Barbara and Paul Witzke

Like many people struggling to quit using tobacco, Barbara and Paul Witzke have lost track of the number of times they attempted to quit smoking, but remembers very well when they made the choice together to become non-smokers in 2008.

Like most smokers, Barbara began smoking as a teenager and started buying cigarettes around age 15. Her parents smoked, so no one thought it was a problem. Paul was the same way, except he started smoking when he was 18. Although the two did not know each other in high school, their stories were similar.

Years later, Barbara and Paul married, in addition to the love for each other, they also shared an addiction to tobacco. Neither one of them thought of smoking as an addiction, rather something they enjoyed doing. In fact, they enjoyed smoking so much, they each smoked about one pack every day. As the Witzke’s continued to build their lives together, they welcomed two children into the world. Barbara knew it was unhealthy for pregnant women to smoke, and did not smoke while carrying either of her children, however, she went back to smoking regularly after their births. Ironically, when Barbara had her first child she was asked if she wanted a smoking or non-smoking hospital room. Of course Barbara chose the non-smoking room, but when she returned home with her newborn, her home was not non-smoking.

Paul continued to smoke during the pregnancy, as he figured he was not carrying a baby and what he was taking into his body would not affect the baby. However, what he was taking into his body was drastically affecting him. Paul was diagnosed with diabetes as a youth, but was never told smoking could worsen his condition. In 2006, Paul’s physician ordered a test (microalbumin urine test) to measure the amount of protein in his urine (the test is common for diabetics). The test is given to determine kidney function, and the higher the number from the test, the less kidney function the individual has. The results of the test were not good, as Paul’s protein count was 1400mg (more than 300mg indicates more advanced kidney disease)!

This was an extremely high number, even for someone with diabetes. Some immediate changes had to be made, so Paul made changes to his medications and also quit smoking. Barbara, wanting to be supportive of her husband, decided she would stop smoking with him. When Paul took his second test (2007), the results were less than half of his previous test (600mg). Paul and his physician thought they had this issue under control, so Paul stayed the course with his medications, but he and Barbara began smoking again.

In 2008, Paul went back to the physician for a third test, and he and Barbara were surprised to learn his protein levels were back up to (1000mg). Paul was following the instructions from his doctor, except he started smoking again. Paul and Barbara knew cigarettes were the reason for Paul’s elevated test score, and that was enough evidence to know smoking was slowly killing both of them.

Paul and Barbara quit smoking a couple of weeks after they received that report, and never looked back. “We can’t say we don’t know better anymore,” said Barbara. “If Paul continued to smoke, he would not be here today.”

Today Paul and Barbara are living tobacco free, and loving it. Paul is doing great, and is on an insulin pump to regulate his insulin levels throughout the day. Barbara stated Paul’s kidney function is now holding steady, and she loves being able to take hikes and workout without becoming short of breath so easily. “We enjoy not needing to smoke all the time, we didn’t realize life was so much better outside the clutches of tobacco. This was one of the best decisions we ever made,” said Barbara.

The Witzke’s know how hard it is to break the addiction to tobacco, and Barbara has advice for others that may be struggling to quit. “Remember, it’s a choice,” she said. “It’s not an easy choice, but you have to choose to be a non-smoker. It’s not ‘I will try’, or ‘I’ll attempt to quit’, but to choose not to smoke. Get beyond the thinking as a victim. No one is making you smoke.”

If you are ready to begin life without addiction, call 1.800.QUIT.NOW today, and talk to a quit coach.


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