Meet 35-year-old Hannah, from Poole. Having smoked 15-20 rollies a day since the age of 15, she’d spent half her life as a smoker. This is her story:
“I was diagnosed with asthma soon after I started smoking and I've always had bad lungs, prone to catch chest infections quickly. Every few months I'd get something nasty because of smoking and my weakened immune system, I’ve even had to battle pneumonia.
I've always struggled with my mental health and addiction, in fact, three years ago I decided to stop drinking and joined a programme to help me stay drink-free. Smoking was the next thing to tackle. I'd tried to quit many times before; from Champix to vaping, NRT to cold turkey, I've tried it all! Last year I'd even made it to six months smoke-free through the Allen Carr method, a step in the right direction.
But after a stressful day at work, I came home and thought, 'stuff it – I’m sparking up'. I knew it wouldn't end well, but I had to satisfy that urge. Within no time at all, I was a full-time smoker again. Cue the smell of smoke on my clothes and needing to fit the time-sapping habit back into my day.
I always knew it was bad for me, yet my up and down mental health made it hard to stop. I’d reached a point when I thought – 'why am I doing this to myself?' I was frustrated at myself for starting up again.
Several of my new friends in my recovery programme say the same thing – there comes a point in each recovery journey when you become ready to quit smoking too. After getting a handle on alcohol, I knew I could get a grip of smoking too.
I knew of LiveWell from when they'd previously signposted me to mental health support, so when I searched 'stop smoking Poole' and they came up, I got in contact. They phoned me back the next day, explained my options, sent me a pack of nicotine gum and patches through the post and booked in for an introduction call with LiveWell Coach Steve who was great. Steve asked about the ways I'd tried to quit previously and together, we made a plan and set a quit date for a few days' time. Steve talked me through each next step of my quit attempt through regular coaching calls.
I'd used nicotine patches in the past with mixed results, but this time it was the gum that helped the most. Behavioural triggers had tripped me up in the past: stress at work, being tired, having a down day or when I’m driving. My habitual go-to when I face these triggers is to spark up. It was part of everyday routine to wake up and sit in my armchair with a cuppa and a rollie. Or getting into my car, the first thing I would do would be to roll-up. Now, I keep nicotine gum next to my armchair and in my car. At first, it was strange to sit in my chair or car and not be smoking – strange but nice!
I started a pet care and dog walking business, which one hand was great, but on the other it meant a lot of driving which was a trigger. The daily walking was not ideal with my wheezy lungs, and nor was getting back in the car after a winter dog walk and trying to roll a cigarette with frozen fingers!
Now, I can exercise without getting out of breath! When I'm out walking the dogs, I can walk up big hills and not start wheezing or feel out of breath or shape. Previously, if the dogs decided to run off, I would struggle to keep up with them. Now, I can out-pace them on a long walk! It feels great to be breathing fresh air and just enjoying it. No more reaching for my inhaler, in fact, I've stopped all medication for my asthma!
There's nothing in me that would make me want to go back to smoking. I recall a recent walk at Hengistbury Head and passing the spot where I first thought about quitting; walking up that hill on a gorgeous sunny day, I tried to take a deep breath and I sounded like a wheezy old accordion! Thankfully, that's not the case any more.
It's lovely to go for a long walk with my Dad; to notice and think 'thank goodness, smoking is behind me.'
I've started a savings account where I gather all the pounds I would have sent up in smoke, and it’s growing quickly. I've got more time; I’m no longer making excuses every half-hour to go and get my nicotine fix – I can just enjoy time with friends and family. It’s nice to not feel self-conscious about smelling of smoke.
Through my business, I'm always on my feet which is good. Now, I’d like to build up my strength and flexibility by getting back into yoga – my 2021 goal.
To anyone thinking about quitting, I would say don’t be afraid of what’s ahead. My fear of what life would be like after becoming smoke-free held me back for some time – I thought about what I would be missing from my life… I realised quite quickly that it’s not about what you’re missing, but what you’ve gained. Don't be afraid of the future.”
I'm saving money, I'm saving time, I'm saving my life.