Some dates are milestones in a person’s life, and November 7, 2003, is a significant milestone in Steve Richardson’s life, because this is the date he won his 40 year fight against tobacco addiction. Today, Steve is walking longer on the treadmill and hitting the open road on his Harley with his friends. Steve is thankful to be tobacco free, but the road free of addiction was not easy.
Steve began experimenting with cigarettes in high school, but did not start smoking consistently until he entered the military just after graduation. “In those days, we would get smoke breaks during our boot camp training,” said Richardson. “I didn’t really smoke, so I didn’t have any cigarettes, but I soon got some cigarettes on the base, and that’s when I really became an addict.”
According to Steve, smoking was just something everyone did in those days and no one thought anything about it. “Everyone in the movies and TV smoked, even the doctors smoked. So it wasn’t a big deal,” added Richardson. By the time Steve was discharged from the military, he was a one carton, per week addict.
Soon after being discharged from the military, Steve married his sweetheart, Marilyn. Unfortunately, Marilyn was also a smoker and she smoked even more than Steve. “Marilyn’s mother smoked heavily and died of lung cancer, so we both knew we needed to quit, but neither of us wanted to,” Steve expressed. Although, Steve and Marilyn both had intentions of quitting, Marilyn never got that opportunity. Marilyn died from lung cancer in 1993. After watching cancer destroy your wife of 17 years, most would think that would be enough to get someone to quit using tobacco, but Steve was an addict. “I took care of Marilyn until the end, painfully witnessed what years of smoking had done to her, but I could not stop,” said Richardson. In fact, Steve smoked for 10 more years after her passing.
Unsuccessfully, Steve tried several methods to quit smoking, including medication and the gums. “I almost quit for good after I talked to my doctor about quitting. He prescribed pills for me, and they worked just like they said they would. After seven days my urge to smoke was supposed to go away, and it did. I didn’t like that, so I stopped taking the pills. My doctor was ready for me to quit, but I wasn’t ready,” said Richardson. Steve thought he wanted to quit and tried other methods, but continued to stop short of success.
“I think I was unsuccessful, because there were no consequences to my smoking. I knew it was bad, I watched what it did to my wife, but that happens to other people, not me,” explained Richardson. In 2003, Steve came face to face with a real consequence of his addiction, after a routine physical exam at the VA facility in Marion, IN. “The doctor called me back in for a second chest x-ray, because he wanted to take another look. After I took the second x-ray, I left the facility and told God I would not smoke again, but I was going to need his help. And that was the last day I smoked.”
It wasn’t easy waiting for the test results, and Steve wanted to smoke to ease the stress of waiting for the doctor’s report. However, he had promised God he would do everything he could to quit, so he did not smoke. Three days later, Steve’s report came back clean. “I was ecstatic to get that clean bill of health, now I had to keep my end of the bargain, because God kept his.”
After smoking for 44 years tobacco was not going to give up easily, and the urges and temptations continued. “I was quit for about two months and enrolled in a cessation class to help me stay quit. After deciding to quit, enrolling in cessation classes was the best decision I made to stay quit,” Richardson explained.
Steve’s advice to everyone who wants to quit is to enroll in a cessation class. “The class helped me to learn what my triggers are, so I can be ready for them. I learned as an addict, I will probably always have the urges, but I also learned the urges only last for less than a minute. Don’t get me wrong, in the beginning the urges were really strong, but I can handle anything for less than a minute. And now, I hardly have the urges at all.”
Today, Steve is a former addict, and has found a new use for the money he used to spend on cigarettes. He now saves that money for things he really enjoys; in fact in one year he saved enough money to take a trip to California to see his son. At 70 years of age, Steve is living a life free of tobacco, and everyday he is grateful for November 7, 2003.
If you are ready to begin life without addiction, call 1.800.QUIT.NOW today, and talk to a quit coach.