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Fighting temptation with friends

John Turner

John Turner

When you are in your late 60s and you started smoking at age 12, smoking is a part of who you are, reflects John Turner of St. Cloud. For him, it was part of the morning coffee. It was a hobby. It was how he spent spare time and money. For good or bad, the addiction was a long-lived part of John’s life.

It was also a part he longed to give up. “I wanted away from the displeased eyes and the feeling of isolation while sliding outside to feed the need for nicotine,” confessed John, who tried more than 20 times to quit. He tried everything from Chantix to other medications, but the nicotine or “snake” would always come back to mind.

“It doesn’t matter what you are doing or how great the day is — suddenly, for no reason — the snake just appears in your head,” said John. “All you can think about is feeding the snake. I must ignore it, for if I feed it only once, I’ll become a smoker again.”

John Turner and Kellie Monson

John Turner and Kellie Monson

John has been tobacco free for three years, the longest period of his life, and it started with a friendship. He recalled the December hospital stay when he met Kellie Monson, a certified tobacco treatment specialist with the CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center. He felt sick and dreaded the thought of bundling up, going into the cold and walking off campus to smoke. Then, Kellie entered his room.

John had prior hospital admissions, and no one had ever come to his room to discuss his tobacco use. “I really feel the difference this time around was Kellie,” said John. “Our visits were like short conversations between friends.” After discharge, John, who was a hospital volunteer, would continue to stop in and chat with Kellie. In the end, John ended up quitting tobacco without the assistance of medications, but with Kellie there as extra support.

“There isn’t anything that I did,” said Kellie. “He did the work. I was just there, making no judgements and listening. It wasn’t just me helping him. He helped me, too. We built a relationship.”

John now spends his extra time and money on his hobbies, including building model railroads. He escapes to his mancave for hours tinkering with his trains and laying out track. “Now I have something to show for my time,” he jokes. “One boxcar is equivalent to three packs of cigarettes.”

He also enjoys singing in the church choir. He was surprised when his fellow choir members shared with him that they could tell when he was not smoking based on the sound of his voice and ability to hold notes.

If you are ready to fight the temptation of tobacco, CentraCare Health has tobacco treatment specialists at various locations throughout Central Minnesota. We understand smoking is an addiction, and it is hard to quit. When you are ready to try, we’re ready to help. Learn more online or call 320-200-3200 and ask for a tobacco treatment specialist appointment.

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