VA Caribbean Healthcare System
VA Smoking Cessation: I Quit For my Family
Rodolfo Barrios-Quiñones is an Army Veteran working for the VA Caribbean Healthcare System, he is the Medical Photographer for Medical Media Production Service. Rodolfo is very active working with Veterans, he is a Facilitator for the Mental Health - Whole Health Program. This year he worked on the “Taking Charge of my Life and Health” course, as well as the “Recreational Therapy Mindful Photography for Veterans”. His role in both courses was as lead instructor. Rodolfo wanted to share his story on what made him quit smoking, hoping this would help other Veterans like him take that important step in their life.
What was your main motivation to quit smoking?
I smoked for 40 years and what motivated me to stop smoking was my two baby girls. Their well-being was more important to me than anything. When I met my wife, we were both smokers, so having that in common didn’t help us to think about quitting. When we decided to have our first baby, the immediate reaction was to place our baby’s health as our number one priority. I remember that day very clearly, it was the first time in my life that I felt confident about quitting.
Was it hard to quit smoking?
I remember in a few occasions of my life I wanted to quit smoking for different reasons, like breathing better, starting an exercise plan or even just saving some money. My attempts to quit smoking never lasted more than 3-4 days. I tried everything from nicotine gums to patches. It was hard to quit; I always remember having that urge a couple of days after quitting where I just looked for any reason to start again. It’s not easy, I do believe that when you really want something, you’ll find a way to make that happen for yourself. My main reason and motivation were my family. I believe the best way to quit smoking is to seek counseling and medication. The combination of both is the key. VA smoking cessation programs have that combination.
Did you see any benefits in health once you quit? Yes, everything is better. I am 53 today, it’s been 3 years of no smoking and I can breathe better, I don’t get tired as much as I did before, walking up a flight of stairs was tiring,now it's not. I started running again. I can run three miles in a decent time frame now. Another passion of mine is Karaoke, I love to sing even though I’m not a great singer. I noticed that my voice got a lot better after I quit smoking, now I can hold my notes better when I sing. That felt awesome to me. My wife quit smoking when she first found out that our first baby was on the way. So, we both feel healthier and stronger than ever. Our kids are beautiful and healthy.
How did the VA Help you to quit smoking?
The VA has multiple smoking cessation programs for Veterans. During my visit with the counselor, she provided me with excellent tools for my process of quitting. Veterans have a better opportunity of quitting when they can get a combination of counseling and medication to help suppress nicotine addiction, having that combination of treatments work together is a major asset for Veterans. My main motivation was the birth of my daughters, but the VA Cessation Program was a great part of the tools I needed to finally quit.
Have you ever felt the fear of returning to smoke again?
During my first year I could say I did think about smoking again, that fear was present a couple of times. I would recommend getting an active hobby like walking, running or kayaking, these types of active sports helped me get a new sense of accomplishment. I challenge myself everyday to do better and that takes my mind away from bad habits that limited me from improving my health goals.
What would you tell other Veterans that want to quit? My best advice to Veterans is that the best way to quit smoking is connecting with like-minded people that don’t smoke or have been thru the process of quitting. Reach out to your VA Counselors, they have excellent tools that can help you quit. Cigarettes offer nothing of value, when you quit smoking the benefits to your life will improve in many ways. Find a good reason to quit, commit to it and I'm sure you'll find your way to a better life. If you happen to work in the VA Caribbean Healthcare System reach out to me for support. I will love to be part of your process.
Local Resources for Smoking Cessation:
Grisel Rivera, RN MSN | Mental Health Clinic | Smoking Cessation Clinic
787-741-7582 extension 12474
Find out more about VA Smoking Cessations Programs: