Seven Months Smoke Free

It’s been seven months now since I packed in smoking. I thought I would take the time to write about how I’ve found quitting smoking, the pros and cons, and the easy ways I personally feel to go about quitting. I’m going to start off by saying if you’ve never smoked, you may be wondering why I’ve said “pros and cons” – surely there are no pros to smoking? I personally don’t think it would be right for me to completely bad mouth smoking, after all, for a few months I did find it enjoyable. What I also don’t want to do is bad mouth anyone who’s reading this who doesn’t want to quit smoking because at the end of the day people should be able to do whatever they want.

There’s a multitude of reasons why I decided to give up smoking. I was 18 at the time so I was finding it very costly, my addiction to tobacco in the year and a half that I’d been smoking increasingly got worse to the point where on some days I was smoking up to 40 cigarettes, I was also fed up of the smell that came along with smoking and how I had to constantly spray myself with deodorant to try to hide it. Like I said, there are a lot of reasons why I wanted to quit and I could spend ages just sitting here and listing them off.

Even before I started smoking, I was intrigued by it. I always wondered if it was so bad for you, why roughly 9.4 million adults in the UK smoke cigarettes. When I eventually did try a cigarette for the first time, I thoroughly enjoyed it; each puff I took made me feel light-headed and relaxed. When people ask me what it’s like to smoke a cigarette, this is the reason why I tell them the truth and say I did get satisfaction out of doing it – If I were to respond saying how terrible it is and how much I hate it, they’re going to know I’m lying and may seek a second opinion in one way shape or form. After a few months though the nice feeling I was getting from smoking was slowly disappearing. Unfortunately it was too late though, I was already hooked.

As the nice effects were going away, I found myself smoking more and more to try to get that feeling back again. In hindsight, I would’ve saved myself a lot of money and done less damage to myself if I attempted to call it quits there and then, but I carried on with it. I eventually did attempt to quit, but the problem I had been that my friends smoked which meant I couldn’t get away from it. Also, I really hated college and smoking was the only thing I had that made going in more bearable. This made quitting very hard, even with the use of nicotine patches. Every few weeks I’d try and quit but I always wound up with a cigarette between my lips again.

Fast forward to October 2015; college is done with but I’ve been diagnosed with depression and am determined to make some changes, one of which is to pack in the smoking. I went and bought nicotine patches, used /r/StopSmoking on Reddit to read other people’s experiences, I made the decision to stop hanging out with my friends who smoked until I felt I could go out again and not crack. Not being at college certainly helped as well since I was at home 99% of the time and didn’t feel like I needed to light up a cigarette in order to make my day better.  At first I found it very hard, every time I saw someone with a cigarette it’d make me want one too; perseverance sums up quitting smoking perfectly. While I personally found it very hard, one has to remain strong to get through it.

If we fast forward again to May 2016 you’ll find I haven’t smoked a cigarette in seven months. The nicotine patches are long gone, I have more money in my pocket, my breathing has improved dramatically, and there appears to be no sign of me doing a U-turn by going back to smoking. I’m happy now, there’s no reason for me to smoke. I’d be lying if I told you that I never think about smoking anymore because I do. When I’m at the pub and I see people smoking, it brings back memories from when I’d be in the back of a pub puffing away on a cigarette while chatting to my friends. With that being said, a thought is all it is – smoking has very little to no control over me now.

So what are the pros of smoking? Please bear in mind that this is from my perspective, other people will obviously have different answers. I found the pros to be that it relieved me off stress for a brief period of time; I also found it to be quite a sociable thing to do – my friends and I would go to the pub and smoke while having a drink, we could also debate for ages about what the best brand of cigarettes were or if straights are better than rollies etc. Another thing I liked about smoking was that it gave me something to do if I was waiting around or if I was bored.

However, the list of cons is longer for me than the list of pros is. While it gave me something to do if I was bored, I found as I was trying to quit that doing things like walking into town while listening to music very difficult without having a cigarette in my hand. I also found that my breath and clothes would absolutely stink of smoke which made me quite self-conscious about what people might think about me. I’ve mentioned it a couple of times but the cost of smoking really had an impact on me; as an 18 year old, I couldn’t really afford to be spending £8 a day on cigarettes. There was also my health to take into account – not everyone who smokes is going to get cancer, but do I really want to risk it? It had an effect on my breathing and I was developing a nasty cough because of it. While there were pros to smoking, the cons certainly outweighed them in my opinion.

Nowadays there are so many ways one can go about quitting smoking. The first bit of advice I’d give to someone trying to quit though is to ask yourself if you’re 100% ready to quit, you have to be determined otherwise you’ll end up back to square one. I found a good way to find out if you’re ready to quit is to write down the pros and cons of smoking for you personally, if there’s more cons than pros, you’re ready. I also used an app on my phone to help keep track of how I was doing; there are loads of apps out there for Android, iOS, Windows etc. but the best one for me was *Smoke Free. Some people suggested to me that I should give e-cigarettes a go but since I wanted to break the habit completely I went with nicotine patches instead. There’s also nicotine gum and tablets available on the market if the patches don’t sound so appealing to you. For those of you in the UK, the NHS has *Stop Smoking Services that can be used to help quit and you can also get a *free stop smoking kit.

