Mike Hammer, a respiratory therapist at Ascension Seton Southwest Hospital in Austin, knew it was a contradiction to be a smoker in his profession.
It was when he became a dad that he found the motivation to drop his habit.
“When I first had children, I knew I couldn’t smoke around them,” Hammer said. “I would smoke in the garage to avoid smoking in the house. I refused to smoke in the car. My daughters were my motivation to quit.”
He investigated every possibility to help him kick the habit, from smoking cessation classes to wearing a nicotine patch to chewing nicotine gum. Hammer placed stickers and Post-it notes in rooms with reminders of his motivation to quit.
He spent the next few years trying. And failing. And trying. And failing again. It was easy to give up on quitting.
After several unsuccessful attempts, Hammer talked with his primary care physician. His doctor listened to his struggles and determined he wasn’t getting enough sleep.
At the time, Hammer was wearing a nicotine patch 24 hours a day. The patch, which is a stimulant, wasn’t allowing his body to get enough good rest.
Following doctor’s orders, he removed the patch one hour before bed and used a sleep aid to get more sleep. This turned out to be the formula for his success.
“I learned that quitting smoking was a two-part process,” Hammer said. “First, I had to cut the habit of smoking every hour. Then, I had to address my body’s addiction to nicotine. I dealt with one at a time – first the habit, then the addiction. I assumed the addiction would be my biggest challenge. It turned out the habit of having that cigarette in my mouth was the hardest to break.”
His daughters, Danielle and Megan, are now 22 and 19 years old. While Hammer struggled for several years to kick cigarettes and nicotine for good, he has been smoke free for 15 years.
Mike now is offering support to fellow Ascension Seton employees who want to quit smoking. He believes it might help to know someone who has walked the same path.
Thursday, Nov. 19, is the American Cancer Society’s Great America Smokeout Event. Also available is information on how to Stay Away from Tobacco.