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So Much Guilt Because of COPD

Last updated: August 2023

Editor's Note: This article addresses the topic of smoking, which has the potential to evoke strong emotions.

I feel guilty about so many things regarding my COPD.

I feel guilty that I caused most of my COPD by smoking. I started so young. I was 14 the first time that I picked up a cigarette.

A journey to quitting

I was with my sister and cousin and smoked with them, and we thought we were the stuff. Both my parents had smoked, and I thought it looked so cool and glamorous.

My mom quit smoking when I was still fairly young, but my dad smoked until he was around 60. I smoked on and off until I was 16. I mostly stole cigarettes from my dad or aunt, who lived with us. I would steal a few here and there or steal a pack from time to time.

My dad always kept his cartons in the fridge and smoked so much that I think he just thought he had smoked them and didn't realize I had taken them. I didn’t smoke regularly or before my parents, until I was 16.

My mom had found a pack of my smokes. She told me that I could not smoke in front of her until I had a job and was buying cigarettes myself. I went out and got a job the next day. From that time on, I smoked In front of my parents. My mom was always mad at herself for telling me that.

Later in life, she told me, “Why didn't I just tell you that you couldn't smoke and that you couldn't smoke around me?".

She said she always felt so guilty about that.

I also feel guilty that I smoked during some of my pregnancies and smoked in the house and inside the cars with my kids. As they got older and I knew how bad the effects of smoking were for them, we started to smoke outside until I finally quit smoking in 2010, three months before I found out about my Alpha-1 and COPD diagnosis.

Empowering prevention

With my Alpha-1 diagnosis, I felt so guilty about passing that on to my kids. The thought of one of my kids getting COPD from having Alpha-1 haunts me‌.

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1) is a genetic (inherited) condition passed from parents to their children through their genes. Alpha-1 may result in serious lung disease in adults and/or liver disease at any age.

There is nothing that I can do to change the fact that they are deficient in Alpha-1 protein. The only thing I can do, and have done, is to educate them on the seriousness of this rare genetic disease by discussing the importance of eating healthy, not smoking or vaping, and staying away from harmful chemicals and cleaners, including scented candles, plug-ins, etc.

It's important to work out regularly and limit how much alcohol you drink. If you drink alcohol, you should only do it rarely and in moderation.

By following these suggestions, people can help keep their lungs and livers healthy, lowering their chances of getting pneumonia, cirrhosis of the liver, or other Alpha-1 related health problems.

Managing Alpha-1

If I could go back in time, I would love to have never smoked. I know my lungs would not be as bad as they are today. Smoking just exacerbated it.

I can’t change any of that, but I must concentrate on the important things now: trying to stay as healthy as possible, trying to educate and advocate for others, and doing what I can to spread awareness about COPD and Alpha1.

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