Overcome a Challenge

I just launched this unit, “Overcome a Challenge”, on Friday. Before I tell you about it, I’ll tell you how it came about. I have a passion for students who smoke. I want them to quit. I’ve never been a smoker, so I’ve never had to quit, but my dad has. I saw him smoke as a child, and I saw him quit as an adult. Every year I see a new crop of Grade 9’s come in, some who smoke and some who start to smoke throughout the year. When I talk to them, many know the health effects of smoking, but think they’ve been smoking too long to quit. Seeing my dad quit gave me the confidence that it can be done, and I wanted to spread that message to students. When I saw that the English A10 unit had the theme of overcoming challenges, I wanted to give students the assignment to quit smoking. That eventally blossomed into an assignment more open ended, for students to overcome a challenge of their choice, with the hope that students might want to try and quit smoking.

I’ve run a ‘quit smoking’ program for students twice, and I asked my dad if he would write up a ‘quit smoking’ testimony. Before I let you read it, you need to understand something about my dad: he doesn’t say much. When I was young, 5 years old or so, I stopped talking. When my mom asked me why, I got frustrated: I remember being frustrated with her because I didn’t want to talk. She eventually coaxed it out of me – I though that people ran out of words. I deduced that mom had saved hers up, because she talked a lot, and that dad was really close to running out, because he barely spoke. I still remember the joy I felt when my mom told me my voicebox was unlimited! But I digress, and while I may not run out of words, I may run out of your patience….the point of my story is that when I asked my dad if he could write something for me to read the students, I expected a few sentences. This is what I got:

I started smoking in my early teens. My older brother was already smoking and so were my dad and mom. Mom didn’t start smoking until she was 40 something. My brother and I went to a small country school and so did some of my cousins. At recess or noon hour they would hide in the barn in the school yard and have a smoke. I guess that’s about the time I got “sucked” into smoking. It was quite accepted for everyone to smoke in the 1950’s, ’60’s and 70’s. Although I didn’t smoke in front of my parents until I was aout 16 or 17. But they knew I smoked before that!
I remember ‘stealing’ tobacco from dad’s can of tobacco and rolling my own, which most smokers did in those days. Store bought cigarettes were only bought on special occasions and were a treat. The tobacco was rolled in little papers that were bought in special packages. You’d put the tobacco in it and roll it with your fingers. It had a sticky side to lick and paste it together. There were some automatic cigarette rollers that were invented in the 1970’s. I used one for a while until I could afford to buy ready made cigarettes, which cost about $18.50 for a carton. (a carton held 8 packs of cigarettes= $2.32 per pack)

I don’t think I was a ‘heavy smoker’ as I only had 15 to 20 per day. Some smoked twice that or even three times that amount! I remember my uncle was a ‘chain smoker’. He died of lung cancer at the age of 48. My dad also died of emphysema and an enlarged heart from smoking at 64.
Around the late 1980’s or early ’90’s, the government put out ads of cigarettes packages that showed how the lungs looked from smoking. People got the message from the ugly pictures-something we’d never seen before, and didn’t want cancer. At this time so many were dying of lung cancer. The gov. also increased the price of a pack of 25 cigs to$10.00. Most of this was taxes! This was the turning point to my quitting smoking. I tried cold turkey in 2002, but that only lasted a week or so. After that, I started cutting down. I would smoke half a cig. and save the rest for the next hour. I even tried a drug called zyban (an aid to quit smoking). That only made me depressed, which is a side effect of the drug. So I had to quit that.
After 2 years of ‘cutting down’ the amount I smoked and the time between smokes, I set a date of April 1st 2004 to make as my quite date. It took about a week until I could really say that I had quit!
To this day I have not touched a cigarette and have no more cravings (Well, maybe sometimes). I feel physically and mentally healthier. I really haven’t had any bad cold’s or even the flu. It will be 6 years April 1st 2010 that I quit smoking.
I figured out that after 6 years of not buying cigarettes, I saved $13, 468. ( I averaged the prices from 1970 to 2010) This doesn’t include the expense of having to drive to town to buy them! Since my dad died of lung cancer at 64, maybe I saved my life or a sickness related to smoking. I will outlive my father. I will be 64 in April.

If any students do choose to quit smoking, I’ll start their research by telling them my dad’s story. And maybe this time I won’t cry at the end.


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