. I found myself asking God to give me the strength to do what I needed to overcome this thing. But if that was not to be then I would place myself in His hands and leave it up to Him.

I left that service feeling a sense of peace and relief.

Monday morning came and they rolled me down the hall to surgery. My wife, two of her sisters, a nephew and niece would be anxiously awaiting my return to the recovery room.

Some time late Monday evening I remember waking up in the recovery room. I could not roll over on my left side. The pain was just too intense. Of course I was drowsy anyway but I realized that I had some type of incision on my left side.

Tuesday morning I was back in my room. The doctor came in and explained what had taken place. They found that the cancer was so extensive that they had to perform a pnuemonectomy that is the complete removal of the lung. They were fairly certain that they had gotten all of the cancer and that it had not spread to the lymph nodes or the right lung. If it had spread to the lymph nodes or the other lung I would have had to undergone chemotherapy and /or radiation. I was lucky. God had smiled on me.

A pnuemonectomy performed on the left lung, according the doctors explanation, is a little more complicated than the right lung. It seems that the right lung can be removed by simply cutting open the chest and sawing away part of the breast bone. Not so with the left lung. The heart is in the way. So an incision has to be made from just below the left breast around and under the left arm pit. Then the muscle and tendons are pealed back and the rib cage is spread apart so as to remove the lung from the back. This procedure is supposed to be a little more painful. Since the removal of the lung on the left side was painful enough I would prefer not to personally have to make the comparison.

Due to my wifes request I was placed in a private room and they allowed her to have a cot to sleep on while I was recovering. Not a good idea. At least not for her. After such a surgery they come in every couple of hours to administer pain medication. And every four hours or so a physical therapist performs a beating motion on your back with the palms of his or her hands to break up any phlegm that is forming in the good lung. My poor wife did not get much sleep those first two nights.

The operation was performed on December 19, 1983. I was released and home by the end of the first week in January 1984.

During one of my doctors visits while I was in the hospital I had to ask this question. Well Doctor after all you have done for me what are my chances of survival and how long?In his usual honest, sincere manner he replied, Mr. Johnson, I could stand here and quote you all kinds of statistics, some good and some bad. But you are not a statistic, you are an individual. It is up to God, you and your attitude how you do. The best thing we can do is just take it a day at a time and go from there.I thanked him for his honesty and accepted his statement.

I was placed on medication to help my body make up for the theophylline that it could no longer make since it had lost one of its lungs. It seems that one of the natural functions of a healthy lung is to produce theophylline. That is the product that naturally enlarges the air passages in our lungs so that we can breathe easier. I was also given a device to use as an exercise to improve the volume of my one good lung. I was supposed to use it five or six times a day. I used it on average of a dozen times a day.

JUST GIVING YOU THE FACTS

At this time I would like to inform you that I am not telling you about my pain, suffering and discomfort in an effort to make you feel any sorrow or pity for me. I have given myself all the sorrow and pity I will need for the rest of my life.

However, I refuse to take complete responsibility for my illness. Nicotine, an ingredient in tobacco, is an addictive drug that was manipulated by tobacco companies in an effort to keep their customers smoking.

My sole purpose of this report is that of giving a true picture of the effects of my smoking addiction. Effects that anyone that starts smoking will bring the same nicotine addiction upon themselves.

When I first started smoking there were no warnings about the dangers of tobacco. As a matter of fact in 1948 when I took my first puffs of smoke from a cigarette there were very few cigarettes that even had a filter.

There were no studies that indicated cigarette smoking was harmful. Most cigarettes were made from tobacco with few, if any chemicals and additives, purposely, put in them.

I was raised in Southern Maryland, in a county whose main agricultural crop is, or was, tobacco. I have seen how cigarette tobacco is raised, harvested and sold at the market.

Even after watching the tobacco crops being sprayed with insecticides for various plant diseases, worms and insects I was still naive enough and addicted enough to continue to smoke cigarettes.

The power of the addiction of cigarette smoking is strong.

