"I used to joke that I came out of the womb smoking, but it’s no laughing matter. I started smoking when I was 11 years old – I wanted to be popular, and that’s what the popular kids did in my school; all the stuff you weren’t supposed to. It was classic peer pressure and to me, it was very acceptable. I grew up in a household that smoked, so it was second nature."
I smoked all the way through my teens, and every time I considered giving up in my 20s it was pressure-led. I would be challenged to give up, or there was disbelief or doubt that I could manage it. I never felt I was giving up because I wanted to, or because I could.
The biggest problem for me was, I loved smoking. I used to call it my 3rd job. I’d routinely show up and put in the time to smoke. It was my lifelong companion to those cold and frosty mornings with a cup of tea outside.
‘I smoked from dawn till dusk – when I got up, after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, every opportunity in between or any excuse to pick up a cigarette’
On my 4th attempt at giving up, I succeeded. Just over a year ago my new partners’ mum had a lung transplant, she was seriously unwell with a respiratory illness. I didnt know an awful lot about respiratory illnesses, but my partner is a paramedic and she advised me about some of the conditions that smokers get. I didn't like the sound of any of them, it made me think. Ultimately it changed my view of my relationship with smoking. I knew I wanted to stop, and when my partner said “do it for you”, I realised this wasn’t a challenge or an ultimatum. She just wanted me to do it for me, my way.
Having tried to quit before, I knew I had to be ready this time. I wouldn’t allow myself to replace that habit with something equally as damaging, or worse. Growing up, I had challenging relationships within my extended family and I needed to pay attention to my mental health, so I started running. To motivate me to stick with the running, I joined the Conqueror challenge which gave me something to aim for and a reason to move.
It was then that I reached out to LiveWell for help. My LiveWell coach Julie was the ultimate guide, a great motivator! They sent me a pack of NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) gum and patches through the post and it was the gum that worked for me. Julie helped me set goals, she supported me and didn’t judge me if I slipped up. Her calls grounded me; she reminded of why I was giving up and that I could do it if I truly wanted to.
‘As I reached my late 20s something changed, I found a life partner, and suddenly I wanted to do the right thing for the rest of my life. Now I have more incentives than not!’
In late spring 2020 I was struggling, but with the support of Julie and my partner I felt it was just a blip. I was six weeks in to giving up and I was facing some personal challenges that meant my first go-to was a cigarette. I told Julie – she was hugely supportive, and without pressure guided me back to my plan. I started using the nicotine gum again, and the blip soon passed. By the summer I had quit – I didn’t even think about wanting a cigarette. Even when work colleagues would ask if I’d like one, the answer was ‘no’. It was around this time that I noticed I was running for the first time without that feeling that my lungs were going to explode! It was quite a revelation.
I’m done, over it. I’ll never go back. Why would I? I’m running, and kickboxing; my energy is back, there is so much I want to do with my time that isn’t interrupted by constant smoking. I never knew how much it dragged me down until now!
I was spending at least £30 a fortnight topping up on vapes or roll-ups and now that money pays for my kickboxing classes. I’ve invested that money I’d usually spend making myself tired and slow in getting fit & healthy. I’m winning. I love not smelling of cigarettes anymore. I used to cover myself in perfume and eat loads of gum to try and hide it. I can hardly imagine that now.
‘The end of smoking is the beginning of something new – it was the beginning of my mental health journey, I have taken back control of my life.’
My tip for people thinking about making a change is to be sure you are ready: If you want it, it’s simple. When you know it is the right thing to do for yourself and your future, it’s simpler than you might think. With someone like Julie at LiveWell to guide and support you, it feels easier - you can share that problem rather than try and do it alone. Weigh it all up – what good is smoking doing you?
We’re providing 8-10 weeks of NRT free of charge to help smokers quit smoking. Stopping smoking brings immediate health benefits particularly to the heart and lungs. Reduce your likelihood of added complications from coronavirus. Smokers who register for our smoking cessation support will be able to choose one of three different options available for smokers who would like support to quit smoking:
Our coaching sessions will help you to become smoke-free by supporting you to identify the things you think are preventing you from quitting and working out how you can overcome them. You will also be encouraged to set a quit date as part of your quit attempt.
Our smoking cessation coaches will work with you to work out the right strength of patch and gum for you and will run through how to use each product you are sent. 24-hour patches and gum are on offer for clients who require it to help them quit and will be sent directly to your home from us.
If you are new to LiveWell Dorset, welcome. We support adults in Dorset to take steps to a happier and healthier life. Our free advice and coaching is provided by your council.
Pick up the phone if there’s anything we can do to support you. You can call us on freephone 0800 840 1628. Register to receive our support. Once you’ve registered we'll call to discuss your stop-smoke plan.