Quitting with the help of the 'Tobacco Free Tar Heels' program

Jan. 26, 2016, will mark two years that Matt Englund has been tobacco free. This wasn't Matt’s first attempt at quitting, but he says it’s his last.

Quitting with the help of the 'Tobacco Free Tar Heels' program click to enlarge Matt Englund

Four years prior, Matt quit for a year without using any medication. He used the “Delay” method - when you crave a cigarette, you delay, delay, delay. That worked until the stress of school, work and a new baby made him feel like he wanted to smoke again. This most recent period of smoking lasted about 18 months. It was then he went to his primary care physician at Family Medicine, who asked him if he smoked.

When Matt responded "yes", the physician asked if he wanted help in quitting. When Matt responded “yes” again, he referred Matt to the UNC Tobacco Free Tar Heels Program. Since his wife was a UNC Health Care employee, and Matt was a dependent on her insurance, he was able to enter the free program.

Matt and Barbara Silver, his Tobacco Treatment Specialist, discussed his triggers for smoking and some strategies for avoiding those triggers. One strategy included his wearing a nicotine patch to help lessen withdrawal symptoms. Other strategies he employed were keeping busy at home, positive self-talk, chewing cinnamon gum and avoiding the smoking areas at the local restaurant where he worked at that time. It wasn't an instant fix, and Matt was confronted with temptations when many of his fellow employees smoked on their breaks.

He was determined to persevere and wanted to be “the best person I can be for my wife.” As he tapered down his smoking, Matt noticed he was having fewer triggers, getting more things done around the house and had more time and money. Other benefits were smelling better, being able to take deep breaths, and not having to go out in the cold to smoke.

Matt remarked that it gets easier the farther away he gets from the days he used to smoke. He appreciated the accountability he had to Barbara and the Tobacco Free Tar Heels during weekly and then bi-weekly check-ins. He said it helped keep him on track and that there is no shame in getting help.

These days, Matt works as a writer and editor for UNC Health Care's Communications & Marketing Office, and he and his wife, Max, are expecting baby #3 any day now.

If you are a UNC Health Care employee or dependent*, you are eligible for the Tobacco Free Tar Heels Program, which provides three months of FREE medication and support. For more information, contact Barbara Silver at 984-974-8455 or by email at .

*Family members who are listed as covered dependents under the State Health Plan are eligible.

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