A person starts out smoking as a way to make himself or herself look cool or be a big shot. Or to try to be one of the crowd. Or just to be like the adults that they see smoking. But it ends up as an addiction that can make one seriously sick with horrible illnesses or possibly even causing ones own death.

Due to my foolish smoking addiction I have lost years of good health. I lost one lung and I am reminded on a daily basis of my bad judgment by having to take medication. Medication that I will have to take for the rest of my life in order to function.

There are side effects caused by the daily medication. They are not necessarily life threatening but they are uncomfortable.

For instance, I have severe indigestion and shortness of breath, any time that I eat or drink anything containing the ingredient caffeine. It is not just coffee that contains caffeine. Soft drinks, tea, chocolate to name just a few foods that contain caffeine. Any food cooked on a charcoal grill causes discomfort and seems to close off the air passages in my one lung.

Any drink with any alcohol content is pure torture and not worth the gastric pain and chest pressure caused by consuming it.

If all of this information sounds like it is not worth giving up smoking I suggest you consider the alternative. An early death.

While it is true that I have given up a lot of my former bad habits, I have discovered a lot of good things in the process. One of the most important things I have learned is There is life after giving up smoking.

More than a few people have accused me of being a hypocrite for my opposition to cigarette smoking. After all, I was once a smoker and now I am against smoking. My response to that accusation is a hypocrite is one that continues to do something while telling others not to do it.After learning, the hard way, the consequences of cigarette smoking I quit. By quitting smoking I gained a longer, better and more illness free life.

MY TIPS ON QUITTING SMOKING

1. Self control. First and foremost you must remember that you are an individual with your own habits, characteristics and way of doing things. There are numerous things in your life that you have absolutely no control over. The one thing that you do have control over is your own self control. The ability to make up your own mind about something. It is entirely up to you to decide that you WANT to quit smoking. No one can do it for you. And as much as you might want someone else to quit smoking only THEY can do it for themselves.

Self control is the one of the most important elements in quitting smoking. By self control I dont mean immediate total elimination of cigarette smoking. That is usually impossible. Self control means doing the very best that you can to quit. If you fail a time or two dont beat yourself up about it. Just keep on trying to quit smoking. I did not quit the first time I tried. But eventually I did succeed. Read this one often.

2. Quit any time. If you have not decided to quit today pick a date to stop smoking. Even if you have developed disgust for the addiction, like I did, there is no easy time to stop smoking. However, you have a better chance of successfully quitting the smoking addiction if your target quit date is not at a stressful time. Some organizations suggest a certain day in November as a non smoking day; I suggest that every day be a non smoking day.

3. Pharmaceutical products that claim to aid in kicking the smoking habit did not work for me. I tried a couple times to quit while using them but I never had any success with those products. Back in the early nineteen eighties, when I quit smoking using the cold turkeymethod was the only way that I could quit.

4. Quit, quit, quit. No matter how many times you fail to stop smoking dont stop trying. The only way to quit smoking is to quit. You are only a failure if you quit trying. In order to stop smoking you have to make a selfish decision to quit. There is nothing wrong with this selfish decision. You have to do it for yourself. You cant quit just because someone else wants you to quit. As much as we may love our spouse or children we cant quit because they want us to quit. You have to want to quit and you have to be selfish about it. Trust me, it is a good thing.

5. The urge. Cigarette smoking is a difficult addiction to break. The urge to smoke is very powerful when you first decide to quit. However, the urge to have a cigarette only lasts for a few minutes. I know, I know, people have told me those few minutes last for hours or even days. It only seems that long because the person trying to quit lets him or her self dwell on the urge. If at all possible do other things when the urge presents itself. Think of how that next cigarette will cause you to stink and leave a bad taste in your mouth.

The main thought that came to my mind whenever I got that urge was, I am the master of myself and my well being. No tiny little cylinder of tobacco and paper will dictate to or master me.It worked for me. Try it or use your own.

6. Make a list. When you decide to take back your life from cigarette smoking sit down and take a piece of note book paper and draw a line down the center from top to bottom making two columns. On the right put down Reasons to Quit Smoking. On the left list Reasons to Continue to Smoke.

As #1 on the Reasons to quit column put down, Improve myself and my health.

