1. How long have you smoked?
I started at 16yrs, stopped at around 23yrs, started again at 29yrs and have now stopped at 46yrs.
2. Why did you start smoking?
Most of my girlfriends smoked. My brother and sister smoked. My Saturday nights as a teenager were spent partying which included drinking and smoking. I later used it as a stress coping mechanism when I had a young family and my neighbours also smoked.
3. When did you realise you were addicted?
In my early twenties but it has become more evident over the last 10 years.
4. When did you first notice smoking affecting your health?
I noticed it affecting my mental health early on. It wasn’t until my thirties that I noticed an affect on my physical health. My physical health also noticeably worsened in my forties.
5. What made you decide to try to quit?
I always grappled with being a smoker. I have a degree in physical education and I trained and worked as a physical education teacher. I loved ocean swimming and was competitive in my school days. I also have asthma. These factors all weighted on me as I didn’t identify myself as a smoker and I felt a sense of guilt associated with smoking. On top of this, I became increasingly unwell with recurring chest infections and colds. Smoking never sat comfortably for me. It never seemed to fit. I also discovered through some testing that my virtual lung age was 78 years old which was quite a shock given that I was 46 at the time.
6. How many times did you try to quit?
I think I made at least 5 serious attempts.
7. What methods have you used to try to quit?
I have tried naturopathy, hypnotherapy, will power, nicotine gum and lozenges, medication (champix), patches, Nicorette Mouth Spray, consultations with smoking cessation Dr. Colin Mendelsohn.
8. What factors have contributed the most to being able to make it a whole year smoke-free?
I would say: improved health, improved lung function, exercise benefits, my support network, nicotine replacements and decreasing alcohol consumption.
9. Do you still feel like smoking at times and how do you stop yourself from having one?
Yes but the urges are less. They are weaker and less frequent. Nicotine replacement has also worked very well and I try to distract myself. One of the best distractions has been exercise.
10. How quickly did you notice changes to your health after quitting?
My mental health grew after approximately 3 months. I noticed changes to my physical health after 6 months to 1 year. I’ve also appreciated having the stigma related to my smoking gone. I felt stigmatised by non-smokers.
11. What health changes have you seen after 1 year?
Better lung function. My virtual lung age has decreased from 76 to 61 years. My lungs also produce less phlegm. Other changes I have noticed include: less asthma medication required and less symptoms, better skin tone in my face, better body and hair odour, clearer skin, less guilt, lower stress, less colds and less bronchitis etc.
12. What advice do you have to others (non-smokers and/or smokers)?
- it doesn’t matter how many times you have tried to quit you should still go for it!
- Quitting is the best thing you can do for your health.
- If you are concerned about weight gain it can be dealt with if necessary.
- Smoking is expensive
- If you have children you should set an example
- Get professional help
- Quitting is not easy but very rewarding
- Addiction is a very hard thing to live with
- Try to be supportive
- Don’t be judgemental
- Understand that it is an addiction
I’d like to personally thank the interviewee for sharing their story with my audience. I hope that this article may just help more people make positive changes to their health. If you need help there are a number of resources but a good starting point is www.quitnow.gov.au or call Quitline on 13 78 48.