Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Stoptober - stop smoking now - I dare you

1,362 days. 

As I write this, that is the number of days since my last cigarette. After 10 years of chugging on 20-30 Golden Virginia roll-ups a day, not being able to go more than an hour without one, coughing and wheezing my way up the stairs and dreading the thought of any exercise in case I got out of breath  - I finally broke free.

It's 1st October, which means the beginning of Stoptober. This is an opportunity for you, if you're a smoker wanting to break free, to give it a bloody good go.

Give it everything you've got, don't hold back - for 28 days, I dare you.



That's it. If you can do it for one month, you can do it forever.

You have to want to do it though. So many times I 'tried' because I knew I had to but didn't really want to. Then one day, I did. And it was the best thing I've ever done. It changed my life, and it'll change yours too.

I'm about to bore you with my story so if you're not currently or have never been a smoker I'd probably head over to something more interesting like this or this.


The darkest depths of the ashtray 


It was Christmas 2010 and we were at Chris' mum and dad's house in Limoges. We had to keep going outside for a fag and it was freezing cold and annoying - we were so used to just lighting up in the house wherever we were - in bed, on the sofa, at the dinner table, riding our bikes around town.

We knew we should stop but never really put the effort in for long enough. I'd been smoking for 10 years and was a much more dependent smoker than Chris - he could smoke 20 one day and have nothing for the next two. I couldn't go more than an hour without one and when I ran out and had no money I used to re-roll used fag butts from the ashtray. I called it going to Butlins.

Occasionally I'd treat myself to a pack of 20 if we were on a night out.

Pissed in Prague - 18 years old.
Literally no idea why we had a massive kitchen knife, think we were cutting lemons behind the youth hostel bar. 

One hell of a wake up call


The proper wakeup call for me came in my last year of university, in the final weeks leading up to my dissertation deadline. I was well behind and had been feeling proper shit for a good while, but put it down to being really unhealthy, drinking and smoking loads, eating crap, working and studying hard.

What started with a general but progressive lack of energy quickly turned into terrifying breathlessness, dizziness and severe anaemia - after multiple misdiagnoses (one doctor sent me away with cough medicine), and bodged blood transfusions which gave me massive bruising,  I was finally admitted to a specialist unit in the early hours of my 21st birthday when I started coughing up blood.


I spent two weeks in hospital enduring very traumatic and invasive treatment for Goodpastures syndrome - and was forced to give up smoking, much to my dismay. I didn't want to quit, I had to. I couldn't breathe walking to the kitchen let alone sucking on a roll up, but I carried on smoking right up until that day though - even though I was literally coughing my lungs up as soon as I lit up.

I'm telling you this to set the scene a bit - I'm not proud of this, it's just the way it was. 

The doctors said they couldn't be sure of the cause of the Goodpastures. It's a really rare disease and not much research has been done on it, but they did know that smoking has been named as one of the triggers.


Getting back on it 


My recovery took about six to eight months, and during that time I was completely smoke free. I started to do a bit of exercise, joined a gym, went swimming and rode my bike around town. I felt great, but something was missing.

I didn't want to quit smoking. It was forced upon me. I wanted to go out with my uni friends again, get drunk and sit around smoking and laughing together.

Stop smoking - nhs quit smoking

My first cigarette since going into hospital eight months previously was outside a club in my hometown with my best mate.

It was the BEST BLOODY FAG I'd ever had, and it was a (gradual) downward spiral from there onwards. Within a few months I was right back to square one, lying to my loved ones and sneaking out for crafty tokes before finally 'coming out' as a smoker again, much to everyone's disgust and worry that the Goodpastures would come back.

I knew it was stupid, but I couldn't stop. I wanted to be myself again.


Letting go for good 


I didn't try to quit again until that Christmas at Chris' mum and dad's. We decided that when we got back home we'd go down to the smoking clinic at the doctors and give it a proper go. I honestly didn't think we'd really do it, but Chris was adamant so I decided to see how it went.

The smoking clinic was a revolution - I dunno why I'd never asked for support before. Each week we had a one-on-one appointment with the nurse, and talked it through, chose the treatment method (nicotine replacement, cold turkey, Champix - electric cigarettes didn't exist at the time), checked our carbon monoxide levels to see if we'd smoked.

We were assured that if we had, it was not a reason to give up quitting, but merely a blip in the process.

NHS Stop Smoking Clinic

Chris went cold turkey (the jammy bastard), while I knew that nicotine replacement in the way of patches, gum or an inhalator just wasn't gonna cut it, so I went for Champix, which at the time was a new medicine to help reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and reduce cravings and enjoyment of smoking. It's been around a few years now and has helped many people successfully quit smoking.

It is by no means a magic wand though - you have to want to quit and still put a lot of effort into doing so.

Quit smoking - stop smoking

The support was just amazing, and completely free apart from the weekly prescription cost. A fraction of the £20-£30 a week I was spending on feeding my habit.

We were given a Quit Kit with help, information and resources on what to expect from the journey ahead, free email and text support and were never made to feel rushed in the weekly appointments. I took full advantage of the text support and let the nurse know when I'd had a tough day or felt particularly stressed or tempted to give in.

Find your local Stop Smoking Clinic here.


Never stop quitting


I'll never look back. I know I can never have another cigarette as long as I live, and I'm completely OK with that. Obviously I can only speak for myself, but I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person. I can't faff about having 'one or two' with a beer as I know I'd get right back on it.

I don't want to smoke ever again, I've got too much to lose. It was the best thing I ever did for my health and I'm glad I did it on my terms, when I was ready, instead of when I was ill, even though it was stupid to start up again.

If you're thinking about quitting, have tried before (or not), and are serious about breaking free, just give it everything you've got. Try your absolute hardest, stay true to yourself and get down to your local Stop Smoking Clinic to get the right support.

I promise you, once you've done it you'll feel invincible.

Do it today. Do it now. Do it forever. 
I dare you. 


Find out more about the support available and sign up to Stoptober to
 start your journey to a happier, healthier you. 


Have you quit smoking or have you tried before? How did you do it, and how do you feel about smoking now?  

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