Giving up smoking

Sarah

Female
Age at interview: 33

Brief outline: Sarah, 33, gave up smoking four months ago. She is White British, works for the expert patient programme, community interest company (CIC), has no children. Sarah started smoking as a teenager with a friend. Later she worked abroad as a dancer and smoked about 30 a day. After trying Quitline, and hypnosis, she finally quit with the support of a colleague and is now saving the money she would have spent on cigarettes.

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Sarah can remember smoking her first cigarette was when she was about 14. She sneaked off with a friend and bought lots of things to disguise the smell. Now she can’t remember ever being a ‘social smoker’. She thinks that by 18 she was smoking ‘properly’. By that time she was conscious of her weight, and instead of ‘reaching for a chocolate bar’ she ‘reached for a cigarette’. When she was a dancer abroad at the age of 19, she could smoke up to 30 cigarettes a day and ‘not really think about it’. She was in Japan where cigarettes were cheap and everyone smoked ‘far more than her’. She didn’t know how as a college student she managed to afford to go down the pub and smoke cigarettes. Her ‘cigarette of choice’ was Marlboro Lights, and later Marlboro Silvers when she was trying to quit. Later, she depended on cigarettes during the time she had anorexia nervosa as she could do something that didn’t take in any calories. She thinks this is why quitting smoking was particularly hard for her, as she feared putting on weight, and the breaking of a habit was something that she found difficult. Her Mum was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, and yet wasn’t a smoker.

Sarah managed to quit smoking about six years ago, but only for a short while. At that time she went for hypnosis to give up smoking, but later had a panic attack. She says ‘not everyone can go under’ and she ‘was awake the whole time’. She bought the Allen Carr book but didn’t read it. Now, Sarah thinks that smoking actually helped keep her alive to a certain extent when she had an eating disorder – there was a reason for her to smoke as smoking relaxed her enough to be able to eat. Sarah has osteoporosis because of her anorexia, and smoking is known to decrease calcium absorption. She was told to give up but this wasn’t ‘enough of a reason’ for her to quit. She ‘really loved smoking’. She now finds it hard to remember what it was that she liked about it. A lot of smoking she says was ‘quite habitual’, and because of her eating disorder she had to have a cigarette before every meal and after every meal. She had to do lots of things before eating and that was ‘the last one to go’. A colleague helped her recognise that she wasn’t going to achieve something unless she really wanted it and that it wasn’t ‘an overnight thing’. At work she was involved in supporting others to learn and apply self-management skills and also used the same tools personally. The quitting phone service didn’t work for her and so she found her ‘own answers’. She didn’t have time to go to a support group and her experience of support group for other things was something that she ‘didn’t particularly enjoy’. Her colleague supported her to explore ‘what she was nervous about’. She hasn’t had any follow-up from her GP to see how she got on. However the pharmacist congratulated her along the way. She made a paper mâché money box and put the money she would have used for cigarettes in there. She has saved £800 in the four months she has given up smoking. Now she wants to use that money to have fun with her mum and family, and not to say no to an opportunity just because of money. She used patches, which she felt gave her the nicotine to keep her cravings at bay. However, more than anything she feels she really wanted to give up this time. The month before she quit she ‘hated it’ and was smoking about 30 a day.

Now Sarah does a lot of yoga, and gets the work/life balance better. Since she has given up she finds that her flat doesn’t smell, her clothes smell better, she doesn’t ‘have to’ have a cigarette, and doesn’t panic when she can’t find her cigarettes or her lighter. She says she has ‘more choice’. She doesn’t really resent having smoked as she ‘loved it’ but she is also ‘pleased she is not smoking anymore’. Her sense of smell is a lot better, but not her sense of taste. She hasn’t gained any weight either – the one reason she thought she continued.

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