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It's Smokeout time!

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I am a quitter. And, I am proud of it.

Last month I reached the five- year mark of being a non-smoker. It was one,of the hardest things I have done and in fact, like many others, I had quit probably a hundred times before finding a reason to light up again. 

After more than 30 years of smoking cigarettes, I realized quitting wasn't going to be an overnight success for me and so I usually thought, what was the point of trying?

What made the difference for me and for my wife Sue, who also quit more than five years ago, was that we finally decided we were ready to quit. Mind you, I said we were ready to quit, not that we wanted to. There is, we realized, a huge difference.

Wanting something and not being prepared for it, either physically or mentally, will not often mean success. We were ready mentally and, using Chantix, we got help with the physical addiction. 

I admire those who have quit smoking cold turkey. A late friend of mine, former Journal Star city editor Bill Peak, told me he just decided one day he didn't want to smoke any more so he gave away the remaining cigarettes he had and just quit. "I just didn't think about it any more," he said.

Given my own struggles I was skeptical, but then again Bill, who died recently, probably did have that inborn discipline. 

My daughter Kimberly did it by just cutting back and gradually stopping. A single mother of four who at the time was working full- time and going to college, I don't know how she did it. But I'm happy she did and that was just one more in a myriad of reasons I am proud of her.

None of my other children ever smoked. I used to tell them the easiest way to not smoke was to never start. I'd like to think that helped play a part in their decision to never light up.

Now I am not a preachy ex-smoker. I don't ride others, including my stepson, about the dangers of smoking, etc. They know the dangers.

If I am around somebody who is smoking and it bothers me, I walk away. If there is a smoker to whom the smell clings and I ant stand it, I walk away. Tobacco is my demon and I conquered it, but it is not my place to insult others fighting the same demon.

That is not to say I don't have other demons. Of course I do and I think I know what they are (willpower around the dinner table and managing my temper chief among them) and I work on defeating them, as well.

I bring up smoking today, Nov. 15, because it is the 37th annual Great American Smokeout. I never participated in all those years because I didn't see the point if I knew I was use going to be smoking again the next ay. I scoffed when non-smokers would suggest I give it up for the day and see if it could last.

The American Cancer Society, the sponsor of the Smokeout, recognizes that quitting for one day is unlikely to help much, even though it does contend quitting for that one day can be beneficial. But the Cancer Society encourages smokers to set their mind to making the Great American Smokeout day the first day in the process of quitting and it's website offers all kinds of tps and programs and whatever else you can think of to assist in that process. 

That includes scare tactics about the health consequences and the costs, but that is to be expected.

Sue and I figured we'd save a boatload of money by quitting and we do. It's a good thing because the cost of everything else has gone up at the same time, eating up those savings real fast.

Still, we shake our heads when we notice the price of cigarettes these days and how much we'd be spending if still song a carton or more a week. 

The American Cancer Society doesn't advocate one program over another but again, Chantix worked for me. Hypnosis and nicotine gum never did. In fact the gum gave me violent hiccups, which was a lot of fun when sitting on an airplane. 

With Chantix you continue to smoke for a week or so while the medication gets into your system, making the drop off easier to handle.

Chantix warns that a possible side effect is strange dreams. Now that I can attest to. Some people say their Chantix-induced dreams were bad, but many of mine were pretty cool. My favorite was the dream that I was close, personal friends with Bill Cosby and that he had a left space here in Peoria that he'd sneak to whenever he wanted to run new material by me and people I would invite to join us. That was a fun one I was disappointed to wake from.

Again, I'm not trying to preach. The decision to quit smoking is a personal one that the smoker has to make and be ready to make mentally. 

I'm simply suggesting that when you are mentally ready to quit, don't be afraid to get help for the physical addiction. It's worth it. 

And whether you participate in the Great American Smokeout or not, the American Cancer Society can help. Visit www.cancer.org to find out how.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).