I grew up in Whitefish Bay, graduating from WFBHS in 1986. I'm a 45-year old father of three, married to a fantastic woman, Lisa, going on two years of marriage now. I started smoking probably toward the end of high school. I grew up in a house of smoke. My father smoked non-filtered cigarettes for 32 years before his first heart attack in 1991 at the age of 48. That first heart attack got him to quit right away. But it's likely the damage was done; he died June 2, 1996 of a second heart attack at the age of 53.
His father died in 1970 at the age of 70, also of a heart attack. My grandfather was a smoker, too.
In about the fall of 1994, he, my mother, my then-wife, and I went to dinner at Pepino's in Menomonee Falls. As we left the restaurant after dinner, my father stopped me in the parking lot as I was lighting up. He had quit by then, and he said to me then, "Hey, son. I want to ask you something. I've never asked you for anything in life, right? No money? Nothing, right?" and I replied, "No, Pop. Not a thing. Why?"
He said, "I want to ask something of you now, and I'm only going to ask once. Your wife is three months pregnant with your first child. She's due in March, and I want to ask this one thing of you, OK?"
I replied, "Sure, Pop. Fire away."
He said, "I want you to try to quit smoking before your child is born. I think it's important that he or she grow up in a smokefree house. I don't want him or her to grow up in a house filled with smoke like you, your brother, and your sister did. It's too important. I want you to sign up for the American Lung Association cessation course. I'll pay for it, but I want you to take it. Take the course, and if you quit, great. And if you don't, that's OK, too. But at least you tried. OK? Will you do that for me, but more important, will you do it for your family?"
It took me a minute to get my head around what he was really asking. He was right: the man had never asked me for anything, and here he was asking me to do this. I actually had tried to quit many times before, always on my own, but I never could. It was discouraging. You think you’re the only one out there who can’t do it. But I decided to try again, because he asked me to. So I signed up for the Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking® cessation course. It was a six-class, five-week course offered in Germantown every Wednesday night.
My last cigarette was November 16, 1994 at 7:20 p.m. Once I got through those first few days, and the nicotine was out of my system, I began to realize that my life could really be smokefree. My breathing improved, my sense of smell improved, my sense of taste improved, and I just plain ol' began to feel better. I slept better, too!
I did it. I quit smoking thanks to the Lung Association and I've never looked back.