Now go ahead and think of and write down all of the different reasons why you should or should not smoke. Listing them in the appropriate column. You will come up with what you think are pretty good reasons to continue to smoke. It tastes good. It settles me down. It calms my nerves.

If you list 100 reasons why you should continue to smoke, all of them together cannot equal the #1 reason to quit. Quitting the smoking habit will improve you and your health.

7. Clean up. All right you have made your decision to quit smoking. Now, take a bath or a shower and wash your hair. Get that tobacco smell off of all of your personal belongings and as much of your surroundings as possible. Wash your clothes. Clean (throw out) those filthy ash trays. Have your car washed and thoroughly cleaned inside. Wash all washable fabrics in your house. Do not allow anyone to smoke in your home. If you have not completely quit smoking designate a place, preferably outside of your house, to smoke and use it. This can be a test of your own will power. This exercise has a couple of worthwhile benefits. Besides being clean, tobacco smells wise; you will be more reluctant to contaminate yourself and your belongings. Believe me; within a week after quitting smoking you will notice a definite difference in your sense of smell. Along with your improved sense of smell you will notice that your sense of taste is greatly improved. Every thing tastes better without tobacco.

8. Help or support in quitting smoking. Having a group or a friend help keep you on the path to becoming smoke free can be very beneficial. But, at the risk of being negative, I have to remind you that more than likely you acquired the smoking habit through peer pressure. Someone helped you get hooked.

I found that, on more than one occasion, when I decided to try to quit, my friends that still smoked were of no help whatsoever.

While it can be true that they love you and may want the very best for you. They might feel that you are improving yourself and leaving them behind. Jealousy can enter into the picture when someone is trying to quit smoking. Some friends, yes even loved ones, relish in your failure to quit. It gives them the chance to say, I knew you couldnt do it.

Besides, I cannot say this often enough, quitting smoking is a personal thing. So BEWARE of who you tell that you are quitting smoking. Make certain that it is someone that will truly help you make the effort to quit. Possibly someone that has already stopped smoking. There is a website that offers free help in a person's effort to quit smoking if that person is serious about quitting. It is www.WhyQuit.com.

No matter how much positive support a person receives during their attempts to quit smoking it is still a personal triumph. While it is true that others can share in your joy of quitting. You are the biggest winner when it comes to the desired good results of your efforts.

9. Chest X-ray. According to my doctor lung cancer can appear three to five years after a heavy smoker has quit smoking. I had a chest x ray taken on a fairly regular basis due to my many illnesses. If you are a heavy smoker, as I was, over three packs a day, just as a precaution, I would have a chest x ray taken.

Those x rays were instrumental in detecting my lung cancer in a timely fashion. They probably saved my life. The doctor had something to compare the newest X ray to by having them taken on a regular basis.

10. Breathe and Enjoy life. If you smoke, you breathe, but you cant breathe properly because of the smoke. Taking short deep breaths just as you do when you inhale cigarette smoke can actually help you break the smoking addiction. Without a lit cigarette just take a long, slow deep breathe of air. Then, just as you would, if you were smoking a cigarette, take another gulp of fresh air and hold it in your lungs for a short time. Release the air just as you would if you had taken a drag off a cigarette. Practice this breathing method until you can hold your breath for a good minute or more. This is a good exercise that actually helps improve your lung capacity. Smokers usually have a small lung capacity due to inhaling smoke and tobacco by-products. It is also a great way to occupy you while fighting the urge to light up.

After all, the main purpose of quitting smoking is to improve your health. Proper breathing can help you do just that.

While you are quitting smoking, and after you have kicked the addiction, enjoy yourself. Life is short enough as it is. Try to find something legal and enjoyable to do and do it. Dont take life all that seriously. We are all going to die, eventually; we just dont have to hasten it with cigarette smoking. Have some fun and remember, There can be life after tobacco!

THINK ABOUT THIS

I would like to share a few statistics with you.

A government study has found that each and every day there are 3,000 new smokers that become addicted to nicotine.

In another study it has been determined that 460,000 people die each year from lung cancer and cigarette smoking related diseases.

