I had been a smoker since 1995. It began with a couple of cigarettes here and there, but quickly spiralled and before I knew it, I was stuck with a habit that didn't leave my side.
At my worst, I'd smoke up to 30 roll ups a day, a habit that definitely increased whenever I was socialising. I'm ashamed to say it, but when I was out and about, going for drinks, I pretty much used to chain smoke.
However, last month I decided enough was enough, and it was my time to try and kick the habit for good. I saw something on Facebook about Stoptober, a stop smoking challenge from Public Health England. It's basically all about making it to 28 days without smoking, because then you're more likely to quit for good. I felt that 28 days seemed really achievable, so I gave it a shot.
The last few months have been extremely stressful for me as I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia - a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body. Smoking had been a bit of a relief from the stress this was causing in my life, as I found it relieved my anxiety - well, that's what I thought. Recently, I found myself questioning if this was really the case of if I was just addicted all along.
I started off my journey by going cold turkey. I tried to tell myself that if I didn't buy tobacco, I wouldn't smoke. However, this wasn't the case and as the cravings got too much, I soon found myself back in a shop buying more tobacco. A disappointing week overall.
After a rocky first week, I decided to get help from a local stop smoking expert. This was really useful as I was able to get a proper plan in place on how I was going to stop smoking, once and for all. The lady I spoke to said that due to my smoking habits, an e-cigarette would be best way forward for me - the idea, made me feel even more motivated and positive about quitting.
I then went to my local vape shop and spoke to the staff there, who helped me work out what vape was best for me (there were a lot of choices!). In the end, I bought an e-cigarette with little nicotine and a flavour I liked. It was also interesting and reassuring to read that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking. However, at the back of my mind, my aim when purchasing the vape was to only use it as a means to stop smoking cigarettes, and then eventually ween myself off it altogether.
What's great about Stoptober, is that you're never alone - there are thousands of people quitting at the same time, which I actually discovered on the Facebook Stoptober page. I also posted on my Facebook page about giving up smoking and it was so nice to read all the responses from family and friends and know that I was bring supported through my challenge.
Week three and onwards
On week three, I felt like things started to get easier - my cravings went down and I got used to not having a cigarette constantly in my hand. I was also away with friends who didn't smoke, so temptations were at bay and this helped keep me stay motivated.
Since I've stopped smoking, I'm now more aware of other people smoking around me and the smell is so much stronger. I didn't notice my clothes or hair smelling, but now I've been on this quitting journey I can smell it even on clothes that I haven't worn for a while. I also think that my skin looks better, I feel like I've gained a healthy glow which I didn't have when I was smoking.
My e-cigarette really has been a great tool that has worked for me personally. When I have the urge to smoke, I simply take a couple of puffs, which I find supresses the cravings and stops me thinking about cigarettes all together.
I am very proud of myself that made it to 28 days smoke-free! I am definitely more determined to stay quit for good now that I've made it this far - it would be a shame to throw all my hard work down the drain! I know that the hard work doesn't end here though and that I need to keep motivated, determined and confident about remaining smokefree.
There's never been more support out there to stop smoking so even if the 28 days of Stoptober are over, there's still loads of help out there.
Here are some of my tips to kick start things for you:
1. Don't think you have to go cold turkey. I know different methods work for different people, but going cold turkey wasn't an effective method for me to stopping. I used a flavoured e-cigarette which has really helped me to not relapse.
2. Switch up your morning routine. I've always associated drinking coffee with smoking and would do so in the morning, but I've now broken this association by switching up my routine and having a small fresh orange juice instead. See what works for you and try things out.
3. Get a piggy bank. Put the money you would normally spend on smoking into a piggy bank and then treat yourself to something nice! I've now got £50 in there.
4. Take up an active hobby. Smoking plays havoc with your health, but you'll soon see improvements from stopping smoking. I started off with a gentle jog for instance and now I'm starting to see small improvements in my fitness, I don't get so out of breath when running or briskly walking and my recovery speed is quicker too. I'm trying to keep up an active lifestyle, so I don't slip back into old smoking habits.
5. Make sure you tell friends and family so they can support you through your journey, keep you encouraged and to ensure they don't offer you a cigarette! My friends have been sending me tips on WhatsApp and sharing supporting memes. Also, when I'm out they now don't ask if I want a ciggie, which cuts down the temptation.
Search 'Stoptober' for all the support you need to quit: www.nhs.uk/oneyou/stoptober