BIGN Smoking Cessation

For years, one of Tatia Wesley’s favorite activities was sitting on her front porch, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.

“It was my thing,” Wesley says. “Coffee and cigarettes went hand in hand for me.”

Like many people, Wesley picked up the habit thanks, in part, to the influences of older family members. In Wesley’s case it was her aunt. When she was a teenager, Wesley, now an employee benefits specialist with the Tedrick Group, was often sent to the store to buy cigarettes for her aunt and ended up stealing a few here and there to try. Many of her friends smoked, so she began to smoke more frequently in social settings.

“Once you pick up the habit, it’s hard,” she says. “And I enjoyed it, I can’t tell a lie. I did like it. I grew up in central Illinois and there wasn’t that much to do, so smoking became a hobby.”

But after 22 years of smoking, Wesley, now 46 years old, decided it was time to quit. The years spent inhaling the nicotine and carcinogens were beginning to take a toll. She was having sinus issues related to smoking and often felt tired.

“My body was telling me it was time to quit,” she says. “(Smoking) was starting to wear on me and I could see it.”

When Wesley got serious about quitting she turned to a smoking cessation program offered through her group health insurance. She met with a consultant about her desire to quit and was offered multiple avenues including coaching and several medical assistance options such as the nicotine patch, nicotine gum or the prescription medicine Chantix.

Wesley says she opted for the patch because she was concerned about some of the side effects of Chantix, which include neuropsychiatric events, such as thoughts of suicide, agitation and hostility. The concern about the drug’s side effects were so severe that for many years the medicine carried a “black box warning label” from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The black box is reserved for the most serious of warnings by the FDA and was lifted from the drug last year.

Wesley began using the nicotine patch, but soon ran into a problem. It turned out she was allergic to the adhesive on the patch. When she developed a severe rash on her skin, her doctor recommended discontinuing its use.

She didn’t want to turn to the other options offered by her health insurance program, so Wesley girded her will power and quit smoking cold turkey. She prepared herself mentally and began to train her brain to think negatively about all things related to cigarettes. She taught herself to dislike the taste and smell.

“From that day on I haven’t picked up a cigarette,” Wesley says.

That was four years ago. Today Wesley has a whole different outlook on life. Her senses are heightened, he skin has improved and she notices now that she’s not under the cloud of cigarette smoke.

“I smell fresh air,” she says. “It’s totally different to me. Food I used to like, now I can’t stand. I now believe the smell of cigarettes is disgusting. People didn’t think I could do it because I loved smoking so much, but I have no desire to smoke.”

Since she quit smoking, Wesley has noticed changes in her home and car as well — two places she regularly smoked.

“My walls aren’t dirty,” she says. “My clothes don’t have a smell to it anymore.”

Another bonus is the amount of extra money she has each month. During the years she smoked, Wesley estimated she was going through at least a carton of cigarettes a week, spending about $285 each month on her habit.

“I was stupid to spend so much money on something that was going to kill me,” she says.

While Wesley’s willpower was strong enough to quit smoking cold turkey, she did turn to another vice: snacking. During the first few years after she quit, she gained about 30 pounds, but has since begun to work out.

“I’ve started to shed the pounds and that comes with a lifestyle change,” she says. “Now I spend my time chasing around my grandbabies.”