For more than 50 years, Robert and Judy Dixon made sure they always had at least two items that served as unfortunate reminders their youth: Their lighters and a pack of cigarettes.
Robert started buying cigarettes as a child, when he could get five for a nickel, and he began smoking when he was 16. For his wife, the habit started at 18. But for both of them, it ended last March when they attended free smoking cessation classes at Southern Ohio Medical Center.
“I quit on March 17,” Robert said. “She quit on the 18th.”
Prior to finally giving up the habit, they had each only considered quitting once before. Robert gave it up for a week, during which he admits to still sneaking cigarettes, while Judy managed to stop for a month before being derailed by stress related to the death of her sister.
Their resolve stiffened, however, when Robert found out the habit he had picked up in an attempt to fit in had ultimately resulted in colon cancer.
“I was in the Cancer Center when Dr. (Thomas) Summers said, ‘I’ve got something I’d like for you to do for me.’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘Join our smoking cessation class,” Robert recalled. “I said ‘okay’ and I signed up for it.”
Because Robert’s attempt was less likely to succeed if there was still a smoker in his home, Judy enrolled in the class as well. Early on, their instructor said something that gave her a new way of looking at her addiction and helped motivate her to quit.
“She told us, ‘A lot of you have went 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, 50 years smoking. You learned how to smoke in those years. Now you’ve got to learn how not to smoke,’” Judy said. “I’d never looked at it that way before. Approaching it like I was just learning not to smoke was key for me.”
Another moment that stood out came when they were asked to ‘bury’ – or throw away – their cigarettes. In fact, Robert said it was the most difficult part of the entire class. Throwing them away wasn’t made easier by the fact they were no longer nearly as cheap as they had been when he was a boy. Robert and Judy estimate they were actually spending $60 a week on cigarettes.
“If I had all the money I smoked up I could buy a real fancy car and take a big dream vacation,” Robert said. “It’d be a lot of money.”
That money may be gone, but now so are the cigarettes – and Robert and Judy credit SOMC with helping them make the change. They’ve essentially become ambassadors for the smoking cessation program, surprising skeptical friends who didn’t think they could quit and encouraging other smokers to follow in their footsteps.
Quitting may not be easy, but the free smoking cessation classes have given Robert and Judy Dixon the tools they need to finally beat the habit once and for all.
“I still get the cravings, but if you can get it off your mind for four minutes, you’ve got it whooped,” Robert said. “These classes helped me see that, and I’d recommend them to anyone that wants to quit. If you need help, that’s the place to go get it.”