Stoptober – How I Successfully Gave Up Smoking – 9 Tips for You!

Stoptober is the annual NHS campaign to help people who want to stop smoking in the UK. They provide access to online and in-person support networks and information on the alternatives to smoking.

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. Today I will share my smoking story and my tips to help you give up. 

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.

piles of cigarette butts
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.

cigarette butts on the floor
photo by Sera Cocora

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.

MY TIPS

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.

cigarette butts and ash
photo by Basil Mk

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:

Tai Chi and Qi Gong
Meditation and Relaxation

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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.

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39 thoughts on “Stoptober – How I Successfully Gave Up Smoking – 9 Tips for You!

  1. I quit the week before my hysterectomy, when my mother died a few days after a hip replacement from a pulmonary embolism caused by her COPD and her surgery. I watched her play games for years, smoking behind her husband’s back with total disregard for her own life. I was determined not to follow in her footsteps. The only problem is, I used a vape pen as a replacement and while I haven’t had any with nicotine in a long time, I can’t seem to completely kick using it. I’m going to have to just bite the bullet and go cold turkey. I worry about how it may be affecting my lungs. Not a good choice of quitting method, even if it did work to get me free of nicotine!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Firstly sorry for the loss of your mother. It really does show how powerful the drug is. Well done on quitting the nicotine. Once your head is in the right place cold turkey is the way to go but you really need to want to do it for yourself. Good luck, please keep me posted.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done for quitting, my husband stopped for about 5 years when we had our third child and then he started again, he has copd and I keep asking hi to stop, but I know it is no good me keep asking because he needs to want to give up, and until that point I’m wasting my breath!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well done, I have given up twice before, each of those times for 2 years. 1st was for my partner at the time as he didn’t smoke. The day we split I had a fag. I think gave up before IVF treatment and after it failed temptation got hold of me and again I started smoking again. Today I am 6 days in and I don’t even miss smoking. I am vaping right now and it has really helped me. Not had any cravings for about 3 days now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s incredible you started smoking at 9 – but as you said, that’s such an impressionable age so I don’t think it’s that uncommon. When I started secondary school at age 11, I knew several kids in my class who were already somewhat seasoned smokers. I can’t believe how much your smoking affected you – almost having COPD. It’s absolutely fantastic that you stopped smoking like you did. My dad was a prolific smoker and gave up cold turkey when he got bad health news too – many sometimes that’s just what it takes? I have heard that not smoking for several years can undo some of the harm and things can start to repair – is that true? Wishing you health and happiness dude ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Like you I started quote young, and intermittently tried to give up. I finally did it when I became pregnant with my first child – I literally had a fag while I was waiting for the test to work as I knew it could be my last. And it was, my last ever one. I hate smoking now and am so grateful my son doesn’t smoke. Times have changed and it’s much less sociable than it used to be. Well done for giving up!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 9?? oh my god, but you know what? if you knew that time that it was so bad you would not even try it, well done you! I am so proud of you managed to finally give up! I hope one day I will be able to share my story as well as I have been trying to give up for some time now!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! A fabuloys account of your journey with really useful tips to help anyone trying to give up. But on a humorous note even though I have never smoked school friends always smoked the dreaded No 6! A blast from the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well done for quitting!
    I started smoking when I was about 11 years old and many a time my friends and I would use out dinner money to buy cigarettes. I have stopped and started over the years but now I use an electronic cigarette. It’s not perfect but way better than real cigarettes x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I stopped smoking 15 years ago when I was told it would increase my chances of getting pregnant by 50%. I was approaching 40 and desperate for a child with my new partner. I threw everything away and used Allan Carr’s method. It wasn’t easy but after a few weeks it got easier. I’ve never looked back and I’m so glad I stopped. I had 3 children!
    Well done on stopping, it’s always difficult, but so worth it.
    Stopping smoking is one of the only things that no-one can win an argument with me about. There is absolutely no reason on this earth that anyone should smoke and no argument anyone can present for smoking.
    #blogtober18

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow, what a thoroughly interesting read. I am so glad you managed to kick the habit before your health got too bad! What you say about it “not happening to me” is what my mum keeps saying about her smoking habits, shes a bit older than you and still smokes, she also started smoking at a similar age to you too. She use to light my grandparents cigarettes for them as a child. It spiralled from there.

    Think i’m going to send her your blog post… see if that will stop her. Thank you for sharing x

    Like

  11. Well done for quitting!! My Mum was a 40 a day chain smoker from the day she started smoking (at 12) until the day she died (at 64). It was a blood clot on the heart that killed her – no cancer to be found. My Dad never smoked a day in his life and died at 54 of a heart attack. He wasn’t overweight either. I have never smoked, but I sometimes wish I did when I’m stressed to the hilt and need something to calm me down haha! #blogtober18

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I stopped 9 years ago. I also did it cold turkey and it was also because of my health. I developed a blood clot in my leg that broke up into smaller clots and travelled to my lungs. It’s called pulmonary embolism and I had to be rushed to the hospital. I was in for 10 days and on the first day there I decided I’d never smoke again.
    My lungs were working hard to keep me alive and I couldn’t imagine making them work harder by smoking.
    My husband gave up smoking nearly 4 years ago using a vape. He’d never believed he would ever be able to give up after smoking for about 40 years but the vape was excellent for him 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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