by QuitNet team member Corrie Mook
If you’re a member of QuitNet, you’ll be familiar with Michael G. and Jenny G., the husband-and-wife duo responsible for the Eye Opener Pledge each morning. What you may not know is that these two have a long history of working alongside each other: first as high school students in the local grocery store, and many years later as they quit smoking together! In our brief interview, we learned more about what brought these two together, how they quit smoking, and the story behind the Eye Opener Pledge you see each day.
QN: How did you two meet?
Michael: We were both working in a local grocery store in our hometown of Lexington, North Carolina when we met. We were both in the same school but we were two years apart and didn't really run in the same circles. So before meeting, we didn't really know each other. Our first date was her coming to my mom’s, me grilling steaks and watching an episode of Peanuts. Neither of us can remember the name of that episode, but there was a part in it where they beeped the other person's nose and it meant, "I love you."
That beep beep stuck.
Jenny: I was a simple cashier and he was a handsome head stocker.
QN: How long did each of you smoke?
Michael: I started around the age of 13 or so. Maybe a little earlier. In high school I began to major in smoking and counter culture – basically anything to be against “the man.” So basically 37 years and most them as a dedicated hardcore smoker.
Jenny: I smoked for approximately 25 years. Although I smoked off and on prior to that since the age of nine.
QN: Whose idea was it to stop smoking? Was it hard to get the other on board?
Michael: I can't say that I will take credit for that, but I turned 50 and could not see another year smoking. I was miserable with it and couldn't go without it. At the time I was working for Walmart and they had an assistance program that offered free patches. Hey, as dumb as I can be, even I said, “Sign me up.” It wasn't long after that that Jenny stopped. I think she saw I was serious this time and not just saying I was quitting and smoking less. There never was any pressure and it was never a “we” quit.
Jenny: We previously stopped smoking for about nine months, several years ago. This time, Michael was ready to stop first. I was very hesitant. Finally, two weeks later, I decided to stop also. He seemed to be doing pretty well with it. However, I did relapse around my eighth month and quit again three months later.
QN: Did you set up any "ground rules" with each other to support one another, or while one of you was smoking and the other had quit?
Michael: I did, finally – after years of Jenny telling me I need to drink more water – learn to drink water. And like it! One would have thought water was a deadly toxin the way I acted. I had to learn to not let the stress and distress of being a new quitter come out in the home times two.
Jenny: We had already stopped smoking in the house. And I do believe that really helped a lot. I don't believe I knew that it was actually a Quit Kit at the time, but do remember keeping lots of sugar-free gum on hand. Since then, I always have sugar-free mints and gum on hand even now.
QN: Tell me about a difficult time in your quit when one of you helped the other.
Michael: I can't think of one specific moment. It would be better described as a push and pull over a period of time. Simply by talking, listening, or just being there. Just like QuitNet, anything is always easier with a group than it is alone. Since we both were quitters, we knew what the other was feeling or going through from firsthand experience.
Jenny: When you are just starting your quit journey, IT'S ALL DIFFICULT! Unfortunately, I cannot remember specifics, but I do remember on one of my monthly milestones, I was feeling a bit depressed. Michael had done a shout-out saying how proud he was of me and how I was doing well. That meant so much to me! Little things like that really do help make you realize you can do it. And it helps to give motivation for moving forward.
QN: What advice would you have for those who are quitting smoking but whose spouses are still smoking?
Michael: I really hate to give advice, but I will say this: Quit for yourself and yourself alone. They may want to join you or they may not. Don't pressure the other or that will more than likely backfire. It is definitely tougher with another smoker still smoking, but stick to your guns. I can't stress this enough . . . STAY CLOSE TO THE Q! It may just save your life.
Jenny: No matter what, you have to quit for yourself. Only inside yourself will you find the desire to push through. Constantly "suggesting," or nagging, anyone else to quit will not work. You just have to be patient. One of my turning points was when Michael told me to either smoke or don't smoke, but get off the fence. That frankness actually put perspective on it for me.
QN: You both post the Eye Opener Pledge every day - and you're up before 4:30 AM! Whose idea was it to start the morning pledge posts? And, more importantly, who makes the morning coffee?
Michael: I wanted to do something different but similar to what a few others were doing on the Q. There was @Larry G.'s daily post, @Maryanne C.'s daily photo and post, @Bill N.'s daily weather report, @Clearcolors Q.'s Nearly Impossible Question, the coffee shop, barn dance, and of course who can forget the bonfire. I lived and breathed these things and not just the feed. These folks taught me stability and consistency. They showed me that there could be normalcy and that it’s not all heebie jeebies and no man's land. Besides that, there is another fellowship that I attend and one of the principle tenets is, "To keep it, you have to give it away." It is my small part of trying to give something back to the Q, for all that the Q had given me.
As for the coffee, well, Jenny says that I'm a coffee snob. I get up, amble to the Keurig, and flip a switch, fix my cup, and do the eye opener. She fixes her own pot most mornings. Occasionally I will make her one. I guess even for all the years and all the love, when it comes to coffee, you are on your own.
Jenny: The Eye Opener Pledge was Michael's baby. It started when he worked late (or early) and wanted some way to contribute to QuitNet and hopefully be of help to others. I help out when he is off and gets a chance to sleep in. I personally believe it does help to give a public pledge to not smoke. The wonderful people that follow this extra pledge really are our Quit Family. We all give each other support, love, and little push now and then. As for the coffee … we are set with the caffeine as soon as our feet hit the floor.