Guest Post by Rob Zukowski
If you have ever tried to quit smoking, or had a friend or loved one who has taken on the task of giving up smoking, you know that it is not an easy undertaking. Having been a smoker for many years, and having gone through the trials and tribulations of quitting, only to return to smoking and struggle to quit again, I can attest to difficulty of reaching the goal of being smoke free.
The good news is that help was available to me. What’s better? It’s available to YOU! There are a plethora of quality services available to you. You can make phone calls to quit lines for information and you can sign up for a variety of web based services, but for LGBT and allied individuals there is another option in Manhattan’s West Village.
The LGBT SmokeFree Project, a program of the Community Services department of The Center, offers workshops and classes specifically designed to provide the support, tools and information you need to flick that very last cigarette to the curb and walk away happier, healthier and free of the financial impact that goes hand in hand with the habit.
Since 1993, The LGBT SmokeFree Project at the Center has been dedicated to helping members of the community quit smoking for good. It’s more than just another pamphlet with the same old Q&A you’ve seen before. It’s more than just a lecture. What you encounter at these classes are people like you; LGBT and allied people with the drive and desire to quit smoking and stay quit. And the best part of all, is that these people are there to share their experiences and learn from yours; it’s an exercise in giving and receiving the support smokers need to take on the task. You become a part of a collective unit of “quitters”. I can say, without question or reservation, that I have been both moved and inspired by the accomplishments, struggles and successes of those in my group.
It all begins with Not Quite Ready to Quit. This 3-hour workshop focuses on understanding nicotine addiction, increasing motivation, and eliminating roadblocks to making the decision to quit. Once you have completed the workshop, it is on to the next program – Commit to Quit. The 6-week Commit to Quit group helps you develop a quit plan, build a support system, and effectively handle relapse pressure and stay quit. One session of Not Quite Ready to Quit is required to start the 6-week program.
Adam Steiner, the SmokeFree Project counselor, knows firsthand what quitting smoking is like. Adam’s passion for helping people become smoke free isn’t only professional, it’s personal. He is currently in his 10th year of living smoke free and it shows in his compassion. In a recent article, he said, “I took my first puff of a cigarette at age 8. I kept smoking until I was 40 years old. Luckily, I found the strength to quit. Now I spend my days helping others quit.” He goes on to say, “In addition to helping people develop a quit plan, build a support system, and effectively handle relapse pressure once they have quit smoking, the Center also works with The Manhattan Smoke – Free Partnership as a part of the New York City Coalition for a smoke free city.” Adam is a leader for smoke free people of all ages. He, along with Youth Organizers Against Tobacco Advertisement interns, advocate against tobacco marketing that targets young people. Adam is a dedicated counselor with the kind of insight and experience to help you nip your cigarette addiction in the “butt”. Pun intended.
As someone who has attended both the initial workshop and the 6-week program, I would urge you to do so. The experience, in my opinion, goes above and beyond the smoking cessation programs I have tried before. Not only did I find the content unique and being surrounded by other LGBT folks who understand the world I live in to be an extra push, but the camaraderie among group participants was an essential tool.
Imagine what it must be like to wake up on your quit day to find supportive texts or emails from the members of your group. Think about how empowering it can be to have someone reach out to you for support should that moment come when they want to reach for a cigarette.
I know what you are thinking, “does it work?” With your hard work and determination it does. Here are some follow up statements from past group participants.
“It is funny that I just received the email of the center talking about the commit to quit seminar. I quit smoking at The Center five years ago and i always send people to this smoking cessation program.”
“Yesterday, I sent a letter to the board of Directors of the Center and I mentioned this great achievement with the help of you guys. Thank you for doing this great job.”
“If you ever need someone that quit with this program to come and talk to the people in the program let me know.”
“I quit smoking in December of 2003. The ONLY reason I was successful THIS TIME, was because of your group.”
“It was non-judgmental – t was done with patience and gentleness. But I have never not smoked for a period of eight years.”
“Thank you all so much for the best program to try and get us to not smoke.”
“Finding out that there was a program available at the center, with other members of the LGBT community was the best thing for me.”
“To have a safe, welcoming environment with professional support staff and leadership, and be among peers was PRICELESS.”
“Because of the center care smoke free program and stern but gentle approach of my counselor, I was ready to take the leap, and free myself. I had the right coping skills (including nicotine patches and proper guidance) and found the whole experience a huge self esteem booster and overwhelming sense of pride.”
“The whole process has changed my opinion on what I would consider a “life-long” habit and for me, choosing smoking will never be that crutch again. This past October, 2011 marked 2 years since I have quit smoking, an accomplishment that after 14 years with the addiction I never thought I would say. I can’t endorse the program enough.”
For more information about upcoming Not Quite Ready to Quit and Commit to Quit Programs, Click Here