A smoke break, she said, served as a sort of meditation for her.
"Often I would go out for a cigarette and return to work with a clearer mind," said Burke, an office associate in pediatric pulmonology. "It was like you gave yourself permission to relax for a few minutes."
But she also was aware of the price she paid for her relaxation methods. Aside from the money she spent on the cigarettes she smoked for more than 30 years - there were significant health risks, which grew the longer she smoked.
Her clothes, hair and home smelled of cigarette smoke.
And then there was that tone of voice she'd hear from others as she'd head outside for smoke breaks.
"The way they'd say it, 'Oh, she's a smoker,'... I just hated it," Burke said, channeling the same uncomfortable emotions she'd experience as she'd take smoke breaks.
"I just said, 'I won't smoke one-day-at-a-time,'" Burke said. "Sometimes it would actually be like one-minute-at-a-time or one-hour-at-a-time. But it worked."
Burke has since racked up 3 years, 7 months and 18 days since her last cigarette.
On Monday (Aug. 24), UNMC goes tobacco free - which means tobacco products can't be used anywhere on campus. For many employees who use tobacco, that day may just serve the same purpose that Jan. 1, 2006 did for Burke.
A deadline - a day when an old habit ends and new, healthy habits take over.
Over the next six weeks, Wellness Wednesday will feature the stories of UNMC employees such has Burke who have successfully "kicked the habit."
In the stories, UNMC employees will discuss how they overcame their addiction, including:
- Tips about what helped them make it through; and
- The rewards of a life without tobacco.
The stories also will feature campus experts on tobacco use and tobacco cessation as they discuss tobacco addiction and factors that affect the ability to quit.
Tobacco addiction is a serious problem that is difficult to overcome. But it's not impossible. We hope these stories of employees who have kicked the habit will help others see they can do so as well.
I quit smoking in 1986 (an average day for me was 2 1/2 packs) with the assistance of Dr. Helen McIlvain and, I believe, the first smoking cessation class on campus. It was the most difficult thing I have done in my life. I like the fact that I kicked the addiction - a very strong addiction I might add. #1 reason I love not smoking - being able to be around children, friends and animals without "smelling' of smoke. I hope others can stop although I know it is very difficult.
Remember, this life is the only one you have. There's no reset button, no rewind. Live this life with purpose, and value each day. "I'll quit tomorrow," is like stealing from your own bank account." Look for assistance and support...the story will be different.
I think "Wellness Wednesday" is a great idea! I am a current smoker (and have been for 35 years). I've been trying to quit since the beginning of the year, unsuccessfully. Hearing stories from others will hopefully help "kick the habit'. Getting rid of the 'enabler' (the smoking on campus) is a step forward for those of us that are trying to quit, so I see this as a definite plus! (for me, anyway)