When I was growing up, I often heard how challenging it had been for my mother and father to quit smoking prior to me being born. My mom, especially, had a difficult time because she stayed home with 5 kids, all very close in age, and smoking was her stress reliever.
So, it wasn’t surprising that when my parents moved after we were grown up, we found cigarettes hidden all over the house, including behind picture frames. My mom hid these cigarettes so my dad wouldn’t find out she hadn’t quit.
About the same time, when I was in college, my grandmother had a very severe health scare related to her smoking. This affected me deeply because I was close to her. We almost lost her.
Seeing my family members struggle with smoking like this made me curious to learn more about tobacco addiction and how to help people free themselves from it.
This is why I became a tobacco cessation specialist in 2004 to support people to quit through phone coaching. I then joined as an EX Coach with the EX Program in early 2017 and became a Coach Lead for our live chat coaching service, which means I train other coaches.
After 15+ years as a quit-smoking coach, I’m still surprised
The learning process with this addiction is still ongoing, and likely always will be, because as I speak to people, I’m struck by how all quit journeys are different.
Everyone has their own very personal reasons and perspective about how quitting will better their lives. You can never assume to know why someone is motivated to take those steps.
For some, the goal is to spend more time with family and friends. For others, it may mean walking up a flight of stairs without stopping to catch their breath, or simply feeling healthier.
It makes me happy and fulfilled to learn about these reasons and to make a small impact that can positively contribute to someone’s health. That keeps me motivated to continue with this work.
How serving as a quit-smoking coach via live chat is different
With the EX Program, my contribution also takes the form of training other EX Coaches. The biggest challenge with that is teaching them how live chat is different from in-person or even phone coaching.
Live chats work great for brief, focused interactions, for example. You might chat for only 5 minutes, to help someone through a craving, and that’s a win.
However, we also have chats that last 20 minutes or longer to help those looking for support to get started, avoid relapse, or just connect with someone who deeply understands.
Fortunately, our team of coaches are just as enthusiastic as I am, so they pick it up quickly. They’re passionate about helping people, and they want to share their knowledge about how to overcome addiction in every interaction.
What I love most about my role as coach lead is helping bring on new coaches to the team and being part of creating content for the program—the EX Program is so innovative, and the ability to collaborate with Mayo Clinic is a huge perk.
However, the 1 thing that hasn’t changed since I started this work is that sense of curiosity. I combine this with empathy and being non-judgmental; two qualities I really strive to bring across in my chats.
I love encouraging others, and letting my caregiving side shine though, and this is a big reason why I am committed to my work as a quit-smoking coach and coach lead. I believe in everyone I train and everyone I coach as well. I tell them quitting may be hard, but you can do hard things.