The lesson from my experience of giving up smoking is that you have to do it for yourself. As a smoker, you are always under a latent pressure to quit. Co-workers raise eyebrows, your family express concern and every day, stamped in bold black on the front of the packet, your cigarettes advise you to quit. But unless you are completely persuaded, unless the will to quit is your own, you won’t be able to kick the habit.
So, in this final blog, I’m not going to try too hard to persuade you to give up. That is your decision, for you to make when you’re ready. But I am going to give you some advice on how to go about it when you get there, based on my own experience as a smoker, as a former failed-quitter and, now, as someone who has finally and definitively given up.
Firstly, get help. Going cold turkey, without support, has a rugged kind of appeal but in my experience it just doesn’t get you very far. In the contest between the effects of withdrawal and your own willpower, it helps to have some allies. You probably won’t want to tell everyone that you’re quitting, but a choice few – your partner, your parents, your best-friend – can make a big difference. They will be there for you when things are most challenging but will also hold you to a higher standard. No one wants to let people down.
Secondly, if it helps, use a Nicotine Replacement Product. An addiction to cigarettes is complex. There’s far more to it than just the chemical hit. Smoking becomes a part of your morning routine, one of the ways that you break up the working day, a means of unwinding when you get home. In order to quit, you’re going to have to give up smoking as a part of your life. The Nicotine Replacement Products look after the chemical addiction, allowing you to break these habits. Being able to give up smoking before you give up nicotine makes a big difference.
As a small tip, the Quickmist spray, which at the beginning I had some doubts about, has proven itself a really useful tool. Cravings can be unexpected and dramatic but having confidence in your ability to put them down is a real boost. The patches have also been really useful. I said in my last blog that I had stepped down the dosage. Well, now I’ve started putting them on later in the day and taking them off earlier. I’m slowly winding down my nicotine intake and, importantly, I feel very much in control of the process.
Thirdly, know that there’s a hump. The first two weeks are tough, but they are the hardest bit. Once you begin to put some space between yourself and your last cigarette, having a smoke sort of stops making sense. I’ve managed a month now without smoking, why would I throw that away? As you break that two week mark, the cravings become weaker and your resolve becomes stronger. It isn’t easy, but it is certainly doable.
Finally, keep in mind that it is worth it. My personal motivation has been pretty compelling; as an expectant father, I don’t want to be exposing my children to the harmful effects of second hand smoke. But now that I’m out of the woods I can see all of the other benefits. I’m excited about the opportunity to get back into exercise. I’m saving a lot of cash. And I’ve noticed that other smokers, well, they smell a bit. All those years walking around in a fug of stale smoke and now I find it unpleasant on other people. And of course, there are the health benefits. I went for my final carbon monoxide test and was told that my score was down to 1. For those who have been following the blog, that is down from 25 and means that I now have the amount of carbon monoxide in my lungs that might be expected of a non-smoker. I feel better, more confident and am excited about the changes that quitting has made to my life.
And that’s it, for me. You’ll all know people who have given up smoking and I’d encourage you to chat to them if you’re thinking of quitting. Or, as I did, pop into a Lloydspharmacy and ask to have a chat about the Stop Smoking Programme. They’ll help you out, give you the advice you need and can set you up with a personalised programme of treatment. But, as I said at the beginning, it has to come from you. Ask yourself if you want to give up and if you’ve thought seriously about how you’re going to do it. And, if you’re satisfied with the answers, then I wish you the best of luck.