I am ashamed to say that I started to smoke when I was only 8 years old. The babysitter couldn’t get me to behave in a way that she wanted so instead gave me cigarettes. I did stop at around aged 11 but started again around aged 15. Apparently it’s really uncommon for people to start smoking in adulthood. Obviously it was a lot easier to smoke when I was a child. You could buy “singles” which were individual cigarettes – making it a lot more affordable. Then it was around 80 pence for 20 Benson and Hedges – with us vowing to stop if they ever got as expensive as £1. You could smoke in shops, on the bus, in the cafe, cinema – just about anywhere. I even used to smoke at my desk at work. I believe lots more people smoked then too. There wasn’t much escaping from it. I tried many times to give up smoking and even (ashamed to say) found it hard even during my first pregnancy. Again my babies seemed to be unaffected (full term, not underweight, breathing fine) and this didn’t help with the “facts” that smoking during pregnancy is bad. I did manage to cut down during pregnancy, but I just don’t think the messages were there or clear enough. I was a teenager and believe there were stereotyped opinions that I would carry on smoking regardless, so they didn’t waste much time on helping me with it. Also you were allowed to smoke in the hospital – yes even whilst in labour! I remember walking backwards and forwards to the smoking room during contractions!
That aside I still believe that one thing hasn’t changed and that is you can only stop smoking if YOU WANT TO. Not because you feel you ought to, or money’s tight, or people keep going on at you. Because you will find a way to smoke, an excuse or you might see it as a “reason”. There’s this thing called cognitive dissonance that basically means you will justify it.
So what changed?
I moved away from where I lived and mixed with people that didn’t smoke.
Before when I had tried to give up we tried to do it in groups and, to be honest, I think we just willed each other to fail so we had the excuse to smoke again. It was also very social and without smoking it seemed you “missed” a great deal – not wondering off for *fag breaks*. I met my husband and he told me that he wanted me to be as healthy as possible, and to put no risk to cutting my life short with smoking. I was smoking at least 40 a day by this point. I became pregnant for the second time and had help from the NHS quit smoking pregnancy line. This page has many reason as to the benefits of giving up smoking when pregnant too. But most importantly they are there to listen to you, help you get through a craving. Talk you through your options.
I tried to change my opinions on smoking. When I got nicotine withdrawal I told myself that I didn’t really a cigarette it was just all in my head. That really a cup of coffee or a chocolate bar would make me feel better. I had tried nicotine patches etc before and they hadn’t done it for me (although the amount of money spent on them meant I hadn’t been able to afford the cigarettes as well so worked to some extent) and this time I couldn’t use them as I was pregnant and there was a small risk to the baby using them. There a lot of nicotine replacements and aids available now – why not get in touch with your quit smoking nurse at your local doctors.
I do admit I was one of those people who did put on weight from quitting. Your food is meant to taste nicer. But I think on the whole my weight is fine now. You can always diet later on – smoking is probably worse on your health – but maybe talk to your doctor if you are concerned on this matter. One of the reasons that weight gain can occur is that people replace the hand to mouth habit with food. Distraction is a good way to avoid this – why not do some cleaning, or phone a friend, take up knitting, do crosswords, or buy a vapourizer. Substituting smoking with exercise is always going to be a winner – heightened activity levels will release the feel good hormone endorphins making you feel great! That’s got to better than that creeping guilt and sick feeling you get when smoking or binge eating. Smoking elevates metabolism, so when you quit you will burn calories at a slightly lower rate – so another good reason to use exercise as a way to distract yourself from reaching for a cigarette. However, don’t feel bad if you put on a bit of weight, as the health advantages of kicking the habit will most likely outweigh any disadvantages of weight gain. You will have a great sense of smell and taste so may find you enjoy foods more, so will want to eat more. Try to avoid the sweet foods and snack on fruit and vegetables. Did you know you burn more calories than you eat with celery!
I did have the luxury of sleeping a lot. My son was at school and I had just finished my degree so wasn’t working. Then I made sure I spent the money I had saved on not smoking was being spent on myself. Things I would not normally have been able to afford. It meant in the short term we didn’t save any money from quitting but it did mean I was getting healthier.
Think about when you smoke. Apparently there are different “types” of smoker. I used to smoke every time I ate or had tea – so you can change those habits – have orange juice instead of tea – for example. Or if you smoke indoors – try only smoking outdoors in the build up to the day you have decided to quit.
Learn about what milestones mean what – ie what have you gained health and money wise after a day, 3 days, a week, a month, 3 months etc. Talk to other people. Certain days are harder than others (day 3 was always a killer for me). Because if you know this it might make it feel easier to get over that hurdle and onto the next one.
Setting yourself a day to start is a good idea. Maybe do it when there will be lots of other people also in the same boat as you, and you can get support from each other. Some people like the temptation of cigarettes in the house because they know they are there and can still not touch them, whilst others need them to be gone. If you need them to be gone then make sure you do not have any for the start of the day in mind. Some people find cutting out the first and last cigarettes of the day out very hard – so you may want to have just that first one and then stop. Whatever you decide make sure you stick to it and so stop. Tell friends and family so they can support you.
Most importantly take it one step and one day at a time. Always remind yourself of how well you are doing. And why you want to do it. That it WILL get easier and YOU can do it.
Best of luck.
If you want to talk to me more about my giving up journey you can catch me on