I gave up smoking on 27 May 1987. I remember it clearly because it was such a massive achievement for me.
An older cousin gave me my first cigarette when I was 8. By the time I went to university I was smoking a packet of 20 a day and by the time I started working full time I was on 40 a day.
I tried to give up at least 100 times but couldn’t kick the habit. By the time I was 30 I was permanently broke, had chronic bronchitis and had very little sense of smell and taste.
But what really hit home for me was my inability to get through long meetings without sneaking out to the loo twice to have a sneaky cig. One time I was out of a meeting for so long that the deputy chief executive came searching for me because she was worried I wasn’t well!
Coincidentally, two friends of mine had just started a habit breaking course based on the ideas of Allen Carr – by the time they finished they had given up for good and have never gone back.
I joined the next cohort and spent 6 weeks cutting down the strength of my cigarettes while also breaking all the habits that kept me smoking. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about? The first cigarette in the morning, the last one at night. The one with a drink or after a meal. The one in the garden or the one while you’re on the phone. The ones while you’re with mates or out clubbing.
The course built in exclusion times which got longer each week – in the first week you couldn’t smoke for 15 minutes after meals or activities. The next week it was 30 minutes. Then 40. Then an hour and so on. By the last week of smoking, I was on the weakest possible cigarettes and was only allowed to smoke while I was on my own in a room staring at a wall.
It was a real revelation to me when I realised I didn’t actually enjoy the cigarette – it was everything else that went with it that had formed my habit. After that we had another 2 weeks of reinforcing the lessons and sharing coping strategies and then we were on our own.
I didn’t even put on weight for three years – I blame that on meeting my partner! I can honestly say I have never been tempted to smoke again, even though my partner smokes.
It’s so much easier to give up smoking now than when I was trying – it really is worth giving it a go. It will change your life for the better!
If you would like local support to stop smoking in Hounslow call us on 020 8973 3530 or visit our Stop Smoking page.
Blog by Fiona Harcombe
Head of HRCH Communications and Engagement