Elizabeth Beard - “I will NEVER be like that”…and the other lies we tell ourselves.
Elizabeth Beard is a former caregiver to family members with cardiovascular disease and a survivor of a bi-femoral aortic bypass for Severe PAD (Peripheral Artery Disease). One of the main contributing factors to PAD is smoking and she writes in honor of Kick Butts Day, an initiative to reduce the rates of Americans who begin smoking.
In 1976 when I began working at our local hospital, the physicians, nurses, patients and their visitors all were allowed to smoke in the hospital. As fate would have it, I too began smoking at 18 years old.
In 2005, I began watching a documentary program on the A&E Channel called “Intervention.” Each week they would detail another person’s story of alcohol, drug or even food addiction. Some of the people were redeemed and others were lost. I was fascinated by their train wreck of a life and how someone could literally know they were killing themselves, but just keep putting the substance in their body with no concern for themselves or their families.
Slowly, it started to dawn on me that there wasn’t much difference between their addiction and mine.
I woke up on February 6, 2012 out of cigarettes. At first panic set in. I rifled my whole house looking for a pack of cigarettes. I just sat down and started crying on my bed. I thought - you know what, I’m tired of smoking. I thought about that television show and told myself I was no better than those crack heads on intervention. The only difference was my drug was legal.
I got down on my knees and I bargained with God. I said if you will help me I will try one more time to quit smoking. I can’t do it without you. And so I walked in the bathroom and slapped a nicotine patch on my arm. I told myself I was going to treat my addiction in the same way they treated all the other addictions on Intervention. I told myself from that day forward that I would never have not even one cigarette, and I haven’t.
I just celebrated my fifth year of being clean.
It was without a doubt the hardest thing I have done in my life. I literally almost lost my job over it due to my performance suffering because of the depression, lack of focus and concentration, and everything else that comes with stopping smoking. I had the highest performance rating you could have at my workplace and I fell to the lowest during that year.
You can’t go to an employer and say “I need to take 30 days off and go to the hospital to quit this thing that is killing me,” when the thing is cigarettes. There is no rehab for smokers.
In 1964, Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry issued the first federal government report that linked smoking with lung cancer and heart disease, yet every single workplace I was employed at allowed us to smoke.
On November 17, 2016, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy spoke about the problem of addiction on a program called “Morning Edition” regarding substance abuse. He stated, “For far too long, people have thought about substance abuse disorders as a disease of choice, a character flaw or a moral failing. We underestimated how exposure to addictive substances can lead to full blown addiction.”
I urge all employers who still allow smoking at their workplace to stop it now. Do for your employees what they cannot do for themselves. They are addicted, and you are one of their enablers. And most importantly be supportive when they do quit. You owe it to them.
Learn more about how to quit smoking.