Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Overcoming my addiction

I finally reached a goal I set for myself following the death of my aunt a year ago.
I’ve quit smoking, and apparently just in time.
Today I was diagnosed with “mild” emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

My aunt, an educated professional who was 12 1/2 years my senior and more like my sister, was an addict.

For years she toyed with recreational drugs and alcohol (excluding her pregnancies). Then her husband died when her children were 8 and 12 years old. After that she was diagnosed with depression. Her addictions became more pronounced. Her physical and mental health deteriorated. Prescription drugs (written by numerous local physicans!) consumed her up to her death.

Her dying had become a real possibility to me but her death was still unexpected. I had prayed for God’s will to be done. I was working toward an intervention that might lead to her long-term rehabilitation, the only treatment for her, I believed.

I did not expect this kind of intervention.

I really miss my aunt with whom I spoke on the telephone many times a week. I hated her illness but I still loved her.

My life has changed in her absence.

To fill the void, perhaps, I started a blog – which you are reading - and tuned into Facebook and reconnected with people I haven’t seen since high school. What a place!

Plus I wanted to do one thing ….She couldn’t overcome her addiction but certainly I could. I had to try. Again.

My addiction for more than a quarter of a century has been nicotine, in the form of cigarettes. My parents don’t know this but I started smoking occasionally in high school. (My parents are proud of me for quitting).

I smoked in college. I smoked after college. I smoked when I started my job at the newspaper 21 years ago. I smoked at my desk! Crazy.

A health scare on Sept. 9, 1998, and a trip that night to the ER revealed I was asthmatic. (I know this date because I found the ER discharge papers in my files over the weekend). I’ve used an inhaler ever since.

And I continued to smoke … until last summer.

Through my workplace I entered a smoking cessation program that has been a godsend. Four months after my aunt’s death, since August and one time a week, I have spoken with a professional health coach – “S” - on the phone.

When I became ill last Halloween and ended up in the ER with severe respiratory distress, I had been smoke-free for a couple of months. I relapsed on Nov. 20 but thanks to “S,” got back on track in February when I became ill again and vowed I did not want to leave my children motherless (like my aunt) if I could help it.

This past weekend I shredded more than a decade of medical information - reaffirmation for my non-smoking brain. I examined every doctors office and hospital bill and prescription receipt. Seems every year of those 12 - sometimes two or three times a year - I’d visit the doc and be diagnosed with bronchitis.

And still I smoked.

I am pleased with myself and my effort to stay quit. It’s not been easy and I’ll tell you the truth, I came this close to smoking last night after an argument with my husband – just hours before my appointment with my pulmonologist. But I didn’t. It’s a huge hurdle.

Now I am focusing on weight loss through exercise because I’ve got more to do to make me well.

Today I think of my aunt and thank her for helping me to stop smoking before it’s too late.

(Those struggling with an addiction or those who have a loved one struggling with addiction are encouraged to watch “Intervention” on A&E and to visit the Web site -

1 comment:

  1. Bravo! I can't even imagine how hard that would be. Good for you, and keep it up! :)