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A few Columbus residents share their inspirational stories of struggle, triumph and how they put a stop to unhealthy choices.

Jill Browning projected the image of a perfect life—trophy wife, aerobics queen—but behind closed doors she was struggling with depression and unhappiness in her marriage.

“I was a binge drinker. I did not drink every day—I would drink probably about … [a] couple times a month, and when I did it was horrible, and I would just go to bed for like two to three days.”

Browning ensured her children would have everything they need and be taken care of before she shut the world out, to stop thinking because she was unhappy and depressed. She, like many, found her life being taken over one drink at a time.

In 2001, she wrecked her car, was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence and fought a divorce/custody battle, all of which led Browning to realize she needed to turn her life around and become a positive role model for her children. Then, in 2007, she recommitted herself to living an even healthier lifestyle by finding a trainer at a local gym and hitting the weights to occupy her mind and time.

She has continued to avoid the drinking path with dedication, perseverance and the help of others. The 50-year-old has since competed in multiple fitness figure competitions. While training, though, she did pick up another habit.

“I eat healthier … I learned how food can drastically affect how you feel, physically, emotionally and definitely how it looks on you,” says Browning. Her biggest tip to those looking to quit: “When you make the decision [to quit] you need to act on it and seek help and support.”

Matt Miller quit drinking on June 1, 2013, and hasn’t looked back since.

“I was noticing I was spending a lot of money on alcohol and going to bars … and gaining weight, so I decided to try and get on a [healthier] and better financial path,” he said.

Miller enjoyed one or two glasses of wine per night and drank a bit more on the weekends while out with friends. The Grandview South resident made the decision to quit, something that took some time getting used to.

“It was hard in the beginning, hard to go out with friends and go to the bars and not drink when everyone else was, but it was something you have to keep your head into, and it gets easier with time.”

His friends and family supported his effort.

“They were a little surprised at first … but I explained my reasoning and they respected it and thought it was a good thing to do.”

Since quitting, Miller has experienced positive changes in his life, both physically and financially. “I noticed that I seemed more active … the greatest results are overall better health, loss of weight and more money in the bank.” The 28-year-old misses the occasional glass of wine but plans to stick to his goal of quitting altogether.

Mike Thompson decided to stop smoking nine years ago.

“It was extremely difficult; I quit ‘cold turkey’ and never picked up another cigarette,” he said. “My son was giving me a hard time and was concerned with my health, so I made the decision for him and for myself.”

Thompson, 52, began smoking when he was 25 and would go through an average of two packs per day. When he was going through a stressful divorce, he found himself lighting up a lot more. “There were literally days I was smoking almost 24 hours,” says Thompson. “I was going through a stressful situation. I was burning; I had one in one hand and one in the other hand it felt like.”

In December 2004, the Columbus resident was finally ready to ditch his nicotine dependence.

“Because it’s a habit, you have to get to the point to where you want to quit. I had reached that point, where I finally said I was ready and I want to quit.”

Thompson found other ways to occupy his mind and his now “empty” hands. “I would carry [bottled] water to keep my hands full and occupied,” says Thompson. “I started drinking water and really watching what I was eating. So I changed the focus on my whole diet and my whole health. So I was going from something bad and wanted to change my focus to something good.”

Sultan Saleh found himself smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes per day when he was 18 years old. Other family smokers influenced Saleh’s decision to pick up the habit socially, but it slowly turned into a daily reality. “First I craved it, then I hated it, and I hated the smell,” says Saleh. “I started to become health-conscious. I used to be in terrific shape, and here I was in my [early]-20s, and I wasn’t where I should be. It all of a sudden hit me this wasn’t for me.”

It’s been nearly 11 years since he has picked up a cigarette. “I just decided to quit. I remember I read somewhere about how short the time was you go through the withdrawal, how long until the nicotine is out of your system, and the rest was just mental.”

Saleh stopped cold turkey; every time he had an urge to light up, he ate sunflower and pumpkin seeds instead to satisfy his craving.

“I noticed my health got better real quick. Now I can’t stand to be around the smell of smoke,” says Saleh. “It was one of the worst decisions to start, but it was the best decision to quit. Not only for health reasons, but it wasn’t nearly as expensive as it is now, and it has led me to overall becoming more focused on my health.”

 

Expert advice on Kicking the Habit
Dr. Chelsi Day

We all have bad habits, but what happens when yours is bad for your health, impacts those around you and costs you money you may not have to waste? Unfortunately, habits that meet these criteria can be the hardest to quit. But hard to quit does not mean impossible. Whether you are currently working on ditching a bad habit or just contemplating it, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of success.

First, find a purpose for quitting. If you are quitting for someone else or because it seems like something you should do, you’re not off to a great start. Find a personal connection with quitting. Perhaps you want to quit smoking in an effort to be around as your children/grandchildren grow. Maybe you aren’t as productive as you would like to be after a night of drinking and truly want to accomplish more. Whatever it is, find a compelling reason.

Second, evaluate your surroundings. Do you regularly hit up happy hour with friends? Do you smoke more with a certain group? Consider changing your environment and asking for help from those around you. Instead of happy hour at the bar, hit up a coffee shop. When you are out with friends, let them know about your goal and ask them to encourage you. If they pressure you to partake rather than encourage you to resist, take some time to reconsider your friendships.

Third, be realistic about your pace. Some people can quit “cold turkey” and others are more successful when they wean themselves off their vices. If cold turkey works for you, fabulous; but for many it doesn’t and may even cause you to replace it with an equally bad habit. Instead, give yourself a daily allowance of cigarettes that is reduced by one every five to seven days until you wean yourself down to zero.

Finally, cut yourself some slack. Don’t let a relapse or set back cause you to give up. Recognize that everyone screws up and each day is a fresh start. If you fell off the wagon today, plan to spend some time tomorrow morning preparing to pick up your plan where you left off.

If you are experiencing a significant struggle quitting, consider seeking professional help. You aren’t crazy if you struggle, you’re human. Seeking support and help in quitting your vice is nothing to be ashamed of and may increase your chances of quitting—permanently.

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