One thing you probably don’t know about me is that I used to be a smoker. Not just a social smoker, but a real, start the day with a Marlboro Light-type smoker. I stopped smoking around 7 years ago after a good decade of puffing away and if I’m honest, it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done.
October is also ‘Stoptober’ – a month where there’s a big focus on helping people give up smoking, hopefully for good. If you’ve been smoking for a while, it can seem daunting to try and quit, so I thought I’d share how I did it, along with some tips and tools to give you a better chance of succeeding.
Like a lot of people, I started smoking when I was at school. It was largely down to peer pressure and wanting to fit in with my cool, new 6th form friends who all seemed to enjoy chuffing away on a Richmond Superking around the back of the school gates. A few sneaky cigarettes later and I was hooked. I honestly thought I’d managed to hide it really well from my parents, who I knew would be horrified. That was, until the day that I was planning my 18th birthday party with my Mum and she turned to me and said ‘I know you’ve been smoking’. After recovering from a mini heart attack (and quite frankly a huge amount of disappointment in my stealth skills) I ‘fessed up and that was the end of that conversation.
I carried on smoking for almost a decade – social occasions, the trip to work; everywhere had its own association with smoking. I was that person that would go to the gym and light up a cigarette after an hour’s cardio, the one that used to be a semi-professional singer and still smoke in between sets. I always knew it was bad for me, but never really considered stopping.
There wasn’t any great event that prompted me to quit smoking. It just suddenly became something I had fallen out of love with and knew I didn’t want to do it anymore. Stopping smoking initially seemed quite scary. I’d never tried before and was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. I researched lots of different methods – from nicotine patches, to self-help books and everything in between.
In the end, I decided I wanted to try it alone and after reading a copy of Allen Carr’s ‘EasyWay to stop smoking’ book, I set a date for my last ever cigarette and decided that would be it for me.
I can laugh now about how easy I thought it would be. Although the initial couple of days were hard as the nicotine was wearing off, it was the few weeks that followed that were the worst. So much of the reliance on smoking comes out of habit and every time I got to one of my usual cigarette breaks, I felt incredibly restless and tetchy knowing that I wasn’t going to have one. But I persevered and the longer I went without one, the easier it became. Days became weeks and weeks became months and aside from one *tiny* gin-related slip up, I’ve stayed well clear ever since.
So I thought I’d share a few of the things I found useful throughout my journey. I’m not going to talk about the money side of things as let’s face it, we all know it’s expensive, but if you want to smoke, you will find the funds for it. Instead, here’s a few real-life, handy hints that I hope might help if you’re considering quitting this Stoptober
My top tips for quitting smoking
Have your final cigarette at the end of the day. That way you can wake up with a fresh start and go from there. You’ll also have started the nicotine withdrawal process in your sleep, so you’ll hopefully have less time to grin and bear that part of it (it’s around 3 days for it to leave your bloodstream).
Focus on WHY you want to quit. Make that the real focus of this and remind yourself of it every time you feel tempted to have a cigarette. Write it down, set a reminder on your phone – anything that keeps it at the forefront of your mind.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Giving up on will power alone is HARD. Your local Well Pharmacy has lots of really useful services and advice that can help. Whether it’s advice on NRTs (nicotine replacement therapies), a private 1-2-1 with a trained member of staff or the free NHS stop smoking service which is available at selected stores. Apparently you’re 4 times more likely to succeed with the help of a pharmacist, so it’s well worth speaking to them!
Avoid phrases like ‘giving up’ as it makes you feel like you’re being deprived of something. You’re not giving up anything – instead praise yourself for making a positive health change.
Change your routine – to break the cycle of feeling like it’s ‘time’ for a cigarette, it really helps to switch up your normal routine. Drive a different way to work so you don’t get to your usual point and want to light up; plan activities during your lunch break to distract you and get out and about in the evenings. Anything to distract you from the need for a smoke.
If at first you don’t succeed…don’t stop trying! Very few people succeed on their first try, so keep persevering. Try different NRT methods (gum, patches, lozenges) until you find something that works for you – Well Pharmacy have lots of half price offers throughout October on NRT products, so you can switch it up at a lower cost and see which ones you prefer.
Quit with a friend – if you can get someone to quite (quit) with you, it can really help to motivate you along your journey. If none of your close friends are also smokers, how about your wider social media circle?
I hope you find these tips helpful. Are you planning to quit for Stoptober? Or have you previously given up smoking? I’d love to hear any of your stop smoking tips – leave me a comment below!
*post written in collaboration with Well
To find your local Well pharmacy, visit well.co.uk/Pharmacy-Finder
For more information on Stoptober, visit https://stoptober.smokefree.nhs.uk/#lxY3v6SqZQ83gphW.97