Sheelagh’s Story

I started smoking when I was very young, 14 years old I think, and I smoked on and off all through school. It was not many to start with, I would club together with a few of my friends and we would buy a packet together. Smoking was always a social thing for me, something to do with my friends, and when I got older, I would smoke when we went out drinking too. This was the first thing I did when I entered a pub, I would head over to the bar and have a cigarette so that I had something to do with my hands. It was a confidence thing, like a security blanket whilst I waited for my friends to arrive.

Smoking was then a part of my daily life; I work in the hospital and I would smoke before and after my shift. This was because I didn’t want to stand out in the rain or have to get changed from my scrubs to bother smoking during the day. However, this then meant that when I got home I’d smoke throughout the evening, in a short space of time, sometimes 20 a day, but some of them would burn out and I’d have to light up again.

And every time I had a phone call, I would have to wait and get a cigarette first before starting the conversation, as to me smoking and chatting with friends went hand in hand.

I stopped a few times, approximately 10 over the years, but I wasn’t successful.  When I was pregnant, I would stop smoking, but somehow, I always drifted back and started again. I was desperate for a cigarette still each time. It was more common those days when you went out drinking you always had a smoke too. I used to think, if I’m getting second-hand smoke anyway, I might as well have the actual cigarette (this was back when smoking was fine in pubs). All my friends smoked, so it was just the natural part of us hanging out together.

I remember the last time I seriously tried to quit, I felt so left out from my friends. They would go outside to smoke, and I’d be left behind. So, I started going outside with them, and that was it – it was so easy to start again.

This time is different though - my motivations for quitting are purely financial. I realised my money could be spent elsewhere. I could see my money in my bank account going down, and I thought to myself, “if I carry on smoking, I’ll never be able to go on holiday or do other things”.  I worked it out that as I was smoking 20 cigarettes a day, at £10 a packet, that I was spending nearly £100 a week on cigarettes. I also employ a cleaner to come once a week, which is £30, and that cost combined with smoking took all my extra cash. I thought one has to go, and I wouldn’t give up my cleaner!

I heard about the Newcastle Stop Smoking service through the grapevine. I work at the General Hospital in the operating theatre, and I knew there were groups to help people. I was living at Gateshead at the time, so I was with another service initially and I was using patches, but these didn’t work out. I was then advised to go to a clinic, so when I moved to Newcastle I reached out to the service and they went through the other treatments with me. I initially went to the face to face appointments, but this changed when we went into lockdown and then I had prescriptions through the post and the telephone support.

I started using Champix when I went to the Newcastle Stop Smoking service, and my 12-week treatment finished whilst I was in lockdown. The Champix disturbed my sleep, so I went down from two tablets to one tablet a day.  I also realised that I had to eat before I took them too, otherwise I felt sick, but I still thought these worked better for me than the patches.

If I ever had any cravings, I would always snack to help. Normally when I needed a cigarette, I would get a biscuit instead - which hasn’t helped in pilling on the weight, but I’d still rather be doing that than smoking.

Due to stopping smoking, I have managed to redecorate my entire house and buy lots of new furniture.  The house now smells and feels so much fresher, it’s a constant reminder of what I have achieved, which is a great feeling.  I was always quite healthy anyway, and I never experienced many smoking coughs, but it was still damaging my health, so I know it’s helped me in the long run with regards to my health and wellbeing too.

I’m a key worker, and I’ve been working 2 days a week still in lockdown, so my day to day work hasn’t really changed, but what has helped in lockdown is not having the opportunity to go to the pub, which has shown in my bank balance and helped keep me on track with stopping smoking too.

The Newcastle Stop Smoking Service has been helpful, and I really enjoyed the fortnightly calls and the conversations that I had with the Advisors. They always praised me for my hard work and gave me good information to keep me motivated. I always had my appointment before or after work, and it was just nice having a conversation with someone else, someone who genuinely cared about my progress.

Going through the 12-week programme is the best thing you could possibly do if you’re wanting to stop smoking. The service is excellent, and I think that it is really needed in the UK at the moment. People should not be put off by going, out of fear of failure. There is no judgement from the Advisors, even if you don’t do well, you can always go back and try again, they’re really supportive.

The Advisors are knowledgeable about helping you quit, and it’s reassuring to talk to someone and get that ‘pat on the back’ that we all need sometimes. The service is very engaging, and they want you to succeed, none of my friends even mentioned it, so it was nice knowing that someone was there for me.

Just remember the benefits of stopping smoking far out-way the actual smoking and you could be smokefree too!


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