Kenneth

Perkins, OK

I wanted to change the perception on tobacco use in my tribe. I wanted to point out that spiritual use and commercial use are different.

I started smoking in my late teens because that was pretty much what everyone did. Smoking became a defining part of my life very quickly. When I would set goals for the future, they would be centered around tobacco. I would always ask myself, “Where can I smoke?” “When can I have my next cigarette?” and so on whenever I made plans. I even put my kids second to smoking, missing major athletic and academic achievements because I was outside smoking.

I’m also very active in my tribe, which uses tobacco in a sacred manner. I found that a lot of times, the line between sacred and commercial use is blurred. I wanted to convey a message to young people in my tribe that sacred and commercial use are different. However, as a commercial smoker, I never felt like I could.

After a few health scares, I had a wakeup call. Seeing the look on my family members’ faces after another hospital visit let me know I needed to find a solution. That’s when I reached out to the Helpline, who gave me the drive to finally quit smoking three years ago.

Quitting tobacco is hard. You must make the decision every day to not smoke, to call your Quit Coach and to show up for your family. Once you’re on the other side, you’ll realize how much time and money you were spending on cigarettes, though. It’s so worth it. Now, I not only have more time and energy to spend on my family, but I feel like I can show up and set an example for young people in my tribe to cut down on addictive use as well.