Going Cold Turkey

| April 11, 2005

Struggling with her smoking habit wasn’t easy for retired trucker Brenda Hawkins.

Retired trucker Brenda Hawkins met with her 15 minutes of fame when she joined the cast of Cold Turkey 2, a reality show on PAX TV.

The Cold Turkey series involves its contestants going cold turkey and quitting their smoking habits. For Hawkins, this proved to be especially difficult, as she had been a smoker for 44 years when the series filmed.

Cast members were told they were going to be a part of a Survivor-like reality show, complete with mountain climbing and braving the wilderness, but after a few days of roughing it, the truth came out. Contestants on Cold Turkey 2 were then told to put down the cigarettes and kick the habit. The show can be viewed on the PAX network in April.

Hawkins, 61, a resident of Blue Springs, Mo., got into truck driving after her fourth husband Bennie – who she calls her true soul mate – told her he wanted them to hit the road together.

“Bennie told me I had two choices,” Hawkins says. “I could be a driver or be his navigator, and I did both.”

Unfortunately, Bennie passed away from lung cancer in June 2003. They had been together 13 years, 10 of which they spent on the road driving together.

Hawkins says she studied every night for the exams she had to take to get her license.

“I had no clue what a fifth wheel was,” Hawkins says. “I didn’t even know what air brakes were!”

But after a few months of coaching from Bennie, Hawkins became an expert driver. Of course, when she first started out, she missed her family.

“It was difficult to pack three or four weeks worth of conversation with my family into three or four days,” she says. “I cried all the time at first because I wanted to go home to my kids and grandkids, but it got easier when I got a cell phone.”

Hawkins has three daughters, a son, one stepson, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“Driving with Bennie was the most wonderful part of my life,” Hawkins says. “Being a truck driver was a truly wonderful life, and it helped to bring my husband and I even closer together. We were a team that worked off each other’s strengths and forgave the weaknesses.”

Hawkins says she wanted to let America know what a real truck driver is like during her time on the reality program.

“I think I represented myself quite well,” Hawkins says. “It was difficult to do the show, because I was living in total chaos. But I would just take a deep breath and concentrate on the people I met and the friendships I made during filming.”

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