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Nov. 13 smokeout

November 10, 2000

Want to quit smoking?



Local people talk about what worked for them

By KEVIN CLAPP / Staff Writer


The Rev. Joseph L. Stahura was on his way to find God.

Dolores Brown lay in a hospital bed.

Bill Hose sat in his bathtub.

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All found themselves at a crossroads, cigarettes wedged between their fingers. Not content to wait for a smoking-related death to catch them, the trio gave up smoking for a healthier life, no butts about it.

But it wasn't easy. Leading up to the 24th Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Nov. 16, former smokers say the key to kicking the nicotine habit is wanting to quit. Without the desire, no amount of willpower will get the job done.

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"I craved nicotine for probably about a year and a half (after quitting), but every time I craved nicotine I said 'Lord, take it away,' " says Smithsburg resident Charles Newcomer, who credits his faith for making it possible for him to quit smoking on his third attempt, 17 years ago this Thanksgiving.

"The toughest time was sitting down with a cup of coffee to relax and you couldn't light up," Newcomer, 72, says. "A smoke tastes pretty good, but there's no way I'd ever touch it. Period."

Former smokers say they kicked the habit for good by making their decision and steeling themselves for cravings and withdrawal. Hose, of Falling Waters, W.Va., wrote that he quit smoking 36 years ago after telling his wife one morning that the last cigarette in his pack would be his last.

"I chewed bubble gum to take away my nicotine habit," he wrote. "It is not easy to stop smoking. You will eat snacks all the time. You will gain weight also. Gaining weight is no good, but it is better than having that junk down in your lungs."

Stahura, a smoker for 25 years, was driving to Boston in the mid-1970s to study theology when he decided he couldn't serve God with tobacco in his system.

He says initially it was difficult to keep cigarettes out of his life. And the smoking habit had started harmlessly enough: He was in the Army in 1953 when he took his first puff.

"They're poison, those suckers, and when you're young and healthy you don't think about your mortality," Stahura says. "It's a matter of mind over matter. You just discipline yourself, like going on a diet."

'It's the attitude'

Brian White, a health fitness instructor at the Wellness Center at City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., conducts a four-week class for smokers trying to quit. He uses weekly, one-hour sessions to discuss methods of quitting and what they can expect along their road to recovery. Often, it includes falling back into smoking.

"It's not so much what you do but what you think about what you're doing. It's the attitude," White says. The average smoker takes three or four attempts before he or she can kick the habit for good, he says. For others, it may take the eighth time to be the charm.

Unlike other smokers who decided to quit on their own, Dolores Brown, 64, wasn't given any choice. A smoker since age 17, when her future husband introduced her to cigarettes, the Martinsburg woman had a heart attack on Sept. 10, 1992. Lying in her hospital bed, she was told by her cardiologist that if she continued to light up, she would die.

"I said 'Well, I guess that's it. If I want to live, I'll give 'em up.' And I haven't had one since that day," Brown says. "I have enough willpower that when I'm told something I'll do it. For a while the smell made me want it but now the smell makes me sick."

Newcomer says he still gets cravings but doesn't dream of acting on them. It usually happens at stressful times, and White says that's normal. The key is to stay strong and remember that ending an addiction takes time and patience.

"If you go cold turkey enough times, you learn from your mistakes," White says. "The only real failure would be to stop trying to quit smoking. If you just slip once or twice, don't get down on yourself. You have to get up on the saddle with renewed vigor and learn from your mistakes."

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