So here is how the figures stack up.

3000 times 365 days equals 1,095,000 new smokers each year that become addicted to cigarettes.

1,095,000 new smokers minus 460,000 smokers that die each year leave 635,000 new smokers each year that survive. These survivors become addicted smokers that purchase cigarettes. They smoke and get illnesses and medical bills that are caused by cigarette smoking. So, along with the expense of buying cigarettes, which I understand are increasing in price at a fast rate, they have to pay for visits to the doctor and prescriptions to combat the illnesses caused by the tobacco smoking addiction.

According to these figures, the tobacco companies are doing all right financially.

Every smoker, me included, believes that lung cancer wont happen to him or her. It always happens to the other person, not me. If you smoke, according to the above figures, your chances of dying from lung cancer or having some other tobacco related disease is 459,999 to 1. The odds are not in your favor. You could be that other person

LIFE GETS BETTER

Ever since my Dad built a racecar back in the 1950s, when I was a teenager, I have been a stock car racing fan.

Over the years I half heartedly followed NASCAR stock car racing. But I really like the stock car racing action at the local short track. Due to the high amount of dust involved in dirt track racing and my lung problem I have shied away from actually attending those types of races.

About 10 years ago I heard about a 1/2 scale racecar called a minicup that races on asphalt ovals. It is a small racecar that resembles a late model stock car. It has a full one piece, fiberglass, body that can easily be removed for working on the engine and other components of the racecar. It has a full roll cage, racing seat and five point safety harness. The car is powered by a 13 horsepower Honda engine. It is a safe, inexpensive way of getting into and enjoying auto racing.

I had heard that these little racecars were raced at an asphalt track in the Northern Virginia area. I wanted to see these little cars race.

Since my daughter lives in that area I called her and made arrangements to meet her at the track. We watched the races and had an enjoyable visit with each other.

As fate would have it one of the talented young drivers, Pete Neimeier, came through the grandstands handing out promotional cards.

At my age and with my health condition I have no illusion that I could become a successful racecar driver. But even with my limited abilities I could devote some time to help a driver of such a racecar.

The next weekend I met him at another race track, also in Virginia, and started helping him with the racecar on race days. We struck up a friendship and he designated me as his Crew Chief. He now has two different track championships to his credit that he has allowed me to participate in as his Crew Chief. It was a position that I cherished. Pete purchased the minicup racing sanctioning body known as Miniature Motorsports Racing Association. It is a nationwide organization that puts on touring and National races for ½ and 5/8 sized racecars. He designated me as the National Technical Director. It is my job to make certain that the racecars are up to safety and rulebook standards.

For the past three years the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids sponsored (presented) our Future Stars Division of minicup racers ages eight to sixteen years of age. I personally know of people that the sponsorship and, to a certain degree, I, have helped kick the smoking addiction. That is very fulfilling and gratifying for me.

AND BETTER

As far as lung cancer victims are concerned I am one of the more fortunate. At the time that I had my encounter with lung cancer only 12 to 15 % of lung cancer victims survived more than 6 months. It has been almost 26 years since I had my cancerous lung removed. Twenty eight years have past since I quit the terrible, dirty, stinking addiction of smoking. I am still alive and striving each and every day to improve myself. Thanks to some excellent medical care, spousal care, medications, life style changes I am still here and able to share this story with you.

I have reached a point in my life that I realize that I am a very fortunate human being and I am thankful for all of my blessings.

I have survived lung cancer. I am still happily married, for 50 years, going on forever, to the love of my life.

My one and only daughter, the pride of my life, is happily married, healthy and has made my bride and me grandparents to a beautiful six year old girl that lights up our lives. Life is good.

And now I am a successful racecar Crew Chief and National Technical Director for a successful racing sanctioning body. Hence, the title of my story is Quitters can be Winners.

DO YOURSELF A FAVOR

If you are a cigarette smoker, please, for your own sake, just quit. I can tell you from my life experience it can make you a winner.





 

Tuesday, April 24, 2001
Copyright (c), Vic Johnson, All rights reserved

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