Welcome to Meet the Quitters, a series sharing the challenges, victories and tips from real world quit journeys. For our first installment, the Quit Culture team spoke with Cincinnati-native Jarrod Williams about how smoking became a part of his life early on, how it’s impacted him day-to-day and a few of the things that helped him to finally kick the habit.
When did you start smoking?
“I was probably about 13 or 14 years old. I think that’s a common age when African American males start to take a kind of leap in adolescence a little bit. And then you start to become more curious and have more access. Smoking at that point was pretty common to me and my friends. Some of our parents were doing it, so we saw it all the time; we heard about it in music, so it wasn’t that difficult.”
A lot of people in the community start smoking at a young age. Can you share what might have been a factor for you picking up those first cigarettes?
“I remember those cool cigarette ads when you had the girl on a motorcycle and she’s smoking a cigarette and she looks good. I think that’s important to remember—tobacco companies have historically used advertising as a way to tap into kids.”
How did smoking impact your life?
“I used to run cross country in high school, and it would really hurt me that I wasn’t in shape like I was back then to be able to run and be active and things like that. (Since quitting) it’s been inspiring to be in a place where I can run again and to be in a healthier place in my life.”
How can people stay accountable when trying not to smoke?
“I think some core things you can say is, you’re safe here in your home. You don’t have to smoke or go somewhere else to be able to have relief. I know that can be difficult in these times if you’re down and you’re in the house and you’re worried about your health and everything else. But I really think that’s the key.”
You mentioned having a buddy system to stay accountable was helpful for you. Can you talk a little about some of the ways people have supported you on your quit journey?
“I had a lot of people knocking on my door like, ‘Hey, are you going outside today?’ or they’d say things like ‘Hey, we’re not smoking today.’ or ‘Hey, I’m going to sit with you for a few hours.’ Being surrounded by supportive and caring people helped me get into a pattern of not smoking. Once I got started, it was easier to stay on track.”
What advice do you have for other people trying to quit?
“Think about what you really want to do in life and then connect it to how smoking can prevent or hold you back. Try to integrate healthy things with what we do to smoke. It’s like, ‘Well I can read and I can smoke at the same time, or I can smoke and clean up.’ You want to be focused on one activity at a time because when we try to do multiple things—no matter whether we think it’s relaxing or not—it’s actually triggering anxiety. So, it’s important for us to focus on one thing at a time.”
If you’re interested in hearing more about Jarrod’s journey, check out his guest appearance on our video series Smoke Break. If you would like more support to stop smoking, join our private Facebook Community and check out the Smoke Break Challenge.