YUMASUN: Quitters can win, says ex-smoker

BY MARA KNAUB – SUN STAFF WRITER
Yuma Sun – Dec. 21, 2010

Yuman Robin Marceau started smoking when she was 11, back when she and her friends used their lunch money to buy cigarettes at a local candy store.

“I would buy a pack every other day and on those days my friends would share their lunch with me,” Marceau, 49, told the Yuma Sun.

Marceau was 15 years old the first time she tried to quit. But the addiction was already too strong.

She had been trying to quit since then, using nicotine patches, nicotine gum, cutting down, going cold turkey. “Nothing worked.”

Finally, after almost four decades, she smoked her last cigarette on June 12.

“I’m thrilled,” she said.

She achieved it with support from ASHLine (Arizona Smokers’ Helpline). The free program provides “quit coaches,” most of them former tobacco users “who have been there,” along with the prescription medication Chantix, which works by blocking the pleasant effects of nicotine on the brain.

Marceau first asked her doctor about the medication a few years ago, but her insurance didn’t cover it and she simply couldn’t afford it.

This past summer she decided to give ASHLine a try, and they sent her a coupon for Chantix.

“After a week, I knew it would work. With Chantix it wasn’t that hard.”

The hardest part was the “habit draw,” reaching out for a cigarette out of habit.

“I did what ASHLine suggested. I changed what I was doing. They said, ‘If you used to smoke and drink coffee sitting down, try drinking your coffee standing up.’ So I did. Instead of reaching for a cigarette, I chewed gum instead.”

She also got rid of her ashtrays, in her house and in the car.

But even before she quit, ASHLine had her work out a plan on what she would do when the cravings hit. She said that helped her immensely.

These days, if she feels stressed or the urge to smoke, she calls ASHLine and talks to a coach.

Marceau, who works for Walmart, also reminds herself of the many benefits of quitting.

“I don’t have to go out in the heat to smoke. I think of the money I’m saving. I have more money now. I’m using it to pay debts.”

She’s saving $68 every two weeks.

She’s also saving money on gasoline. “I used to drive to Winterhaven to buy cigarettes on the reservation.”

There are other benefits, too.

“I breathe better. The foods that I like taste better. Of course, that means the foods I don’t like taste worse,” she said, laughing.

Marceau has even been able to help her niece quit smoking. When she received a second Chantix coupon, she sent it to her niece, but her niece was reluctant.

“She said, ‘It will just be another in a series of failures.’ I said, ‘Look, I’ll try it first and if it works, try it.’”

Her niece said she couldn’t afford the medication for the remaining two months she would need it. Marceau promised to buy her the medication, something she was able to do because of the money she saved from not buying cigarettes.

Marceau quit in June and her niece quit in July.

Marceau encourages other smokers to quit, offering this advice: “They have not failed to quit until they quit trying. Don’t ever feel like you’ve failed (in case of relapse). Just go, ‘I smoked, OK, but today is a new day and starting today I won’t smoke.’”

She also suggests contacting ASHLine (www.ashline.org or 1-800-556-6222) and using smoking cessation aids such as Chantix.

“If pills work, great. If they don’t work, try nicotine patches, try the gum. Not everyone can do it cold turkey. I couldn’t. I thought I would never quit,” Marceau said, adding a special message for Yuma Sun readers:

“You tell them to keep it up.”

Read the article online here

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