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The Struggle is Real

My name is Brandon Ignatowski and I am currently enrolled in the Masters of Public Health (MPH) program in the Health Science Department at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB). I am 37 years old and an army veteran. I was a smoker for over 20 years and have attempted to quit many times throughout my life. I began smoking heavily while I was in the military because I was around it all the time. Smoking or using tobacco products in the military does not face the same stigma it does for civilians, and this atmosphere contributed to my dependency on nicotine. Once I discharged from the military I attempted to quit smoking on multiple occasions with little success. Even when I would quit for a lengthy amount of time I would eventually pick it up again. I used smoking as a crutch throughout college and would smoke before every test or quiz to calm my nerves and used this as an excuse to continue smoking. Universities eventually started to phase out smoking on campuses by limiting the number of designated smoking areas, which helped limit the number of cigarettes I would smoke at school.

I am now a former smoker but still face daily temptation to relapse. Using tobacco replacement therapy, like nicotine gum and patches, helped me eventually quit. As a student in the Health Science Department, I have a deep understanding of the negative health effects of first- and second-hand smoke. However, designated smoking areas and ash trays are cues that may trigger a relapse for someone like me who continues to struggle with the idea of being a non-smoker. With the California Assembly passing the initiative for tobacco-free college campuses, it will eliminate the temptations I face while I am on campus.

The Contract

I smoked for 23 years before signing a contract with my fiance, agreeing to quit on a specific date. I was down to smoking 12 cigarettes a day at that point and decided to go with the patch to begin my smoking cessation. I gave myself four months of preparation to quit, coming up with little sayings or mantras that I thought would help. I was so scared of what might happen my first day, but one phrase kept running through my mind, "The only thing you're giving up is smoking. You can do everything else you used to do." 

I wore the patches for the first six weeks and decided that I didn't really need them. They definitely helped get me through the first few weeks, but the struggle was more psychological than physical at that point. My mind thought I was still a smoker. I kept thinking, "Oh, after I eat I'm going to smoke." It wasn't so much that I wanted to get my hands on a cigarette, I believed, if only for a few seconds, that I still was a smoker. As it turned out, my experience was no where near as horrible as I thought it would be. I didn't really use the mantras I'd come up with. What helped me through was my curiosity; I was 43-years-old and I had never known what it was like to be an adult who didn't smoke. That was it. I rewarded myself by joining an adult baseball league, rigorous phsyical activity that I never would have considered as a smoker. 

It's been nearly ten years now and I feel great! I don't get sick as often as I used to. I give all the credit for quitting to my wife, who helped me in a way that didn't feel pushy. She was thinking about our future together and she just wanted to make sure I was around for it. I still love the smell of second-hand smoke, but I'm happy that my two children won't have to worry about that when they visit me on campus. 

CSUSB Staff Member since 1998