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While quitting smoking is a very personal decision, and one that only a smoker can make, certain life changes — like starting a family — can affect our decisions, especially when it comes to our health. For Stu Krogman, he made the decision to quit smoking when he became a father — and he hasn't looked back since. Joel, his son and now a new father himself, interviewed his dad about his decision to quit smoking.
Joel: Dad, how long were you a smoker and how long have you been smokefree? Stu: I started smoking when I was 16 years of age, and I smoked until Oct. 21, 1985, when I was 33. So, for about 17 years. This October will be 32 years cigarette-free.
Joel: Do you remember your very first cigarette or is it lost in the ether of the smoky haze of your youth? Stu: I remember my first cigarettes were stolen from my father and smoked on the other side of the haystack in our neighbor's field.
But, later on when I was in high school, a flat refusal from a girl that I thought would be a great date led me to buy a pack of cigarettes. I had worked up the courage for a long time to ask her, and in the cloud of emotion I felt from her rejection, I made up my mind that I was going to buy a pack of cigarettes and start smoking. And, that's what I did. I saw smokers as strong and people who didn't worry about what others thought, and I think I thought it would make me cooler.
Not long after that, I started working for a farm equipment dealership. There were ashtrays on the counter and I pretty much became a chain smoker, consuming 25 to 50 cigarettes a day.
Joel: The picture I have in my mind of you as a chain smoker is so different from who you are now, I can't even imagine it.
Stu: Yeah it's hard to imagine for me now, too. A lot of people were disgusted by it and wanted me to stop, particularly your mother.
Joel: That leads me to my next question. You've often said quitting smoking was one of the hardest things you've ever done. Can you talk about your experience of quitting?
Stu: Well, I had wanted to quit for a long time and I tried a number of times. In fact, one time in 1979, your mom and I went to Europe and, a couple weeks before we left, I had actually quit. When we were there, we came into a really stressful situation. A guy standing there noticed how nervous I was and handed me a cigarette. I took it, he lit it for me and I was immediately hooked again. I was in such bad withdrawals that we spent two hours roaming the streets trying to find a place to buy a pack that night. It was awful. I would go another six years before I came under such conviction that I needed to quit.
I just became more and more self-conscious about smoking and less and less proud of myself. Your mom would say to me, "Don't smoke in the house; don't smoke in the vehicle." She didn't want you guys to be affected by it. I was always disappointed in myself that your brother and sister knew I was a smoker. Being a father that cares for my family in some intrinsic way is built on my will to do the better thing and not take risks with my health. The addiction was just so strong, I couldn't do quit by myself.
In 1985, the year you were born, I began praying that I could overcome it. One night when we got home, I just knew: this is the moment. I put out the cigarette, threw the rest of the pack out and quit for good. It was really hard, but one of the things I'm really proud of is that you didn't get to your first birthday with me as a smoker.
Joel: Is smoking something that you miss?
Stu: Quitting smoking is one of the best and happiest accomplishments of my life. I felt liberated and had a self-respect that made me a better father and husband, it made my life better in every venue. I just recently had a doctor's visit and was told I have a clean bill of health. So now at 65, when my grandson asks his grandpa to run around the yard with him, I can say, "Yes!" What is better than that? I wouldn't trade that for anything.