Everyone is different; some people like smoking and don’t think of giving up, but there’s also people who tire of it and decide they want to pack it in, it’s up to each individual to decide what they want to do. For those of you reading this that want to quit, I hope you’ve found what I’ve had to say useful, and in general I’d like to thank you for reading what I have to say regardless of if you’re a smoker or not.

Resources:
Free Stop Smoking Kit

Smoke Free App (Android)

NHS Stop Smoking Services

Nicotine Patches

My Experience with Depression

Since October of last year, a lot has changed for me. After ten long years I finally admitted I had a problem that I needed to get help for.

The problem was that I kept having break downs, I wasn’t eating, I was barely sleeping at night but sleeping throughout the day, I became very reclusive, I had no motivation to do anything, constantly worrying and over thinking about things, feeling down a lot of the time, as time went on it got to the point where I was putting my life at risk. I could be here all day listing all the problems that I had. After years of experiencing this, all it took was one little breakdown before college for me to finally seek help for these problems that I was having.

My mum booked me a doctor’s appointment and I went down there with my aunt and uncle. I was worried because I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had been to the doctor’s a year before but he was no use, but this time I was seeing a different doctor. When I met the doctor, she was really nice and I basically told her all the problems I’d been having and where I think they might’ve stemmed from. A few weeks went by, I had to have a blood test to see if there were any underlining problems, which there wasn’t. The doctor diagnosed me with depression, prescribed me 20mg of fluoxetine and recommended I give bereavement counselling and therapy a go.

The antidepressants had some pretty horrible side effects to them, and after four weeks the doctor upped my dosage to 40mg instead. The severity of someone’s problems doesn’t reflect on their medication dose. There are people out there with moderate/severe depression who are on 20mg, and there are people with mild depression who are on 60mg. It’s just about finding the right amount since everyone is different. For me though, 40mg of fluoxetine has been doing the trick. The tablets don’t make you better overnight, it was a good three or four months before I started to feel the effects, you just have to stick with them.

I gave the bereavement counselling a go. The first few sessions were very hard since I’ve always been a shy person, and my social anxiety certainly wasn’t doing me any favours, especially when the sessions involved me talking for an hour with very little input from the counsellor. The great thing about counselling is that you can talk about anything, literally anything, and the counsellor won’t judge you, they’ll just listen. I’ve been having this bereavement counselling since early November, but recently the counsellor told me he doesn’t think I need him anymore since the chats about bereavement ended months ago. So in a couple of weeks’ time, I will be having my final (hopefully) bereavement counselling session.

A couple of months after that doctor’s appointment, I had my first therapy session. I’m still currently doing the CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and it’s been a big help. I’ve been stuck in my own little ways for so long; the therapy is helping me see things from different perspectives. Just because I think I’ve done something wrong, or I think someone thinks negatively of me etc. doesn’t actually mean it’s true. I’m not sure how many more sessions I’ll be having, but already it’s been a massive help.

Like I said, a lot has changed. I dropped out of college because it was making me miserable and it wasn’t something that I thought would benefit me. However, I’ve packed in smoking, been smoke free for six months. I’ve been going out a lot more, feeling optimistic about the future. I’ve put on weight (it’s a good thing, but I’m gonna need to buy more trousers). I’m passionate about the things I love again. I had my first job interview a few weeks back, and it went well. I’ve also been doing things such as donating blood, I also plan on spending my first few pay checks doing charitable stuff like helping dog rescue centres (buying food, toys, blankets etc. for the dogs), buying toys to give to children’s hospitals and hospices, I want to do something to help cancer patients and the homeless as well but I’m not entirely sure how to go about that yet.

Unfortunately it hasn’t been easy getting to where I am now. They say things have to get worse before they get better, and that’s certainly been the case with me these last seven months or so. At the start I was very impatient; I didn’t feel like anything was changing which led me to doing some stupid things. I began drinking in my room almost every day for a good month; I’d even attempted to hang myself a couple of times. I didn’t feel as though anything was going to change. Luckily, I overcame all this and a short time later I started to feel better.

I’m still on the medication, and I still have regular doctor’s appointments but I feel like a completely different person now. Things are definitely looking up for me but as I’m not Superman though, I haven’t been able to do all of this by myself. I’ve received a lot of support from my family, my friends (mostly), and from the professionals that have been treating me.

The reason why I wanted to post this is because for those people reading this who are going through a similar situation to me, I wanted to say that things do get better. For those people on here who feel they may have a problem, while it feels scary, the best thing to do is seek help. Stuff like this doesn’t go away, as I learnt, it only gets worse over time. Life may seem hopeless, but things can change for the better, there are loads of services available for helping people like myself. I can’t speak for anywhere else, but in the UK, all the help I’ve received has come from the NHS.

If you’ve got to this part, I’m assuming you’ve been reading along. I know this has been quite a long read, but I’m hoping it’ll be some use to someone on here.