This post was originally posted for Stoptober, the annual NHS campaign to help people who want to stop smoking in the UK. Of course, just as many people try to quit as part of their new year goals and resolutions, on World Asthma Day or often after a bad cold or flu.
I’d like to share my smoking history, my tips and success story at finally being able to give up smoking. The NHS provide access to online and in-person support networks and information on the alternatives to smoking if you feel need extra help.
I had been a smoker for the best part of 25-30 years and had unsuccessfully quit and restarted so many times during that period. On 19th October 2014, I gave up for good.
MY SMOKING HISTORY
I will start with the shocking story of how I started smoking in the first place. I am 51 now and things were very different when I was a child. At the very impressionable age of 9, (yes I’m very ashamed to admit it 9!) I had a friend called Alison who was a few years older than me. All the local kids hung around together irrespective of age. In some ways, they were simpler times when children would go out to play with their friends in the morning and only return home when they were hungry. Most pastimes were sports and play orientated at the park.
One day my friend Alison suggested that we pool our 10p sweet money together and buy 10 cigarettes from the machine outside the corner shop. Yes, it was only 20p for a pack of 10 No6 or No10 fags. She had taken some of her mum’s cooking matches to light them with. I don’t remember how it made me feel or why I said yes but we went and sat in the tree in the churchyard and chain-smoked 5 cigarettes each! Sadly, that was the start of the slippery slope.
I don’t remember how long that period lasted for but I smoked through senior school. I had a part-time job but many friends would use their dinner money to fund their smoking habits. I’m sure it is the same scenario with teenagers now. I continued all through college until I was around 20. I had met my husband by then and he was a non-smoker. He never pressured me but I always felt I should give up for him. I gave up after a nasty cold and that cessation lasted around 1½ years before I started again.
I then smoked for a couple more years, constantly trying and failing to give up. Again, I wanted to do it for my husband, not for me. I enjoyed smoking. I was in the mindset that when your time is up it’s up. Smoking wasn’t going to kill me. I knew of plenty of people who had died of cancer that didn’t smoke and plenty of old-aged smokers. Well that’s what we all tell ourselves, isn’t it?
Eventually, I gave up properly and then when children came along I thought that there was no way I was ever going to smoke again. That lasted for 12 years but the craving never stopped. I still missed it even though it smelt awful on people who did smoke. On one particularly stressful day with the children, I asked my smoker friend for just one drag to calm me down. God, it felt good and that one drag turned into one fag then one packet until I was back to smoking again and had to admit it to my family as I could no longer hide it. The addiction had taken back over and I wanted to smoke all the time again. I really felt ashamed of myself for letting it take over again.
Rest assured I never smoked around my children. I always went out into the garden and even then, I kept it hidden from them for a couple of years. And so, the pattern started all over again of me giving up for a few weeks or months or even a year and a half, after a bout of pneumonia. But each time I went back to it.
The final push came when I went to see my doctor as I had a persistent cough that had got worse and not cleared for months. I was also coughing up a lot of nasty green yellow gunk every day. It was quite scary. I wondered if I had asthma (yep the denial, blame it on something else) but I can still remember those fateful words from my doctor “Actually I think you have COPD!” which is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – yes it sounds serious doesn’t it?
I was totally shocked, it couldn’t happen to me. That night I’d already planned on going out with friends to a gig. I was very upset and shocked by the news so I had a couple of drinks and my last couple of smokes, then threw away all my smoking paraphernalia and stopped COLD TURKEY!
The outcome. I was borderline COPD and after many tests and treatments, I’m now classed as asthmatic. I still suffer with my breathing and chest and can cough for many months at a time. The damage has been done but at least I’ve stopped it getting worse and moved off that borderline point. Do I wish I’d never started? God yes! This time I know that I will never ever smoke again. I don’t crave it and even just being near cigarette smoke makes me cough.
I’d tried lots of things previously but to be honest, the reason I gave up is because I had to, and then I wanted to. Unless you really want to give up for YOU, you will find any excuse to start smoking again. Smoking doesn’t keep you calm, it doesn’t relax you. You need to find alternative methods of stress relief and relaxation techniques.
Here are a few things that helped along the way on different occasions:
* Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking (book and audio) has some useful thoughts.
* I changed over to roll-ups which I made smaller and smaller bit by bit so that I wasn’t smoking so much tobacco and reducing my nicotine intact (my mates called them prison fags).
* If you decide to cut down first and commit to say 3 a day, you need to stick to it. You can’t say “oh one more today but one less tomorrow” because it will just creep back up again and you’ll be back to your normal amount in no time. Cutting down does help reduce cravings when you finally stop but it does put you under a lot of pressure. Decide which option to take. Withdrawal only lasted about 2 weeks for me from smoking 7-10 superkings a day (I had headaches and stomach cramps). I didn’t get any withdrawal symptoms when I stopped from 3 mini roll-ups a day.
* Change your smoking habits. I found it easier to stop drinking alcohol as when I drank I wanted to smoke more. I also particularly enjoyed a smoke after a meal with a cup of tea, so I started to drink water to stop that association.
* When you crave one, go for a walk, even if it’s up and down stairs for 5 mins, the craving will pass.
* If you want a cigarette because you are stressed, or just need that 5 minutes timeout that your smoking gave you, go and sit in your garden for 5 minutes and just deep breathe. It will be far more effective than breathing in smoke and chemicals.
* Tell your friends and family that you have stopped so that they won’t be so blatant smoking around you or offer you a cigarette if they smoke.
* Try and give up the same time as a friend so that you can support each other.
* Announce it on social media. Not just for any cheering on but so that you will feel foolish if you were to start again.
Please do see your local stop smoking medical professional and have a look at the official Stoptober website. If you feel you can’t do it, then bear in mind my father has just done it at the age of 76 after being diagnosed with laryngeal cancer following numerous attempts over the years. If you have recently stopped or are thinking of stopping then I wish you good luck and strength to see it through. I hope this might give you some food for thought and maybe some support. In the end, though remember you need to WANT to do it for YOU! It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.
Has anyone else successfully given up? How long for? Are you stopping for Stobtober or are you still thinking about it?
You might like to check out a couple of blogs about relaxation techniques that I’ve written in the past. They were initially written as part of a self-help series for mental illness but the principles still apply:
This post is featured as part of Blogtober 18 where bloggers from all over the world write a post each day for the entire month of October. My posts will cover all the usual Tea and Cake for the Soul subject matter such as Travel, Tips, Recipes, Craft Projects, Reviews, Interviews, and Health as well as a few surprising ones too.