Rita Jack, Meridian Police Department Patrol Lieutenant, Neighborhood Watch Program Coordinator and Special Operations, is five weeks into her journey as a non-smoker.
“I am a public servant. How can I be a hero for my community if I’m not healthy, or worse, if I’m not alive?” said Jack, who smoked for more than 30 years until double pneumonia landed her in the hospital recently.
“I could barely breathe because of the pneumonia, which was probably worse because I was a smoker," she said. "The last thing on my mind was a cigarette. The nurse asked me if I wanted a pill or patch to help with the cravings, but I decided then and there that I was never smoking again. It was a life or death decision to me, and I chose life.”
Jack said she had never really considered quitting before that day.
She used to wake up every morning and have a cigarette with her coffee, another after lunch, after dinner and other times during the day she just needed to relax, mounting to a pack every two days.
She had always rationalized that she was a better version of herself as a smoker, unsure about how she would handle life without nicotine.
“Surprisingly, it has been so easy," she said. "I just stepped out on faith. I literally stepped out of the smog I was living in, and I feel free now."
As the only smoker in her home, Jack says she didn’t realize how much she and her family were strategizing around her habit.
“When we traveled, we had to find a hotel room I could smoke in," she said. "I had to roll the car window down for a smoke, even if it was cold or raining. As smoking became less socially acceptable over the years, I was always thinking about how I was going to slip off to smoke without anyone noticing.”
Jack’s family couldn’t be happier about her decision.
“I put their lives at risk by exposing them to secondhand smoke. And for that I am truly sorry," Jack said. "But now I can look forward to seeing my children get married, holding my future grandchildren, and enjoying all of those moments I might have missed. Not to mention, smoking is not cheap, and with all that money I’m going to save I owe my family a nice vacation.”
Anderson Regional Cancer Center offers tobacco cessation classes, which provide motivational strategies in a supportive group setting. Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist Sharon Davis, RN, MSN, PMHNP-BC leads the 6-week course that begins in January, April, July and October.
The course is free to patients referred from affiliated Anderson programs. Non-referred patients can take the course for $20 (non-refundable fee). For more information, call 601-485-5081.