“I need to stop smoking today.”
If there was a ‘least likely to’ award for people to stop smoking I would have won that award a few years back. None of my friends or family would have put a pound on the chance that I would stop smoking and even I was in a place mentally where I was just resigned to the fact that I was a smoker and always would be…. and it would probably kill me in the end.
Like many people I started smoking as a teenager. At first it would just be an occasional thing that I did with my friends sometimes, by the time I reached high school, I was buying a packet of 10 cigarettes everyday with my dinner money. When I was given money by my parents to go to the cinema or bus money to go to a friends house I would spend it on cigarettes. By the time I left school and started earning my own money I was already an addict and having money in my pocket every week just meant I was soon smoking a packet of 20 a day, sometimes more. It wasn’t until I hit my early 30’s that I started to notice the breathlessness, the smoker’s cough every morning, the winter colds that would seem to last all winter, the tar stains on my teeth and fingers on my right hand.
I spent a lot of my 30’s trying to stop smoking, it was costing me a lot of money that I really wanted to spend on other things. I now had a Son and Daughter who I didn’t want to smoke around and my health was in a general downward spiral. I tried nicotine gum first, it was expensive and I was chewing it like it was going out of fashion, it tasted vile. There was nothing enjoyable about it and I seemed to constantly miss and crave smoking, when I tried to move to the lower strength gum I just couldn’t chew enough to get me through the day. It just wasn’t working, I was chewing through a whole packet of gum a day and still in a perpetual state of wanting to smoke. I gave up and went back to the comfort of cigarettes, I would try again with something else another day.
Next I tried nicotine patches, this was better than the gum because it wasn’t like chewing on something that had fallen out of an ashtray. It did stop my cravings and I stopped smoking for 3 months, which was a massive achievement at the time as prior to that I don’t think I had gone for longer than 3 hours without a smoke, other than while I was asleep. The relapse back into smoking happened at a summer festival, I was lead on the grass in the sun enjoying a cold drink and my smokers brain was in overdrive. I don’t think I had ever had cravings as bad as this before. I pinched a cigarette off my friend and bought a packet for myself later. It was so easy to slip back in to smoking and continue to smoke is what I did for the next 10 years. Even the continuous chest infections that took months to shift didn’t stop me, even when I ended up in hospital because one such infection got so bad I couldn’t walk across the room without stopping to get my breath back and my partner had to call an ambulance and paramedics to come and get me. I was sad, depressed and smoking seemed to be affecting every area of my life. I knew deep down that if I didn’t do something soon I was going to be in serious trouble with my health ….. or dead.
It was 2015 around Christmas time that I first started to think about vaping. A very good friend of mine had bought a set up and we were going out to a gig together, he picked me up in his car and he was vaping. I’m not sure if he had bought it with any real intention to stop smoking or he was just curious to try it out, being a man that likes his gadgets and tech, but either way I started asking him questions about it. He told me that he hadn’t had a cigarette since he bought it. To be honest I was shocked when he told me and even more shocked that it was three weeks now since he’d had his last cigarette. My brain was whirring, could this really be something that could work for me?
I continued to smoke into the new year but every time I would see my friend I would ask him firstly, if he still wasn’t smoking, and then go on to bombard him with questions about this ‘vaping thing’. Every time he would reply that he still wasn’t smoking and then go on to tell me about different e-liquids that he had tried and ones he really liked. He never really encouraged me to take it up but he didn’t need to, as an ex-smoker he knew that badgering and nagging a smoker never works. A smoker needs to make that decision for themselves and this smoker right here decided to do just that a month later.
I stopped smoking for good on the 13th of March 2016, that date was my daughters 16th birthday and that is not a coincidence. It was my Daughter that had pleaded with me to stop smoking a few weeks earlier, she told me it was all she wanted for her birthday. It was that moment that I decided to at least try to make the switch to vaping. I spent a few weeks mentally preparing myself but I knew that if my friend could do it, then so could I. I was feeling positive and ready for the fight ahead, a fight I had with myself many times before.
On the 13th of March 2016 I stubbed out my cigarette and walked into my local vaping shop and told the young man behind the counter “I need to stop smoking today.” I will always feel indebted to that guy in the shop, he was so helpful and encouraging. He went through everything with me, I must have been in that shop for over an hour, he never rushed me and made sure I had exactly what I needed. He helped me set up my device while I was there and I walked out of that shop an ex-smoker, the ex-smoker that I still am today..
I had prepared well and taken three days off work so I could get used to not smoking before I had to go back to the grind of my office job that I hated. For two days I didn’t do much other than sit at my kitchen table vaping, drinking tea and watching YouTube videos about vaping. The hours passed quickly. My partner came in from work at 5pm on that first day and asked me “So, how’s it going?”Over 24 hours had passed and you know what? I felt fine, it was only a day but for a smoker like myself a day without a cigarette was massive in a way that someone who has never smoked will never understand. The next two days passed in much the same way, I sat at the kitchen table vaping, drinking tea and watching even more videos, in this little sanctuary I had nothing else to worry about, no temptations like the pub, no stressful situations like work. My mind was fully focused on relaxing, enjoying vaping and most importantly not smoking.
My first day back at work was easier than you might imagine, it was easier than I imagined! I did exactly what I usually did and at 10:30am I went outside for my ‘smoke’ break. The only difference being that I pulled out my vaping device and spent 15 minutes with my ginger tobacco flavoured e-liquid instead. I was enjoying vaping, my taste and smell were returning too, cups of tea tasted fantastic, cooking with garlic for the first time as a non-smoker was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry either. By the end of the week, I knew that I would never be a smoker again. Those days were finally over.
It sounds a little dramatic to say that vaping has saved my life but in reality that’s how I feel. I’ve now been through two winters where I’ve not even had so much of a sniffle that lasted longer than a few days. I feel much happier and generally healthier, sometimes I can go all week without really spending any money as I don’t have the continuous ritual of walking to the shop to by tobacco every two days any more. Of course I still spend some money on e-liquids and the occasional new device but it’s far less than I spent on smoking and no more than others may spend on a bottle of wine, some chocolate or a meal out.
Thankfully my days as a smoker are now almost two years in my past. Kicking the habit of smoking is a massive achievement for anyone and let’s be very clear here, vaping isn’t smoking. It is however a brilliant tool to help people like me dramatically reduce the massive devastation that smoking causes to someone’s health, a tool that everyone who’s tried and failed to stop smoking before should at least be seriously thinking about trying. Everything you need to make the switch to vaping is available for less than what most smokers spend in a week on cigarettes. All I can do is urge you to make that decision to give vaping a try.
If the man who was ‘least likely to’ give up smoking can do it, then I believe you can too.