Perseverance will end man’s smoking addiction
He’s been fighting HIV since 1987. He overcame two bouts of cancer. He fought alcohol and drug addiction — and has won. But for Terrence Hargens, 63, nothing has been as hard to overcome as his addiction to smoking.
Hargens started smoking when he was a 17-year-old junior in high school. Like many new smokers, peer pressure was the catalyst. Both of his parents smoked, as did all of his siblings. When he started, smoking was widely accepted. He remembers when ashtrays were everywhere — even in the supermarket. He remembers becoming addicted in a matter of weeks, a habit that quickly reached a pack a day. By the time he had graduated high school, Hargens was up to two packs a day.
Fast forward to 2015. Public perception and knowledge about smoking have changed significantly. Smoking is less socially acceptable. Smoking now, instead of being inclusive, has made him feel like an outcast. He even worries about his cat and the secondhand smoke. And, it is affecting his own health. His doctor said he was showing signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If he couldn’t find a way to quite, he likely would have to be on oxygen. But, still, Hargens couldn’t break the habit. It was only after a six-week hospital stay with pneumonia in 2004 that he decided to address his smoking. After being off cigarettes for just a few days, his doctor mentioned how his lungs went from sounding like a “roaring train” to a small hum.
The nicotine patch that Hargens used at the hospital didn’t work for him, though, once he returned home. He continued to smoke until 2010, after his second round of cancer. At that time, he heard about Community Hospital’s Kick the Nic program and also, the drug Chantix®. He decided to give smoking cessation another try, with a new approach. Hargens liked working with Ida Corby, the coordinator of the program, who individualized his treatment and set realistic expectations. She helped him incorporate Chantix into his plan and to identify the triggers that led him to smoke again. Corby shared the latest trends and medical research for success. Hargens’ first work with Corby kept him off cigarettes for more than six months. And then he relapsed. He tried again with Corby the following year and had similar success.
All total, he has relapsed four times in the last four years. Each year, he has learned what works and where he failed. Each time, he has gone into the program with a new outlook and knowing more about himself. Now, Hargens has been smoke-free since October 1. This time, he is more sure than ever that he will be successful. He doesn’t want smoking to run his life anymore. He is using his quitting history and a new plan with Corby to make this time a success, staying away from triggers and embracing the formulas that have worked in the past.
Hargens compares smoking to his challenges with other addictions where he relapsed. What advice would he give others with addiction? “Keep on trying.”