Commentary by Airman Ryan Conroy
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
I’ve been slowly killing myself for the past three years. I intentionally inhale toxins that destroy my lungs and heart. I smoke cigarettes.
But, I’m quitting — again.
According to the health and wellness center’s tobacco cessation class, the average smoker will attempt to quit five to seven times before achieving success.
This will be my third attempt.
To this day, I still tell people I smoke to be social and network. But, the truth is that I like the feeling of breathing in the smoke and letting it all go. For me, smoking may be the easiest way to reduce stress instantaneously. It also has the most severe consequences.
The Center for Disease Control states adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for more than 440,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States.
My grandparents were examples of those deadly statistics. My grandfather died of emphysema and my grandmother of lung cancer. My mother described their experience as “suffocating to death.”
Yet, those facts never really bothered me because they never adversely affected me.
What finally influenced me was that I would be out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs, the stares and snarky remarks I would get from nonsmokers and the smell that perpetually permeated every piece of clothing I owned. None of these characteristics are attractive to say the least. This is the motivation that I hope will drive me throughout the rest of this quitting process.
Recently, the first lieutenant in my office would pester my supervisor and me every single time we would go for a smoke break. “You know you’re killing yourself, right?” and, “Seriously Airman Conroy, you need to smoke again?”
She encouraged me to go to the HAWC for a class on quitting smoking and finally I gave in.
During the class, the instructor informed the class on the health risks, talked about nicotine replacement therapy and gave us the tools to quit for good.
I then realized I needed a life change.
Instead of smoking every time I get a little stressed out, I intend to do sets of pushups. The dollars I would have spent on cigarettes are now going into a travel fund. I figure the little rewards will help me maintain my mental strength through adversity.
When I hit my lowest moments, and desperately crave a smoke, I know that I have a support system in the office through my supervisor, who decided to quit with me, and my first lieutenant who couldn’t be happier for the both of us.
I don’t want to end up like my grandparents — because let’s be honest — smoking is just a really slow suicide.
Editor’s Note: Airman Ryan Conroy is assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy.