Breaking Smoking’s Addiction: The Fincher Family’s Journey to Freedom

On Nov. 21, tens of thousands of people across the country will join together to quit smoking for the Great American Smokeout, an annual event held by the American Cancer Society. Quitting smoking can be tough; it’s a hard addiction to overcome. However, events such as the Great American Smokeout and St. Mary’s Freedom from Smoking program can help participants overcome their addiction and break free. 

One person with a particularly moving story is Carolyn Fincher, a utilization review nurse at St. Mary’s. What makes Carolyn’s journey so compelling is that she didn’t go through the program alone, but was joined in the class by her husband and son, who also successfully quit smoking.

Carolyn and her husband, James, live in Walton County. Both started smoking as teens, and their addiction continued into adulthood. “I don’t even know why I started smoking in the first place; none of my friends smoked,” states Carolyn. “If I could go back and change one thing it would be to never have started smoking.”

Carolyn, James, and their son Tyler, a Clarke County resident, all wanted to quit smoking, but it was no easy task. James remarked that quitting was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life. According to Todd Drake, a registered respiratory therapist, ex-smoker, and facilitator of St. Mary’s Freedom from Smoking program, he’s not alone.

“Quitting smoking is an ultimate change of habit,” Todd says. “Quitting is a lifestyle modification. A smoker’s whole day is centered around ‘when am I going to smoke next.’” 

Carolyn agrees. “Smoking controlled me,” she says. “I sometimes wouldn’t go to places if they were non-smoking, I always had to have a cigarette with me.”

Carolyn knew it was time to quit when she saw how it was affecting her family. “My children would beg me to quit. You could see how sad my kids were. They were worried about their mom.”

With the help of St. Mary’s Freedom from Smoking class, Carolyn, James, and Tyler were able to get on the right track to a smoke-free life. Carolyn and James both say that the most beneficial thing about the class was that they were held accountable by Todd and by other classmates who were going through the journey with them.

“I would see Todd at work and he would always ask if I had quit,” Carolyn says. “He would call, text, and email me every day to check up on me. I finally decided that if I’m taking time to go to classes, I might as well quit.” James also praised Todd for keeping him on top of his goal, saying he was his main support system when he was trying to quit.

Todd states that the success of the program comes from the support smokers and vapers receive from the class.

“The reason the class is a success is because it’s an addiction program,” he says. “You get support after you quit and after the program ends.” Todd also emphasizes the importance of the program providing an individualized quitting plan for every participant. “Everyone’s quit plan is different – it really comes down to your smoking history. Carolyn’s quit plan was different than her husband’s, and her husband’s quit plan was different than their sons.”

Now that the Finchers have quit, they have found that they live much better and healthier lives. Since quitting, James hardly ever gets sinus infections. Carolyn remarks that she now feels freer. “I have more money, more freedom. I don’t worry about where I’m going and if they have non-smoking places or not,” she says. “I just go.”

To those who are struggling to quit, James and Carolyn advise to keep trying. “It may be difficult,” remarks Carolyn, “but it will be the very best thing you’ve ever done for yourself and your family.”

Todd notes several key reasons why quitting is good for smokers:

  1. Quality of life. “A smoker may live to the same age regardless of whether they smoke or not,” he says. “However, the quality of life between a smoker and a nonsmoker and what you’re able to do is very, very different. Smoking affects everything: your heart, lungs, and every other organ in your body.”
  2. Reduce your risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and blood vessel disease.
  3. Enjoy more freedom. Smoking will no longer limit where you can go, what you can do, and how comfortable you will be.
  4. Save money. A pack-a-day smoker spends around $5 a day on cigarettes. That adds up to more than $1,800 a year. 

St. Mary’s Freedom from Smoking program is an individualized, 7-week treatment program that meets only one hour a week. The next program starts Jan. 7, 2020. Class size is limited to ensure individual attention. For more information on the program call  (706)-389-2915 or email

For more information of the Great American Smokeout, go to

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The Editorial Team at Lake Oconee Health is made up of skilled health and wellness writers and experts, led by Daniel Casciato who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We aim to provide our readers with valuable insights and guidance to help them lead healthier and happier lives.