Dave Bayerl heard it for decades: “That guy will never quit smoking.” After smoking since he was 16 years old, Bayerl decided not to be “that guy” anymore.
“Everyone was really supportive,” Bayerl, age 55, said during an interview in September. “ I didn’t believe it would work, and I wanted it to work, but now I haven’t had a cigarette in a year, and that just flat-out blows me away. It’s really surprising because sometimes it feels like I’ve never smoked at all.”
Bayerl , a native Nevadan has been a bus driver for RTC Ride for 12 years. He started smoking in high school, “mainly because I wanted to look cool,” he comments. It was in the last few years when almost 40 years of smoking caught up to him. Several of Bayerl’s friends also encouraged him to take a decisive step to a smoke-free lifestyle.“A lot of people were encouraging me to stop because I was getting upper respiratory infections, sinus infections,” he says. “I had those before, but the longer I smoked the sicker I got.”
With a two-pack-a-day habit, Bayerl sought advice from his doctor, Thomas O’Gara, MD. He encouraged Bayerl to look into smoking -cessation drug Chantix (which Bayerl did take for a while) as well as the Quit Tobacco Program. The Quit Tobacco Program is once a week for four weeks, and Bayerl took the program in November 2012. Participants learn personalized techniques to help quit smoking and also learn the reasons why people smoke. That was a particular revelation for Bayerl.
“I learned that some people are emotional smokers, and I found out in my case that was true,” Bayerl confesses. “I tried to quit smoking 20 years ago, but then all of this anger came out. The smoking was suppressing that. It was a feeling stuffer. Cigarettes worked for a long time as far as calming me down, but the longer I smoked the more I needed that nicotine to suppress that. It’s like any addiction, I suppose.”
Bayerl thought the program’s instructor, respiratory care practitioner Bob Richard, was “great, a really cool guy. He was very encouraging and supportive and taught me a lot.”
One technique of Richard’s that worked well was a new way to breathe. “It’s so simple, just breathing in and out, and at first you think, ‘That’s so silly.’ But, I’ll tell you, it works,” Bayerl said. “On the third day after I quit, I felt like Keith Richards (Rolling Stones guitarist). I was jonesing big time. But then I started doing some of those exercises and felt a lot better.”
Program-goers are told they can continue to smoke the first weeks after the program to taper off their use. Bayerl had his last cigarette in late November of 2012, soon after the program was done. “The next day I had a 10-hour shift at work, a really tough route, and I thought, ‘Let’s see if I can go the whole day without a cigarette.’ And I did it and was really surprised by it.”
Bayerl was also surprised by how fast he stopped the habit. “It was like a switch in my head that went off. I just didn’t want to smoke anymore. I mean I had the physical cravings for a while, and there are still times when I think, ‘It would be really nice if I had a cigarette.’ But, I know that if I have one, I’m going to have a 100 or 1,000.”
Bayerl said when the physical cravings occur happens, he finds ways to cope. “I pray about it, or I talk to a friend of mine. I’m really thankful for the support from my friends and family.”
After completing the program, Bayerl’s physical health has improved as well. “I feel better and I’m exercising now,” he said. “I feel better emotional, physically, spiritually too. I think I’ve been really blessed by the program. I knew it was time to quit – really it was time to quit a long time ago – but now I’m definitely glad I don’t smoke.”
For more information on the Quit Tobacco Program, call Health Improvement Programs at Renown Health, 775-982-5073, or go to renown.org/smokefree