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Support group and medicine helped man give up cigarettes.
Date published: 8/19/2011
What made the achievement even more remarkable was that Johnson had been a smoker for 62 years.
“He is one of the longest smokers I have ever worked with in terms of years,” said Eletta Hansen, certified tobacco treatment specialist and group leader.
Johnson credits Hansen’s group at Mary Washington Hospital with helping him achieve what he once thought impossible.
“I figured I was going to die smoking,” he said.
Johnson, 73, started smoking at age 10, when the men working on his father’s truck farm in Oregon offered him a cigarette.
“I wanted to be part of them,” he said.
That started a decades-long addiction to tobacco. During that time, he smoked Lucky Strikes, Old Golds, Philip Morris, Chesterfield, Pall Malls and Baileys.
He smoked filtered, unfiltered and roll-your-owns. He paid anywhere from 10 cents to $5 per pack for two, three and four packs a day.
Cigarettes were with him during his long Navy career, including his time in Vietnam, through three marriages, two divorces and one wife’s death, and now in his retirement and residence in Spotsylvania County.
“To some extent the cigarette has been my friend,” he said. “If I got stressed, the cigarette helped. If I got angry, the cigarette helped. It was a reward when I worked hard.”
But the friendship came at a terrible cost. He suffered three heart attacks, and last month got his first inhaler for a newly diagnosed lung problem.
And the money spent? Maybe $70,000, he said.
It’s not that he didn’t want to quit. He got tired of friends saying “Anybody can do it” or “All you need is will-power.”
Well, no, it takes more than willpower, he told them. He had tried many times to quit, using things like patches, hypnosis, acupuncture, motivational tapes and even gold magnets clipped to his ear. None of it worked.
|SUPPORT GROUP: The stop-smoking support group at Mary Washington Hospital meets each Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. in Classroom C at the Tompkins–Martin Medical Plaza. The meetings are free. Pre-registration is not required.|