There’s a lot of wisdom to the American Indian proverb that advises against criticizing a man until you’ve walked in his moccasins. And when Sue Burke stands before participants in her “Freedom from Smoking” clinic, they have no reason to doubt that she has, indeed travelled the same path they face.
“I started smoking when I was 12, and continued off and on until I was finally done at age 57,” she said. “So, I can totally relate to the challenges they are going through.”
Burke, a licensed counselor and therapist, takes her commitment to her class one step further by actually joining them on their journey. Beginning with their quit date, she signs off eating a few food groups that she loves, but that her physician recommends she refrain from. “That is my personal ongoing challenge, and even though I know it’s the right thing to do, it takes all the self-control I have,” she said. “But it allows me relate to my class in a very real—and real-time way. They know that I’m struggling right along with them.”
The Freedom from Smoking program was developed by the American Lung Association, and Grove City Medical Center presents it in partnership with the Franklin-Grove City YMCA. Burke is a certified facilitator for the program and believes it works for folks when other strategies have failed them for several reasons.
The group dynamic is extremely beneficial, as it creates support and accountability among the participants. “Trying to go cold turkey on your own without peer support is tough,” said Burke. The key element to the group support is the boost in self-confidence members provide for each other, especially when one among them falters or relapses. “They give them permission to forgive themselves and move forward toward their goal without looking back,” said Burke.
Nicotine replacement therapy is also beneficial, enabling those working hard to overcome their tobacco cravings to push through the rough spots. Burke encourages participants to partner with their physician to determine which nicotine replacement is best suited to their needs.
She is also a big believer in replacing a bad habit with a new, positive one. “A fitness program is ideal,” she said. “But, even an active hobby that grabs their interest will do much to fill the void that smoking once occupied in their lives.”
That being said, there are a few tactics that are certain to defeat the most willing would-be-quitter. Insisting a smoker look at diseased lungs is pointless, since most of them live in a pleasant state of denial that their own lungs are sustaining that kind of damage from their tobacco use.
Nagging from friends and relatives only serves to squash the self-esteem and motivation of a smoker trying to quit. Rather, Burke’s approach is to remind them that cigarettes are not their friend. “They take your money, steal your health and can ruin your relationships,” she tells her class. “Does that sound like any friend you’d want to keep around?”
Freedom from Smoking is an 8-session program, featuring a step-by-step plan for quitting smoking. Each session is designed to help smokers gain control over their behavior. Because no single quit smoking plan is right for all smokers, the program presents a variety of evidence-based techniques for individuals to combine into their own plan to quit smoking. The clinic format also encourages participants to work on the process and problems of quitting both individually and as part of a group. For more information on the program hosted at Grove City Medical Center, contact program coordinator Shelby Conn at 724-458-9781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.