Class aims to help smokers quit

CHAMPAIGN — Carletta Donaldson was a smoker for nearly four decades, until a landmark birthday coming up galvanized her to say "enough."

"I was just tired of smoking," she recalls.

This now 51-year-old Urbana woman did something about it. She signed up for a Freedom from Smoking class through the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, quit smoking with the rest of her class Feb. 5, 2012, and she's been smoke-free ever since.

Now food tastes so much better, she says. She's out doing volunteer work. She's even back on a six-month dental exam schedule, because she doesn't have to dread painful deep cleanings anymore.

"I feel great," she says.

Donaldson remembers smoking her first cigarettes when she was an adolescent and continuing as a smoker for 37 1/2 years.

"That's enough to do anything," she says.

With her 50th birthday approaching and still free of smoking-related diseases, she signed up for the quit smoking class.

Donaldson says she passed on the offer of quit-smoking patches because she was afraid of the possible side effects, and relied on her own willpower.

And she won't lie to you: Doing it that way was "absolutely torture" for a while, with pounding headaches and mood swings. But it also helped her avoid a relapse, because she knew she'd never want to go through nicotine withdrawal again, she recalls.

Another thing she's clear about with folks: Quitting is something you've really got to want to do.

"People have to decide on their own to quit," she says. "It doesn't matter what laws, what ordinances you put into place, people have to decide on their own to quit."

One thing that helped her, Donaldson says: "My family was very instrumental. You need to have friends."

There are going to be people you used to smoke with who still smoke, and you need support from people happy to see you quit.

The health district's eight-session Freedom from Smoking class will next be offered Feb. 24-April 7.

Classes, which begin at 5:30 p.m., focus for the first few weeks on the habits and triggers that promote smoking and setting up an individual plan for each person to quit.

"We kind of shower them with motivation to quit smoking," says Nikki Hillier, wellness and health program coordinator at the health district.

On the fourth week, the entire class quits smoking together, and in the remaining weeks, the classes focus on support, maintenance and thinking ahead to prevent relapses and manage stress, weight and communication skills as a new non-smoker, Hillier said.

Quitting time

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District's eight-session Freedom from Smoking class will be held Feb. 24-April 7.

COST: The $20 fee includes the workbook and a quit kit. The fee can be waived for those financially eligible.

PLACE: The health district at 201 W. Kenyon Road, C.

REGISTRATION: Classes are available to Champaign County residents only. Seating is limited and pre-registration is required. To register, call 531-4540, or send an email to: toakley@c-uphd.org.

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