By Melissa Urban, head of the East Coast chapter of “Team Urban”
We call my Dad “Captain Tom” as a nod to the fact that he is an accredited Coast Guard Captain, and a retired fishing bum in the Florida Keys. Saturday is my Dad’s birthday, and I wanted to use the occasion to share his story with our readers. (Translation: Today, I get to brag about my Dad.)
My Dad has been an important source of information, advice and guidance throughout the years, even more so lately as we grow and develop the Whole9. So when he came to me a few months ago asking ME for some health and fitness advice, I sat myself down, grabbed a notebook and a pen, and listened. “What would it take,” he asked me, “to get you to run my life for a little while? You know, help me with diet, exercise, all that stuff?” I put down my pen, took a deep breath, and I responded firmly, “Dad, I won’t even talk to you until you quit smoking. Give up the cigarettes, and then ask me again.”
That was really hard for me to say, but it was also the truth. My Dad has been a smoker for practically his whole life, and we both knew it was only a matter of time before the habit called in its chips in the form of a serious health issue. Plus, I wasn’t exactly giving him brand new information. My Dad had tried to quit smoking a number of times throughout the years, and he and his wife Susan were always half-seriously talking about trying again.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I heard rumblings of an Urban smoke-free target date, but it wasn’t until my last trip to the Keys (in early December) that I got the full story. My Dad and Susan had taken the plunge and entered a smoking cessation program on December 1st. Which brings us to the part where I get to brag:
As of my Dad’s birthday (February 20th), he and Susan have been 100% smoke-free for a full 11 weeks and 5 days.
While I would love to think that our little conversation played a role in his decision to quit, I know there were other, more important factors at play. Here’s what my Dad had to say on the subject during some of our recent telephone conversations.
“My cigarette smoking was a 50 year habit. I didn’t think I’d ever see the day when I would no longer be a smoker. I’ve tried to quit many times before, and it just never stuck. You sign up for one of those programs and they ask why you want to stop smoking… they expect you to say, ‘I want to be healthier.’ But that concept of ‘healthier’ is just bullshit. What does that even mean, exactly? It just wasn’t motivating for me. I’ve stayed active, I visit my doctor regularly, my cholesterol was good, my blood pressure was good, my lungs were okay. I figured I was getting older, and staying pretty healthy, so there was no real reason to ever quit.
What it came down to, though, was this… I want to be in control of my life. I mean, if I’m not, who is? And the idea of that pack of cigarettes being in control of my body, and my life, that really pissed me off. I thought about what would happen if I left for a full day of fishing and realized I left my cigarettes back on the dock. One of two things – I’d either go all the way back to get them, or I’d be anxious and miserable all day thinking about not being able to smoke. And I realized I did not want to live the rest of my life like that. So that became my motivation – taking back control of my life.
Plus, I have to stay active for my business. As a fishing boat captain in Alaska a few summers ago, I performed all kinds of manual labor. We moved logs, hauled huge bags of sawdust across muddy trails and helped our clients reel in some really big fish. That’s hard work! I watched a California State Trooper – a BIG guy, think “Muscle Beach” material – literally collapse of exhaustion after bringing in a 120-pound halibut. And I thought, I want to be able to do that five or ten years from now. I don’t want to let ‘the big one’ get away because I’m too tired or winded to reel him in.
Since I’ve quit smoking, my sense of smell has improved. I can taste things again – my food tastes better. We can go for a brisk walk and talk the whole time, and not be winded. I can ride my bike faster, I have more energy. And I’m no longer a slave to the pack. I don’t have to worry about finding a place to smoke in the airport, I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to put my pack when I’m in a t-shirt and shorts, and I don’t have to think about being out on the water for ten hours and running out of cigarettes. In fact, I don’t have to think about cigarettes at all any more. And… it’s wonderful.”
My Dad told me recently that he uses our Whole30 posts for motivation – like the time when I said that you don’t “slip” into a dietary cheat, unless you literally trip and land face first in a box of Krispy Kremes. The concept of “choice, not slip” works for cigarettes too, and I’m thrilled to help inspire him and Susan to stay smoke-free. We’ve also started talking diet and exercise now – in fact, the Whole9 is headed down to the Keys in May for a special private workshop (in exchange for fishing trips and snorkeling charters). So today, post a birthday wish to Captain Tom and drop a word of encouragement in comments. And from me, Dad… I could not be more proud of you. Happy Birthday, and we wish you many happy, healthy, fish-on years to come!