The last few weeks we have has a number of past Freedom members return after they had relapsed. Some only had a few days into the last quit, others had significant time periods into quits before losing them. I am glad that they found their ways back to Freedom, but I want to make sure that they understand and that everyone else here understands the seriousness of the past failure.
Most other boards and most other people would take offense at that past line, referring to the last lost quit as a failure. But for all practical purposes that is what it was. Even quits that last for years or decades are failures if a person loses it. We don't want anyone minimizing this fact, for those who do often have the attitude that if they relapse they will simply quit again. The fact is you don't know that the person will quit again, or that they will quit in time to save his or her life.
Many years ago I had a man in my clinic named John. John was a pretty high profile public figure, in his early 40's who had many great accomplishments in his life. He came to my clinic, lasted a few days and lost the quit. He was in the middle of a high profile media situation and just decided he needed his focus and the stakes of what he was involved with at the time were just too high to deal with withdrawal. John explained this to me, and promised he would return again one day when things would be better.
Well, I have heard this hundreds of times before, and while occasionally people do return, it is not the majority and probably not even a significantly high percentage. Being that I was having 50 or more people at a time in these clinics, I couldn't spend much time dealing with those who were not quitting.
Three year later John does return to the clinic and does quit smoking. He did great his second time around. Not only did he quit, but he became a regular volunteer for me, coming to many clinics as a panelist to help people first quitting. He also sent in lots of people, probably 15 to 20 over the next couple of years.
About three years after John's quit, he was going in for a physical and to his surprise there was a small spot on his chest x-ray. When it was biopsied they found out John had cancer. He was about 48 at the time, in the peak of his career, still had children of school age and now was facing this terrible diagnosis. It was a horrible shock to many people. As is often the case with lung cancer, it was a fast deterioration. Within a year and a half John had succumbed to the disease.
I went to John's funeral--it was huge. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there. Many I knew, some because of their high public profile, but more because John had sent in so many people to the clinic in the time period that he was off smoking. Even after the diagnosis he was still sending people in.
One of the men there was from one of the recent clinics and had told me how tragic this was that John had lost his life and how his lost quit was probably the reason. To be realistic I told him that it is possible that if John had quit the first time in the clinic it may not have made a difference. He basically found out he had lung cancer three years after he quit, and that lung cancer could be present for 5 years or even 10 years without presenting symptoms or even showing up on the x-ray. Being that the day I met him was about 6 years before the diagnosis, it was not totally improbable that at that time the cancer had already been initiated and was silently growing.
The man then proceeded to tell me that my clinic was not the first clinic John had tried. That in fact, 10 years before joining that first group with me, he and John had gone to another local clinic together to quit and both in a matter of days wrote it off as a bad time to quit--but knew they would both quit again one day.
Well John was right, he did eventually quit again one day. But it turned out to be over 16 years later. Now the odds were quite different--if he had quit that first time around he probably would never had developed the disease that ultimately cost him his life.
The lesson here needs to be once you have a quit going, do everything in your power to make it last. While you are seeing people come back who just seem to be quitting again, if you relapse you just don't know you will ever get the strength or desire to quit again, and that even if you do, you don't know whether something won't go wrong in the interim period before the next quit.
John is not the only person I know who fits this profile--I know lots of them--people who could have had extra years and extra decades who lost them by minimizing the implications of not quitting or of relapsing. Once you have a quit smoking, understand your very life is contingent on understanding the importance of knowing to never take another puff!