Duane’s Smokefree Journey

I was like any ordinary kid and wanted to fit in with my friends, so I first tried smoking when I was 11 years old. I didn’t really like it at first, but I was in one of those groups were that’s what you did, all my friends smoked, and I wanted to impress them. The first drag knocked me for six, I felt sick and I was doubled over for 20 minutes. Then it grabs you, you don’t need to be doing it for a week, it gets you within that first day! Back when I was younger, cigarettes were cheap, you’d go halves with your friend, and it would only cost you £1.50.

I would class myself as a heavy smoker, as I was smoking tobacco, which hits you harder. Back in the day, I was a hard-core gamer, so when I was online at my PC, I would be smoking every 15 minutes, until I was having 15-23 roll-ups a day.

A big wake up call for me happened when I was 28, I woke up with a horrible pain in my chest which kept on progressing. I tried to walk to the doctors, and on the way there I collapsed in the street. When I was admitted to the hospital, they advised that I had a collapsed lung. This was almost a blessing, as whilst I was in the hospital for over two months, I didn’t smoke at all.

However, when I got out of the hospital, I didn’t have the right support network around me to continue my first real quit attempt. My brother was a huge influence in my life back then, and I looked up to him. He persuaded me to start smoking again, and through my own weakness I gave in. I thought to myself, ‘if everyone’s saying it, I might as well do it’, which is quite pathetic to me now. When I think back on it now, I’ve realised that he wasn’t thinking of my wellbeing at all, he was only thinking of himself.  

So, I moved away from my brother’s house to look after my ill father, who sadly passed away. I have a younger brother too, and when my father died, I took it upon myself to look out for him. I was always focussed on other people; it’s why I think I failed in the past with my previous attempts. I always put others first and forgot to take care of myself. Then I realised that in order to stop smoking, I needed to be selfish for a change and take care of my own health first.

Due to my collapsed lung condition, I attend the doctors every 6 months for a check-up, and it was whilst at the last appointment, that the nurse referred me to the Newcastle Stop Smoking Service. The nurse suspected I had COPD as I was breathless, and the reading on the breathaliser said I had the lung capacity of a 54-year-old! This really scared me, as I’m only 36!

I’m a painter and decorate by trade, but I’m out of work at the minute due to a bad back. My vertebrate is pushing on my spine, which causes me a lot of pain. I had surgery a few years ago, but it didn’t work. I used to use my pain as an excuse to continue smoking, I thought I didn’t have anything else going for me and I needed it to cope. I have worked all my life, so it’s been a very dark time for me not being able to get back to work, and the smoking wasn’t helping with my mental state.

Covid-19 played a part too, as due to my health conditions I was scared to leave the house. The cigarettes contributed to my feelings of stress and anxiety, and I thought to myself – either they go, or I go! That’s when I contacted the service and at my first appointment I was introduced to Rachel, my Smokefree Advisor, and we had a good conversation about my options.

I was on the drug Champix for a while, but I was still getting really bad cravings, so Rachel went through the other options with me and we switched it around, so I then started using the patches and the inhaler.

The patches have been brilliant, and I cannot recommend them enough. They don’t make you experience any cravings at all. I even bought an e-cigarette, but I hardly used it, nor the inhaler in the end, as I never felt like I needed it. Rachel was brilliant, she talked me through things, so I knew what to expect.

Since stopping smoking, my life has changed so much. My breathing has improved massively, and I just feel happier within myself. I used to see myself in the mirror and I looked really tired and rough, but now because of my lifestyle change, (I’ve also cut out coffee and drink more water), my whole appearance has changed for the better.

I don’t even fancy a cigarette when I see others smoking now either. When I’m around people who smoke, or in a taxi, when you know the driver smokes, the smell is absolutely horrible. It doesn’t make me want a cigarette at all, which is such a good feeling.

My real push was my girlfriend, she quit smoking 2 years ago with Champix, and she has been so supportive. That support was what I was missing before, so I took the opportunity and ran with it! The support from the service has been good too, not only for my own health but for my daughter’s and my girlfriend. They were really worried about my breath test when my reading came back, and they’ve been there for me every step of the way. Having the support from the service and at home means everything when you’re going through something like this.

My advice to others would be to trust your coaches, they know what they’re talking about, and the more you hear it, the more you come to believe it yourself. I found connecting with others, on forums etc, who were going through the same thing helpful too. Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one going through it, but then when you hear of all the success stories it helps you stay focused.

Your will power needs to be strong though, the service can only help you so much, and the rest is up to you. Don’t be scared to open up to your smokefree coaches if you’re struggling, there’s always another route you can take and they’re happy to talk you through this.

Altogether I tried to quit 13 times, which used to get me down after each failed attempt, but what this made me realise was that you need to go through those first quit attempts to make you stronger. Even if you stop for 2-3 days and start again, you’re one step closer to your goal. Each attempt you go longer without a cigarette and eventually you’ll get there, it’s all about progress not failure. Trust me – after 13 attempts I’ve cracked it! I’ve now been smokefree for 4 months.

I would absolutely recommend the Newcastle Stop Smoking Service; the whole team have been a godsend to me and my family. You don’t need to do it alone; the support network is fantastic. I wouldn’t have done it without Rachel, she was really helpful, and she dug her heels in for me to succeed. That’s how you know they really do care about getting you through it.

Thank you to all the team for making it happen for me, just remember you will succeed if you contact the Newcastle service!


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