Gary’s Smokefree Journey

I joined the army when I was 17 years old, and this is roughly when I started smoking too, as it was the thing to do back then. I didn’t want to smoke, but when you’re young you just get swept up with it all and you don’t really think about it and then it kept on going from there until I was 47 years old.

The biggest reason for stopping smoking for me, was when I saw the look on my four-year-old son’s face when he caught me smoking for the first time. I would never smoke around him or in the house, so he had not seen me before and it really shocked him. He had learnt about smoking at school, that it was bad, and he was really puzzled seeing me with a cigarette, this sight alone brought it home to me.

I stopped a few times over the years, possibly 3-4, but I always went back to it somehow. The most recent time was when I’d been smokefree for three years, but then I got divorced which was a stressful time for me, and I started smoking again. This was the worst decision I could have made, as I started smoking 20 cigarettes a day, and it ruled my life. I couldn’t go anywhere without thinking where I would be able to have a cigarette from. I would have to plan my cigarette breaks into my day, it was such a pain going anywhere.

I wanted my life back, to not be under the cigarette’s control anymore. I knew smoking cessation services existed, so I googled one for my local area and Newcastle Stop Smoking Service came up.  At my first appointment with my Stop Smoking Advisor, we went through the different nicotine replacement therapies I could use and eventually I started on a combination of the inhaler and the nicotine patches. Throughout the treatment, I used about 5% of the inhaler, as it gave me bad heartburn, but the patches worked wonders. I didn’t get any side effects at all, and I always forgot I had them on, it felt so natural and I wasn’t counting down the hours until I could get another one on my arm. I tried Champix in the past, but I had horrible side effects, but I know they work for others, it’s about finding what’s best for you.

The only thing that made it harder for me, was Covid-19. Due to the pandemic, there has been a lot of worry about health in general, as well as job security which impacted my own health. Stress was always a trigger for me, and I used to always rely on smoking to calm my anxieties before. However, I didn’t cheat once and now I’m four months’ smokefree!

My lifestyle has improved due to stopping smoking, it has so many health and financial benefits. I’ve never seen so much money in my bank! It’s the first time I’m able to save in a long time, and I don’t see my money dwindling due to buying cigarettes. When you’re spending £10 a day on a package of fags, it soon adds up!

The money I saved I was able to buy an electronic bike, so I can commute to work more efficiently. If I were still smoking, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it, but within 4 months I have saved £1000, and that’s my reward. It’s good exercise for me too, and it’s much better getting out in the fresh air.

I’ve put on 2 stone in lockdown, but that’s to be expected when you stop smoking, as now I can actually taste food, it all tastes so much better! However, with the help of the bike, I will be able to do something about it and my energy levels are really good. I’ve challenged myself in lockdown, to do 100 press-ups each day, which I’m doing really well at so far and it gives me a focus. If I were still smoking, I wouldn’t have been able to manage this, as it would have interrupted my ‘smoking-time’. I was always thinking about my next cigarette, even when I went food shopping, I would have to check where the exits where, so I knew where I could have a cigarette before going into the building.

The weekly texts from the Newcastle Stop Smoking Service were useful during lockdown. I had one visit at the clinic before things started to shut down, and we couldn’t have the 1-2-1 meetings anymore, so it was helpful to know the support was still available when I needed it over the phone. The service was very accommodating too, as I travel with my job, so it wasn’t always possible for me to get to a pharmacy to collect my prescription. They let me have a few weeks in advance to fit around my work schedule which I really appreciated. I never went a day without my prescription, they were really on the ball!

I would recommend the service if you’re wanting to stop smoking. The support at Newcastle Stop Smoking Service was very helpful, and I would highly recommend the patches as your NRT choice. My family and friends have all been so supportive too, especially my fiancé. She managed to quit smoking three years ago, cold turkey, so she is really impressed and supportive about my own quit journey. We now have a smokefree home, which is all I can ask for, for the good of my son. 

Just give it a shot, you won’t regret it! It is tough, but it is so rewarding too, financially and for your health and wellbeing. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it does get easier, so it is well worth it in the end!


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