Giving up smoking

Bethan

Female
Age at interview: 53

Brief outline: Bethan, 53, gave up smoking a few weeks ago. Bethan is White Welsh, works in the criminal justice system and lives with her partner. She first started smoking on a regular basis when she started work. At the peak, she smoked 40 a day and tried to quit ‘numerous times’. She was then diagnosed with COPD and has recently quit with the help of nicotine replacement patches and will-power. People are shocked she has stopped and she is proud of herself.

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Bethan started smoking at school. She just had the ‘odd one’ as she was afraid she would get caught. It was only when she left school and started work that she started smoking on a regular basis. She smoked until she was pregnant with her first child, and gave up during each pregnancy with all three of her children and then went ‘straight back to it’ afterwards.

Bethan used to work in the police force in Birmingham and remembers smoking in the office and out in the panda cars; she says smoking was the first thing she wanted to do when she saw a distressing sight at work. Bethan was also in an abusive relationship at the time and didn’t like being told by her husband when and where she could smoke. She thinks that this might be the reason why, if someone tells her to do something now, she is ‘quite stubborn’ and ‘won’t do it unless she really wants to do it’. In 1991 she moved from Birmingham to come home to Wales, and had an ‘asthma attack’ (although she thinks it was really a panic attack as she was going through a divorce). She carried on smoking as she says it was the ‘only thing that relaxed her’. Later she was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and the consultant said that, without stopping smoking, she would need oxygen in ten years’ time. Bethan says that she has a tendency to suffer low moods and has also ignored her health as she had to bring up the kids by herself. She tried to give up smoking ‘numerous’ times but she says she ‘wasn’t ready’. She tried limiting where she smoked, but she used to smoke in the car on the way to work, and says that at the ‘first bit of stress’ she’d have a cigarette. Her partner was ‘always going on’ at her to give up. At her peak she would smoke around 40 a day, and just before she gave up she would smoke 20-25 a day. She didn’t like the fact she always smelt of cigarettes but did see smoking as a part of who she was. She found that smoking was a way of meeting people and ‘having a good laugh’. She says that she wouldn’t have ‘anybody tell her what to do’.

Bethan was ‘annoyed’ with herself for a couple of years prior to finally giving up, and used to get up every morning and want to give up. She also used to think that people looked down on her for smoking and sometimes felt she got defensive. Earlier on this year she thought that, as she had ‘four grandchildren’ and wanted to continue walking and cycling in the mountains, she would quit. She says that it was about ‘money as well’, and when it became £6 for a packet she thought, ‘this is ridiculous’. Bethan also has asthma. She went to the pharmacist to try and get some help, and went to the doctor to get a prescription for nicotine replacement patches that she says were ‘very helpful’. She is more stressed now that she has given up, but thinks that work is more stressful in any case. She has put some weight on, but thinks this is partly due to a wet summer limiting her exercise opportunities. After stopping smoking she has started suffering from hayfever and has also been diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), so hasn’t been able to feel the benefits of stopping smoking as much as she might like. She says that everyone is surprised that she isn’t smoking now and that her skin looks lots better.

Bethan says she is alright when she is ‘occupied’ and the cravings for cigarettes have lessened. She found that by busying herself, having a little cry, or even singing away in the car she helped ease the tension of not smoking. She now finds that she isn’t out of breath, and can hold a note longer when singing, but also finds that she doesn’t sleep very well. She thinks that she has got ‘more snappy’ and her daughters have noticed this.

Since giving up smoking she says she is more health-conscious. Now she would like to have the opportunity to enjoy her retirement and wants to have more of it. Bethan says that she wants to be around for her children for longer. People are ‘shocked’ that she has given up as she used to smoke so much, but she is proud of herself for doing what she thought was impossible.

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