By: Dr. Luke Fortney, Family Medicine
When someone mentions the Great American Smokeout on November 20, do you feel inspired, annoyed, anxious, guilty or something else? If truth be told, many people who smoke have mixed emotions about smoking and quitting. The whole point of the Great American Smokeout isn’t to set unrealistic expectations. Quite the opposite! Here at Meriter – UnityPoint Health, we encourage you to look at this day as the starting point toward optimal wellbeing for the long-run.
According to WIPHL (Wisconsin Initiative to Promote Healthy Lifestyles), 40% of all deaths in Wisconsin every year are directly attributed to tobacco and alcohol. That’s a big number and a lot of unfortunate and unnecessary loss. However, it’s never too late to turn things around. This November, we encourage you to use the Great American Smokeout as a day to start thinking about, preparing for, and making plans for tobacco cessation at a time that is best for your schedule and your life.
The Great American Smokeout is just the starting point for you to become tobacco-free. Rather than quit cold-turkey on November 20th, we encourage you to begin preparing for a tobacco-free life. There are many ways to do this, and many tools to support you. Perhaps the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line or using OTC nicotine replacement will help you stay on track. You may even be drawn to our flagship Mindfulness Training for Smokers (MTS) class, which is a once-a-week, 7-weeks-long, group program combining medications and training in mindfulness to help manage cravings, withdrawl symptoms, smoking triggers, and stress. Whatever approach you choose, we will be here for you every step of the way, which also includes our monthly smoking cessation check-in group.
How does mindfulness help us break free from addiction? First of all, mindfulness is a psychology technique and practice that means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment. It provides us with a whole new skill set for dealing with triggers, urges, strong emotions, and stressors – whatever leads us to smoke. At the same time, it helps retrain certain dopamine mediated neuro-pathways so that cravings aren’t nearly as intense as they may have been during previous quit attempts. Learning to practice mindfulness in meaningful, everyday, and practical ways teaches us to pay attention to our experience so that we are able to thoughtfully respond to circumstances rather than automatically react. This awareness provides a pause or break in old habitual patterns, creating a chance to decide not to reach for that cigarette or chew.
If you’re having a hard time deciding where to start, we can help! This isn’t about trying the same old approach over and over again. The Great American Smokeout can serve as an opportunity for you to 1) begin thinking about, 2) prepare for and 3) empower yourself to finally be free of tobacco. We encourage you to take this opportunity to commit to a tobacco-free life, and most importantly enjoy the rewards of accomplishing something you may not have thought possible.
Give us a call at 608-417-7848 (QUIT). Together, we’ll help you come up with a plan for your success. What’s your starting point?