DR. WALLACE: I’m setting a personal goal of quitting smoking on my birthday, which is now less than two weeks away! I wish I could tell you that I only recently started smoking, but even though I am only going to be 20 years old on my next birthday, I’ve been smoking roughly a pack a day for over three years now.
I know I need to quit soon before this ends up becoming a lifetime habit. Do you have any encouragement and suggestions you could pass my way? — Want to Break This Habit, via email
WANT TO BREAK THIS HABIT: I’ll absolutely give you lots of encouragement! Congratulations on thinking about your health and your future. At your young age, if you can quit smoking soon, your body will have time to reverse most or all of the damage you’ve done so far.
As for suggestions, let’s start with the mental side of your quest. I know you want to make this change, but it’s important that you make up your mind early on that you are going to stick with this even if you slip up a time or two. In this regard, I suggest that you “announce” to your family, friends and co-workers that you plan to quit smoking as a birthday gift to yourself. Ask them each to help keep you on track and to encourage you to hang in there as you aim to make this large change in your life. The more people you announce this to, the better, since you will not want to then smoke in front of them. Plus, their encouragement and the way they’ll all be rooting for you will likely give you additional mental strength to face this challenge.
On the physical side of your quest, do your best to remove temptations, especially early on. This means get rid of any unsmoked cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays and anything else you used previously in your “smoking days.” Seek to rid yourself of the past and look forward toward a smoke-free future.
Finally, visit the American Lung Association website at www.lung.org to read about the benefits of becoming a nonsmoker. Once on the website, type in their search box “quitting smoking” as this will give you access to a list of excellent articles that will greatly assist you. I’m proud of you and know that you have what it takes to succeed in making this great step forward in your life.
I’M TOO EMBARRASSED TO ASK MY FATHER
DR. WALLACE: I’m a girl who will soon turn 16 and I live with my father and my stepmother. My birth mother lives over 2,000 miles away and she sadly is not part of my daily life anymore. She does not keep in touch with me at all.
Recently I’ve had a few “girl issues” regarding my body that I want to speak to someone about but I’m too embarrassed to ask my father about these issues. I also don’t know my stepmother too well, so I’m terrified to say anything to her either. What can I do in this situation? — Nervous About This, via email
NERVOUS ABOUT THIS: Go to your school’s office and request to speak with a female nurse. This trained professional will give you factual, earnest and confidential advice about any matter that is important to you. She may also be able to refer you to a female medical doctor if you both feel that would be a good idea. Your school’s administration will also be able to contact your father to help you arrange an appointment.
Also think about other trusted adult women you may know. This list could include aunts, mothers of your personal friends or other trusted family friends if you feel comfortable enough to start a conversation with one of them at any point.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.