When I was growing up everyone smoked, it was the normal thing to do and part of our way of life, so I started smoking when I was 13 years old. My mum was a heavy smoker too for a long time, however, that was until she was diagnosed with cancer and this gave her the motivation to quit. I should have quit then too; when I was younger my mum would always say that I would never stop smoking because I enjoyed it too much, which was true. I think at my worst I was smoking 50 cigarettes a day, but eventually, I knew I had to make a change.
In the past I have tried to quit smoking before, altogether about four times, I think. My first two attempts where a few years ago, but I realise now that I wasn’t ready to quit back then. I was still going out drinking on Saturday nights and when I had a drink, I would always need a cigarette too, one came with the other. Then last year I managed to stop smoking for six months before I gave up. I suffer from various disabilities and because of this I’m in a lot of pain, I just couldn’t take the pain anymore and I needed the cigarettes to cope. I found it was unbearable, so I started smoking again. Looking back, this was the worse decision I could have made, and I have regretted this ever since.
However, now I’m more determined, learning from my past mistakes I know what I need to do to succeed this time around. Besides my health, what really drove me to stop smoking was the anxiety about contracting Covid-19. In February when this all started, I was really scared, and I researched the effects of Coronavirus to those with pre-existing health conditions. Among other things, I have diabetes and a bad chest, so I knew if I didn’t stop smoking the virus would kill me; this fuelled me to quit but I knew I couldn’t do it alone.
I reached out to Smokefree Hull who had been very helpful and supportive in my previous quit attempts. I was worried the services wouldn’t be open due to the virus and lockdown procedures, but I needn’t have worried, I got an appointment to speak to a Smokefree Advisor, Shaneen, and she put me on the programme straight away. It was so reassuring to know that I could get the help that I needed in such a difficult time. I think it’s brilliant that they were still able to help people like me during lockdown.
Shaneen prescribed me with the mouth spray and the nicotine patches as my Nicotine Replacement Therapy, as well as weekly telephone support. I have found this invaluable in my recovery, and now that I have been using them for a few weeks, I’m going longer and longer each time without needing them. The taste of the spray isn’t very nice, so it puts me off using it very often, which in turn helps me to be less dependent on it too. I always use to smoke after food, so now I occasionally have my spray after food as well to keep up with my daily routine and I find this helps with my cravings. I know I’m putting on weight with substituting cigarettes for food, but I’d rather be healthier, so I don’t mind.
When you stop smoking you realise how horrible the smell is. My kids smoke and I send them to the bottom of the garden if they want to have a cigarette, so I’m not around the smell. When I’ve relapsed before, the taste and smell were horrible, but I wanted the nicotine that badly that I pushed through the bad taste anyway. This time I’m clinging to the thought that it’s terrible and I say to myself don’t go there again, which is working for me!
My lifestyle has improved so much since I stopped smoking in March, I can finally breathe again! I am gobsmacked how quickly my chest feels so much better, and family and friends have commented on how much healthier I sound in my chest. I feel the difference already only after stopping for a few weeks, so it gives me the encouragement to continue. This time I know I’ll succeed; I know my own downfalls now and I know what I need to do to make it permanent.
Whilst helping myself get better I also wanted to help others around me during the pandemic. Due to my health conditions, I have been isolating at home because of the virus, and I have an old sewing machine which I haven’t used in years, so I decided to keep busy and make some masks for the NHS staff. I used the money I would have spent on cigarettes for the materials for the masks; right now I would rather see the money used for something good than my need for a cigarette which shows how far I’ve come. I have also been buying myself some bits for the garden, I wanted some nice lanterns which are £10 each, and so I decided to treat myself. Now every time I see the lanterns, I think that’s another day without smoking, and it lifts me up to carry on, one day at a time.
The Smokefree service has been a huge support for me, combined with my weekly call with Advisor Shaneen and the mouth spray, I feel I can do it this time. Shaneen has been great, she’s really relaxed and easy to talk to, and I feel like I know her as a friend. Before lockdown I liked the CO2 machines too, although this has stopped due to Covid-19, but they were great to give you a little boost of confidence to know that you’re on the right track. It’s been hard with everything going on due to the virus, but Shaneen has been very understanding and I enjoy the calls we have together. She’ll always text me to remind me about our session, and I come to look forward to her calls now.
If I didn’t have this level of support, it would have been very difficult for me to quit. Before the virus, I didn’t really enjoy the clinic set up, I knew someone in the group and I didn’t want to speak in front of them or for them to know my business; that’s why I think the one to one calls are great! I can build up a good relationship, and due to my disabilities, it’s easier talking on the phone rather than getting on a bus to attend the clinic.
I want others to learn from my mistakes, I have regretted relapsing in the past and I try and remind myself to stay strong and that it’s just not worth it in the end! If you’re thinking of stopping smoking, I would recommend getting in touch with the Smokefree team, it’s like talking to a friend and you’ll feel so much better even after a few weeks. What I find helps me is going for a long walk; taking a bath; gardening; sewing; or anything that you enjoy doing to keep you busy.
I have now been smokefree for 10 weeks and I could not be happier! The Smokefree team and their support has been brilliant!