Welcome to Meet the Quitters, a series sharing the challenges, victories and tips from real world quit journeys. For our third installment, the Quit Culture team spoke with Barbara Fields about her introduction to tobacco, what she wishes she knew before she started smoking and encouragement for others looking to kick the habit. Barbara is from Kennedy Heights and is a licensed mental health therapist.
How long have you been smoking cigarettes?
I have been smoking for about 22 years. And now, in the present day, I am on my quit journey.
When did you first try tobacco?
I started smoking when I was 18. I was a freshman in college. It was during finals, the end of the semester. I had been studying and studying for almost 12 hours straight and I was very stressed out and I had a roommate who was a country girl and she smoked Marlboro Reds. She was always smoking in our dorm room, always smoking outside, but I never smoked, I never even asked for a cigarette. So, one day, she came into our room and she said, “Hey, you look stressed out. Why don’t you smoke this cigarette? It’ll calm your nerves.” So, I said yes, and I started smoking at the age of 18.
How early were you exposed to cigarettes?
Growing up, our house was always filled with smoke. My dad smoked and my two older sisters smoked. My dad primarily smoked in the house and my two older sisters didn’t smoke in the house, but they always smoked outside. There were always cigarette boxes in their rooms or cigarette butts around the house and ash trays. So, to me, cigarette smoke was normal.
What do you wish you would have known about cigarettes before you started smoking?
One thing that I wish I would have known before I took that first cigarette was how addictive smoking is. Smoking long-term can be very addictive. It can also cause you to have health problems.
Is there anything you would like to share with other smokers?
Parents who smoke around children should be very mindful and careful—especially if they have medical conditions. One thing that I noticed now as an adult is that, when I was younger, I had asthma and one thing that is a trigger for asthma is smoke. And, there was always smoke in my home and my asthma never got better. It got worse as I was growing up because my father and my sisters continuously smoked in and outside of the house and I was around it.
What have you learned on your journey to quit smoking?
I’ve learned several things from trying to quit cigarettes, mainly, that it is a hard process to do. It’s a struggle. Especially when you have been smoking for a long period of time. Smoking has become part of your life, part of your routine, and become a habit. I’ve learned that your life has kind of been built around smoking.
Do you have any words of encouragement for people trying to quit smoking?
Never give up. The process is hard. Probably over my 22 years of smoking, I’ve quit 20 times. Even if it was for a day or even for a month, I always continued to stay on that journey because eventually you will stop. It’s just kind of mind over matter and if you want it bad enough to stop eventually you will.