For Dennis Natvig, there was one clear winner of Super Bowl XXXIX. Himself. A longtime football fan, Dennis smoked his last cigarette before the game started that February afternoon in 2005. He hasn’t smoked since.
“I don’t even remember which team won the game,” says Dennis. “That’s not important to me. What matters to me is that I quit smoking that day.”
Dennis was a smoker for 45 years, experimenting as a kid with “a dried-up Camel, which was awful.” He started smoking in earnest 10 years later, at his first job. “Everybody around me was smoking, so I had a cigarette, and there I went.”
He started out smoking five or six cigarettes a day but ended up smoking a whole pack if he went to a party or things got tense at work. “I was allowed to smoke in the office back then, and I would smoke more to deal with the stress,” he says.
A retired business manager and treasurer at a small college, Dennis and his wife now live on a lake in northern Minnesota, where he sells real estate. A health scare—an irregular heartbeat—was the impetus he needed to stop smoking. “My doctor advised me to quit, and my wife and grown sons also pushed me to do it,” he says.
Dennis had quit smoking once before, for three months in the early 1980s. He says one of the keys to his success this time was working with Quit Coaches.
“The Quit Coaches really helped me. I called them for information a couple of times before I was ready to quit. An important thing they taught me is to find something else to do with your time when you’re stressed. So when I was quitting I would read and try to occupy my time as much as possible. When I found myself wanting to go out for a smoke I would get a drink of water or go for a walk instead, anything to get my mind off smoking. If you can keep busy, you’re better off. It helps to have projects.”
Dennis also used lozenges, usually two or three a day, which helped curb his cravings. “I think it’s really helpful to suck on them so they last, instead of chewing them,” he says.
“I was pretty matter of fact about quitting this time. I was somewhat nervous, not certain I could do it, but I think I had the right attitude from the start. The important thing is to make up your mind to do it and to use any help you can get. I was frankly surprised it went as well as it did.”
Although he still has occasional urges to smoke, they are less frequent now. “I know that isn’t uncommon,” he says. “My father-in-law quit a long time ago, and years later he told me he still had urges now and then.”
According to Dennis, the only negative effect of quitting smoking has been weight gain. But he has lost 10 of the almost 20 pounds he gained.
He says the benefits far outweigh this one negative effect. “I breathe easier, and my wife says I sleep quieter. I haven’t had a cold since I quit.” And last but not least: “For the last 10 years, I went outside to smoke. In the wintertime in northern Minnesota, it gets cold out there."
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