The Great American Smokeout
My name is Amy Dennard, and I am an HR Strategic Advisor in FedEx Benefits Planning and Management. In observance of the Great American Smokeout, November 20, 2014, I want to share my tobacco use story to inspire others to address their use of and addiction to nicotine.
I began using tobacco regularly during my freshman year of college. Even though I had always hated the smell of cigarette smoke and gave my mother endless grief for smoking in the house, like many teenagers I somehow convinced myself that smoking made me appear older and more sophisticated. I told myself that I was a social smoker, but quickly progressed from having a few cigarettes while out with friends to waking up and reaching for a cigarette. Smoking turned from a social activity into a way to cope with stress, and I always figured I would quit – at some point. I kept smoking through young adulthood and into my first career and suddenly found that I had been smoking for over ten years.
A turning point for me came during a business trip for a previous employer. I was flying cross country with a connecting flight in Dallas. My first flight was delayed by weather, and I fully expected to miss my connection. I’d been on a plane for three hours already and really needed a cigarette. As I got off the plane, the gate agent grabbed me and told me that they had held my connection and I could make it as long as I ran directly to the next gate. I seriously debated whether I should run for it, making my connection and the four hour flight to home, or take a smoke break. I ended up running, made my flight, and was miserable the whole time. I knew it was time to take back control and break my addiction to tobacco.
I’d like to tell you that it was easy. It wasn’t. I spent the next several years quitting – a week here, two weeks there – and relapsing. I tried cold turkey, nicotine patches, and nicotine gum. I finally reached the point where my husband and I were talking about starting a family and I didn’t want to begin that phase of my life still addicted to tobacco. I quit on my birthday and used nicotine gum to get through withdrawal. It was really hard, and it took me another year to stop using the gum! I struggled for several years with wanting to smoke in social situations, especially those involving a few drinks. Fortunately, I soon had no time to worry about a social life as my first son arrived, followed a few years later by his brother.
I have been tobacco free now for longer than I smoked, but I understand how challenging it is to quit and how your support system makes all the difference. Fortunately, FedEx offers the Healthways Well-Being Program to eligible employees in order to help them overcome personal well-being challenges. Employees have access to a wealth of resources through Healthways including Quitnet, a tobacco cessation program which provides Nicotine Replacement Therapy, trained Tobacco Cessation Coaches and other online resources that can help during the quitting process.
You only get one life, so why not live it to the fullest. I think Gandhi said it best, “It is health that is real wealth, not pieces of gold and silver.” Thank you, FedEx, for giving me the opportunity to share my story.
For more information about QuitNet and other Healthways programs such as well-being coaching and the Innergy Healthier Weight Program, please visit choosewell.fedex.com/wellbeing or call 1.866.336.8622. The new Healthways Well-Being Program offered by FedEx is available at no cost to employees and their spouses/ partners who are enrolled in the FedEx Corporation Group Health Plan administered by Anthem or Cigna. Employees enrolled in a Kaiser plan option in California have a similar program available through Kaiser. Go to kp.org/tha or contact 1.800.464.4000 for additional information.