Most smokers will say they began experimenting with cigarettes at a young age, but few can attest to experimenting at six or seven years old, and consistently smoking by age 12. Unfortunately, this was how Amy Gwaltney began her path of addiction.
“I was the youngest of six kids and my mother was the only person in the house that did not smoke, so I was doomed,” said Gwaltney. “I wanted to be like my older siblings and they smoked, so I wanted to do it too.”
Amy grew up in Marion, IN where smoking was widely accepted and encouraged. Being the youngest, Amy was often sent to the store to buy cigarettes for everyone. “This was the 70’s, so no one really questioned why a 12 year old was buying packs of cigarettes, and they were really cheap (50 cents per pack), so I could afford them. And the law never helped, because each time the age to purchase cigarettes was raised, I was at the appropriate age,” explained Gwaltney.
For the next 25 years Amy struggled with her addiction to tobacco. She tried to quit on at least 15 different occasions, but finally quit for good on April 8, 2010, which she calls her smo-briety date. “I knew smoking was damaging my body, but the addiction was too strong. Just getting my fix was all that mattered to me,” said Gwaltney. Amy has always worked in healthcare, and has seen the consequences of tobacco first hand.
Amy watched as many of the nursing home residents would drag oxygen tanks outside to smoke, and continued to watch as many of those residents died due to smoking related illnesses and diseases. “I did not want to be that person in the nursing home, so I tried all the things I heard about on TV…the gums, patches, pills, everything. But in the end I wasn’t ready to quit.”
As more places became smoke free it proved more inconvenient and difficult for Amy and her husband to smoke in public and around family. “The family would be having a good time around the dinner table and we would have to leave so we could smoke. When we would come back in, the family would be laughing and having a good time, and we felt like we missed out,” Gwaltney added.
Amy and her husband decided they wanted to quit and were going to help each other through this. “We were getting older and started realizing our own mortality, and we didn’t want to be forced to quit because of poor health. We started with the pills, but had to stop because we both had crazy dreams. So, we just finished our packs and said when they were gone…that was it.”
On April 8, 2010 Amy and her husband entered into a life free of tobacco and Amy began to see the world differently. “I didn’t think I was unhealthy, but I did begin to develop a nagging cough in the morning. Since I have stopped smoking, it’s gone,” said Gwaltney. Amy discussed how she smells smokers when they come in from smoke breaks, and can’t believe she smelled like that.
Now Amy has a new position at Community Health Network, and admits she probably would not have been able to accept her job if she still smoked. “They have a smoke-free campus policy at Community, and it’s sad, but I probably would have turned the job down. That showed me how bad I was,” said Gwaltney.
Amy and her husband have joined over 200,000 Hoosiers that have taken their lives back from tobacco. If you are trying to quit, Amy said the first thing you have to do is want to quit. After that you have to make the decision NOT to smoke every day, and each day it gets easier and easier to not smoke.
If you are ready to begin life without addiction, call 1.800.QUIT.NOW today, and talk to a quit coach to help you get your life back from tobacco.