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St. Mary’s helps retiree Billy Wiley quit for good

By Rachel Duff
St. Mary’s Marketing Intern

If you use tobacco, the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 15 is a great opportunity to kick-start your journey to breaking free from the grip of addiction. Just ask Billy Wiley, a retiree from St. Mary’s Engineering Department.

tobacco quit smoking
Todd Drake and Billy Wiley

Billy, who smoked for 50 years, launched his journey to freedom with St. Mary’s Freedom from Smoking program.

“If this class could help me break free, it can help anyone,” Billy says.

Billy lives in Oconee County with his wife, Deborah, who works in St. Mary’s Pathology Department. He started smoking in 1965, when he was 18 years old.

“I dabbled with it a little bit before I joined the Navy, but I really picked it up once I could afford it and everyone was doing it,” he says. “For years, I knew I needed to quit before something really bad happened.”

But it was not simple just to cut out something that had been in his life for decades. Then he started to notice his blood pressure was rising and he had some difficulty breathing. These disturbing issues gave him the push he needed to get serious about quitting.

tobacco quit smokingAt the age of 70, Billy joined a program that would change his life for the better: the American Lung Association Freedom from Smoking class at St. Mary’s. The guidance from ALA-certified facilitator Todd Drake, a registered respiratory therapist and ex- smoker himself, gave Billy the motivation and knowledge he needed to cut smoking out of his life.

Quitting smoking is not an easy task, even for someone with the self-discipline of a Navy veteran. Billy received a lot of support from many different people. He had the support from everyone in the class, including Todd. His wife, Deborah, also provided him the extra support he needed at home to keep him on the right path. Now that he has been smoke-free for over a year, he has noticed a couple of big changes in his life, the main ones being how much better he feels, having more energy, and sleeping better. In addition, he now has more funds for fun things, such as taking Deborah out on nice dates, and enjoying delicious foods.

“I can actually taste all of the flavors of food now and it probably shows a little in my weight,” he says with a laugh.

“Billy was a great smoking cessation student and helped design his own quit plan,” Todd says. “Having a group of other quit buddies really helped Billy be successful.”

Billy credits Todd and the supportive format of the program for his success.

“I would not have been able to do it without the guidance Todd gave me with the group. One thing that really helped me was that he provided a book with assignments that explained how to control the triggers.”

Todd understands those triggers well because he has experienced the hardships of quitting first-hand. “Everyone is different, and their path won’t be the same as anyone else’s,” he notes. “It’s the individual approach that makes Freedom from Smoking the nation’s most successful smoking cessation program for about 30 years.”

Todd understands those triggers well because he has experienced the hardships of quitting first-hand. “Everyone is different, and their path won’t be the same as anyone else’s,” he notes. “It’s the individual approach that makes Freedom from Smoking the nation’s most successful smoking cessation program for about 30 years.”

Todd also takes the program on the road, bringing Freedom from Smoking to where people live and work. For example, on July 1, a nationwide ban on smoking in public housing went into effect. Before it did, Todd partnered with the Athens Housing Authority to provide a discounted Freedom from Smoking course to residents of the Denny Towers community.

Freedom from Smoking includes eight sessions. The next community Freedom from Smoking class will meet on Tuesdays from 6-7 p.m. from Jan. 2 to Feb. 13, 2019. Each session will be held at St. Mary’s Outpatient Diagnostic, Rehab and Wellness Center at 2470 Daniells Bridge Road, Athens. The course costs $60 and all who complete it receive a complementary three-month membership to St. Mary’s Wellness Center. To sign up, call 706.389.2915.

Billy took this class very seriously because he knew that it was the key to overcoming his addiction to tobacco. Recently, he shared his story with participants currently in the program. He explained how the class helped him, that doing the work is important to succeed, and that he is living proof that it is possible to break free from the chains of smoking.

“This class was truly a blessing and I am so happy that I finally quit.”

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tobacco quit smokingFind out more: Todd will staff a smoking cessation table at St. Mary’s for Great American Smokeout on Nov. 15 during the lunch hour. You can also get details about Freedom from Smoking by visiting St. Mary’s Freedom from Smoking page or going to the St. Mary’s ALA Freedom from Smoking page at http://action.lung.org/site/TR?fr_id=16604&pg=entry.

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