Editor’s note: This article is the second of a three-part series on Addison County residents who have sought help from the Quit Tobacco Program at Porter Hospital in order to kick their cigarette habits.
MIDDLEBURY — Wally Bailey, 62, of Salisbury was only six years old when he smoked his first cigarette.
“At that point, I must have seen people smoke,” Bailey said. “My parents didn’t smoke. No one in my family smoked. I just thought it was cool, I guess.”
Bailey’s friend would steal packs of cigarettes from his parents and the two would smoke them together in secret.
“My little buddy there wanted me to smoke with him, so I guess I did,” Bailey said. “I was a bit of a follower there.”
More than 50 years later, Bailey has finally managed to drop the dangerous habit that he has been addicted to nearly all his life.
“A lot of things started to happen around the time that I decided to quit this time,” said Bailey, who has tried and failed to quit several times before now. “I was worried about my health.
Also, my youngest grandson, who was three at the time, told my wife that there’s no such thing as bad people — that the worst thing that people can really do is smoke.”
Bailey’s grandson, Aidan, was unaware that his grandpa was a smoker.
“So that started me thinking, I was worried about my health, it and it’s always been in the back of my mind for a long time that I wanted to quit,” Bailey said.
After smoking all through high school with his coworkers at his various part-time jobs, and with his Navy buddies, it wasn’t until right around the time that he met his wife-to-be, Barrie, that he truly wanted to kick the habit.
“Actually, when I met her I was in the process of quitting,” Bailey said. “She didn’t realize I smoked until one day she saw me smoking and by then it was too late. She was in love with me. She wouldn’t have had much to do with me knowing I was a smoker to begin with.”
Barrie’s father had died of throat cancer after being a heavy smoker for years.
“He smoked all the time,” Bailey said. “After dinner, during dinner — poor guy. He retired, and two years later, he was dead.”
It was around the time that Aidan made his proclamation to his grandmother that Bailey began to worry about his own health and decided that it was time to quit, once and for all.
“I think my grandson was probably the biggest impetus,” he said. “I wanted to be able to teach him how to fly fish.”
Bailey had cut his smoking back to two cigarettes a day — at one point he had been smoking nearly three packs per day.
“When I was smoking three packs a day, I felt horrible,” he said. “It’s so addictive that you just want to keep doing it and keep doing it, past the point of pleasure.”
To ensure that his quitting process would be successful this time around, Bailey called Leila Joseph at the Quit Tobacco Program at Middlebury’s Porter Hospital for extra support.
“It’s a totally different kind of program than the other ones that I’ve been in,” he said. “It’s more loose and here I am quit for 10 months and I still come to this program. I did one with the 7th Day Adventists and I quit for about three months on that one. I was hypnotized and that worked for a couple weeks.”
But for Bailey, changing his state of mind was the first key step toward quitting. He admitted that in the past, though he understood the dangers of smoking, he still loved it.
“This time, when I quit, my attitude was, ‘I need to quit smoking and I hate smoking,’” he said. “Cigarettes taste terrible, they make me feel lousy, and they cost a lot of money. I looked at all the negative things about smoking rather than focusing on the fact that I found it enjoyable at one point in my life. So consequently, it was very easy to quit this time.”
Along with the Quit Tobacco Program, Bailey also used the “Little Book of Quitting” by Allen Harper as a crutch. The English author, who himself was a heavy smoker before reforming, wrote the book to help fellow quitters achieve their goal.
“This book helped a lot,” Bailey said. “It says things like, ‘One of the reasons why people smoke is so that they can feel like people who don’t smoke.’ It says things that you have to think about.”
Harper’s thoughtful advice helped Bailey through his withdrawal period and continues to keep him from turning back to tobacco as he continues on his smoke-free path.
“I still think about it,” he said. “I’m still withdrawing from it, really. It’s a psychological as well as physical addiction. The physical addiction went away pretty quick, actually. Within a couple of weeks, maybe even sooner. But the mental addiction is there because my whole entire life, basically, I smoked cigarettes. So I’m quitting something that I’ve been doing my whole life.”
But for Bailey, the lifestyle change has been more than worth it.
“I instantly felt better, as far as breathing goes,” he said. “I read out loud to my wife often and it would be hard to read out loud for very long, my voice would get really tired. That improved almost instantly. I was wheezing, and that went away almost instantly, too.”
Along with feeling better physically, Bailey is also saving money. He estimated that he had saved at least $250 a month since quitting.
“For my six-month reward for not smoking, I said I would take the money that I had saved and I would go fishing in Canada,” he said.
Six months to the day that he vowed to quit, Bailey found himself in a canoe on a remote stream in Canada, fishing for sea trout.
“It was one of the best fishing trips I’ve ever had,” he said. “It was just a beautiful experience.”
And with four more months under his belt, Bailey is confident that this time, he has quit for good.
“I’m happier, I’m healthier. I feel better about myself,” he said. “I’m not mad at myself anymore for smoking. Everyone who knows me is proud of me.”
For more information on the free services available through the Quit Tobacco Program, including free nicotine-replacement products and counseling sessions, contact director Leila Joseph at 802-388-8860.
Tamara Hilmes is at [email protected]