Jeffrey “JD” Dotson stood outside on an early Saturday morning, smoking a cigarette with a friend as they watched hundreds of runners pass by.
Dotson inhaled as he stared, unable to take his eyes off of the men, women and children participating in the 2007 Kentucky Derby Festival’s miniMarathon Marathon. “I’d love to do that,” he admitted. His acquaintance snickered and said, “There’s no way you can do that.” There, in that moment, Dotson decided he’d prove his pal wrong and run a marathon, though he knew it wouldn’t be easy.
“It’s funny how smoking is incorporated in every aspect of your life,” said Dotson, now 42. “I associated it with so many things.”
Dotson tried his first cigarette when he was 15. He became a “full-on smoker” at 19 when he was legally old enough to buy them, even though he also continued to be physically active and workout. The addiction manifested as a “constant thing in my life,” he said. “I spent most of my adulthood as a smoker.”
Dotson tried to convince himself to quit on numerous times, particularly when he looked at photographs of himself and saw that despite his frequent workouts, he’d begun to look “puffy” and tired.
“I tried so many different ways to quit, but I always fell back into it,” said Dotson. It didn’t help that each time he tried to quit and failed, he’d unleash a barrage of internal attacks on himself. “I totally beat myself up,” he recalled.
But after watching the pack of runners pass by, Regalo – a boutique he co-owns with his partner, Jon Freels, and sister, Laura Applegate – on that morning several years ago, Dotson felt a new sense of resolve as he listened to his doubting friend. “I knew if I could run a marathon, I could quit smoking for good,” he said. “It was time for a change and at some point you just have to quit making excuses and just do it.”
He quit smoking and began running right away while dealing with the cravings and emotions. “It’s an addiction, and I was a wreck,” he said. “I was angry and negative, and I know I wasn’t any fun to be around.”
But Dotson stuck to his commitment anyway, even though night after night, he dreamt about smoking, sometimes so vividly he’d awaken from a dream utterly disappointed in himself before realizing with relief he was still cigarette-free.
He joined a running group at the Downtown YMCA and built up his strength as he changed how he identified himself, from rehabbed former smoker to runner. “It took a while, but I’m not the same person. I’m better,” he said.
Ready to run a marathon, Dotson applied to run the New York City marathon, which is chosen by a lottery system. “I knew chances were I wouldn’t be picked,” he said.
Dotson was beyond jubilant when he learned “I won the lottery” and would lace up alongside thousands of others for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon. “I’m not fast, but I did it – and I’m not a smoker anymore,” he said.
Dotson continues to run and beat the abysmal failure rate (85 to 95 percent) for those who try to quit smoking. In 2011, the talented artist has vowed to do something creative every day and work less. He’s also looking for his next athletic endeavor. “I think it’s just about challenging yourself and not taking “˜no’ for an answer,” he said, before grinning. “And I guess maybe I’m waiting for someone to tell me I can’t do it.”
We asked several readers of The Voice-Tribune to share their secrets for keeping resolutions made on New Year’s Eve or any other time. Here’s what they said about staying committed when you resolve to change your life.
De-Mond Beasley: “(I found) a new me mentally, physically and emotionally all because I stopped saying wait until tomorrow.”
Merv Huber: “One commitment at a time! Don’t try to do everything at once.”
Nancy Ellegood Lewis: “Only you can decide to commit, and it’s OK if you’re not perfect and fall off the wagon as long as you don’t beat yourself up and jump back on.”
Caroline Clark Scott:, “List your goals and make a plan, ask for help from trainers, friends, instructors; commit to staying consistent and make it a lifestyle change. Include your family for extra accountability.”
Cheryl Jaggers: “Have your friends be aware and ask them to support you daily. Facebook makes that easy by reaching multiple friends at once.”
Dan Blanchard: “The new year won’t feel “˜new’ for very long. Don’t just wish each other a Happy New Year., Promise and purpose and plan for it to be a new and improved year.”
Tafe Bellangere: “www.StickK.com. Genius.”
Ashley Paige Schaffner: “There’s an app for that. No seriously, there’s a (smart phone application) for just about everything, including helping folks keep their New Year resolutions.”
Category: The Profile
About the Author (Author Profile)
Angie Fenton is Managing Editor of The Voice-Tribune, a Blue Equity company. She is also an entertainment correspondent for WHAS11′s new morning show, “Great Day Live!”, which debuted August 22 on Louisville’s ABC affiliate. Additionally, Angie is an entertainment correspondent for the Saturday Morning Show with Ron ‘n’ Mel Fisher on 84WHAS (840 AM) and has served in the same capacity for Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks; Breeders’ Cup; and Circuit of the Americas during the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix in November 2012. Angie also serves as an emcee, host, voiceover professional and on-camera commercial talent.
Angie has a bachelor’s and master’s in English from Central Michigan University and began her career as an adjunct professor at her alma mater. She is the youngest of five — four of whom were adopted, including Angie, and none of whom are biologically related. She is also a Michigan native who moved to Kentucky in June 2002. Angie is owned by two dogs — Herbie and Yoda — and feels lucky to have loved and been loved by many more, including Pooch, Jessie, Onyx, Jack and Big Bud, who took his last breath on Christmas Day 2012.