Four months ago. Eddie Alos looks gangly, his eyes sunken and looking unhealthy in general. Now, he gained some weight, his skin cleared up, and his eyes brightened.
What’s his secret? He stopped smoking.
GIVING IN TO PRESSURE
Eddie lighted his first cigarette when he was 13 years old. Just like most smokers, he did start the habit due to peer pressure.
“My friends were smokers. Every time they smoke, they say they feel happy and relaxed. At first, I didn’t mind but I finally gave in because of their constant pressure,” he narrates.
He did not enjoy his first taste and didn’t plan to do it again but later did he realized that it only takes one stick to be addicted to it.
Now, he’s been smoking for 42 years.
TAKING THE FIRST STEP
Eddie tried to quit several times but failed.
“It was like I was trapped in a deep hole. Every time I try get out of that hole, I am pulled again to the bottom,” he shares.
After series of attempts, he finally gave up and never thought of quitting again.
This changed when he became a barangay kagawad.
“I am the only smoker among us (barangay officials). Due to that, I felt excluded sometimes. I would hear side comments or jokes about my habit and I feel embarrassed. This motivated me to consider quitting again,” he explains.
However, just like before, he doesn’t know how.
But hope came to him when one of his colleagues told him about the Smoke-Cessation Program of the Baguio City Health Services Office through Smoke-Free Baguio Project.
With encouragement from one of his colleagues, Eddie finally agreed to enroll in the Smoke-Cessation Program.
The program offers smokers both psychological and medical intervention to help them quit and ease withdrawal symptoms.
First, enrollees are interviewed and assessed on their smoking background and what is their level of nicotine dependence. They are then counseled and given nicotine pastilles as medication based on their nicotine dependence.
The program lasts for 6 months — with follow-up check-ups and counseling until the smoker enrollee has finally got rid of the habit.
Eddie enrolled in the program on April 6, 2021. He remembers he had fear of being judged by the program staff and had second thoughts on continuing but he was glad he pushed through.
“I am thankful to Smoke-Free Baguio. Their advices and encouragements have kept me from lighting up a stick. I am grateful for my counselor’s monthly checkups that made me feel someone was with me in this journey,” Eddie says.
Eddie told that his first two weeks of quitting was the hardest part. He admits he almost gave up.
“I am easily irritated and uneasy. My mouth feels dry. I feel like something is missing in me,” he explains.
Although tempted, he stuck to his promise to break free from the harmful cigarette. He followed what was advised to him like making himself busy, drinking a lot of water, avoiding friends who smoke, throwing all his cigarette paraphernalia, avoiding stress, and others tips given by his cessation counselor.
What he also did that helped him is to cross out the dates in the calendar when he did not smoke so that he could visibly track his progress. Every morning he sees the calendar and sees how much progress he has done, he was more motivated.
“During the counseling, I was told that a smoker who has quitted for 6 months is more likely to succeed in quitting for a lifetime. I made that a goal. I strive to not smoke for 6 months,” he says.
Although feeling healthy in general, Eddie has noticed that smoking has taken a toll on his health.
“I struggle to breathe just by climbing stairs I get tired easily just by doing simple tasks,” he shared.
But after over four months of quitting, he noticed a big difference already in his health. He felt stronger, can take longer walks without panting, and his appetite increased.
His finance also improved. Instead of buying a pack of cigarettes, he now uses the money to buy groceries or other needs of his family. Bonus, he still has some left to buy what he wants.
If before he hears negative comments from his colleagues, he is now praised for quitting. He also serves as an inspiration to others by sharing his experience.
Eddie is now smoke-free for more than four months and he has decided to never smoke a single cigarette again.
“As I was told by my cessation counselor, quitting is more of a psychological challenge and I agree. If you want to quit, you have to have a focused and motivated mindset, he shares.
According to him, up until now he still experiences cigarette cravings occasionally.
“I do feel the urge to smoke sometimes but I don’t want to,” he says.
When asked what was the biggest advice he can give to smokers who wanted the quit, he simply answered “start now.”