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Dad First, COPD Second
Dad First, COPD Second

Elizabeth provides support, insight and guidance for caregivers.

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Dad's Big Announcement: I'm Quitting Smoking

A handful of peppermint candies“This is it, Lizunga," Dad declared. "I’m quitting smoking.”

“Right, dad” crawled silently across my forehead. “Please, don’t quit now. I need to write this blog,” I jested. Smiling childishly, he added, “I’ll stop as soon as I’m done with my inventory.”  

In November 1985, my dad stopped drinking. Within a month, he had a slip, but ever since, he has been sober. His support group members nudged him at the time to stop smoking – they did it, and he could do it, too – but he wasn’t ready.  

Statistics show that annually, 40% of smokers will attempt to quit. The majority of smokers, 70%, want to quit. Yet 7% will succeed on their first attempt, accounting for a whopping 3 million smokers.

Over the years, I have offered my father various resources to help him quit. There was the smoking cessation program I translated for a county department of health. There was the hotline – imagine, a free health line – he could call for coaching and tips. And of course, there were the pamphlets I brought back from health fairs. Nothing took. He did call the hotline. He asked for freebies.

His pulmonologist offers, “If you want to feel better, stop smoking.” Dad’s answer: “Eh, if only it were that easy.”

For years, I nagged him. When he was hospitalized with pneumonia, I begged him. Today, I “bother” him. Since he likes to go against the current, I tell him, “Smoke less, er, I mean, smoke more! It’s good for you.” Together, we make the most of a challenging situation.

I accept my father is addicted to smoking. He is aware of his nicotine fix. I am aware that he may never stop. He turns 85 this year. I don’t give up hope for that “someday,” but I keep it real and prepare for what is to come. When he announced he wanted to stop – again – a sinking feeling settled in. “Of course,” I pondered. “He simply, sadly, can’t breathe.”

His most successful attempt to stop lasted several months following his latest hospitalization from COPD. Red-and-white swirly peppermint candies appeared everywhere. Instead of smoking, he chewed. Those sweet rounds helped him in his beginning days of sobriety and even during his temporary hiatus from cigarettes. Eventually, he lit up again. But he never stopped collecting candies.

I also collect them. When I get home, I say, “Dad, open your hands.”  

Follow Elizabeth's story on Twitter: @lizunga 

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About the Author

Elizabeth cares for her mother, a diabetic, and for her father, who suffers from COPD.