Thursday, May 1, 2014

Smoking Gun: Dad Quits Cigarettes, Thanks CCSO Deputy

When Cpl. Sean Libbey took his cruiser in for service Monday, he was surprised to find out more than his oil had been changed.

A life was changed.

And Cpl. Libbey helped.

“It was nice to hear,” said the 19-year Collier County Sheriff’s Office veteran. “It was one of those good stories.”

Cpl. Libbey was signing paperwork at Tamiami Ford Quick Lane in East Naples when an employee recognized his name. Service adviser Jeff Houser told Cpl. Libbey that he had been Houser’s daughter’s DARE instructor.

“I told him to keep that program going,” recalled Houser, referring to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. “As a smoker for 22 years, my daughter got me to stop because of what he taught her.”

The DARE curriculum is designed to educate youngsters about the dangers and consequences of drug and alcohol use, while encouraging student self-esteem. About 3,000 fifth-graders go through the 10-week program each year in Collier County. Sheriff Kevin Rambosk serves on DARE America's prestigious International Law Enforcement Advisory Board and is committed to keeping the DARE curriculum in Collier schools.

Mazie Houser learned about the dangers of tobacco use through her participation in the DARE program at Vineyards Elementary School, where Cpl. Libbey was assigned as a sheriff’s youth relations deputy.
“We don’t pull any punches when it comes to tobacco use; it’s in-your-face information,” said Cpl. Libbey, a DARE instructor for 13 years now assigned to Estates Elementary School. “We really drive home the message that if you know someone who smokes, you want them to quit. You want them to be there when you graduate, when you get married . . . to see all of these great things that may happen to you.”

Mazie took that message to heart. Every day for five months straight she urged her father, a former firefighter, to quit.

“I really wanted him to stop,” she said. “I didn’t want him to die from lung cancer, lung disease or heart disease.”

The turning point came when Houser, 41, said he returned from a smoke break to find his daughter alone in a room crying.

“She said she’d rather have a grumpy dad than no dad at all,” Houser recalled. “That’s when it hit me.”

Houser told his daughter he would try to quit, but needed her help. He came up with a plan in which he would cut his three-quarters-of-a-pack-a-day habit by half each week for five weeks. 

Mazie held her father accountable, monitoring the number of cigarettes he smoked each day.

“It got to the point where I didn’t smoke at work,” Houser said.

At the end of five weeks Houser was done with cigarettes.

That was a year and a half ago.

Since giving up smoking Houser said he has “renewed energy” and feels “a lot better.”
Mazie, now 11 and a sixth-grader at North Naples Middle School, has noticed a difference too. She said her dad used to spend a lot of time sitting in his recliner watching TV. Now he spends his free time outside with her and her 9-year-old brother playing baseball and doing other fun activities with them.

Houser said he’s proof the DARE program makes a difference.

“Just keep up the great work,” he said. “Even if it helps only one person, the program is worth it.” 

Cpl. Libby said his routine trip for an oil change won’t be one he forgets. 

“It was nice to hear that we are not only helping the kids but parents too,” he said.