More about me...
Things changed when Andy went to university and smoking became more of a ‘ritualistic’ thing. He started to smoke roll-ups as they were cheaper and he could get cheap tobacco from his friends. His best friend at university was a fairly heavy smoker and Andy now wonders if he would have continued smoking if he hadn’t had friends that smoked at university. He can’t remember whether he tried to give up at this time, as he was struggling for money, but he didn’t have any desire to give up. After university he lived at home and his parents disapproved of his smoking. He thinks it defined a lot of what he did after university as he would make excuses to go out and see his mates because after 3-4 hours without a cigarette he would start getting irritable. He spent more money as he went to the pub to have 1-2 pints. He associated smoking with freedom - ‘doing what he wanted, when he wanted’.
His first attempt to give up was when he moved in with mates, and he was standing on his ‘own two feet’ financially, and so tried to give up. He says that ‘technically’ this attempt to give up smoking lasted 18 months but there were lots of excuses to smoke. He would occasionally say ‘let’s have a cigar’ at the pub, making the excuse of a celebration, and said to himself ‘this isn’t really smoking’ as he was only having the ‘odd’ cigar down the pub. He thinks this 18-month period was a ‘farce’ and he would go out with some mates, at a time when you could still smoke at pubs, and then would tell himself ‘I’ll only smoke while I’m drinking’. He would then buy a pack of ten ‘just for the night’ with friends, then by himself and then smoke the rest the next day. He gave up ‘four, five, six, eight times’ over the course of a couple of years , and each time he would stop smoking for a bit. He says that it was quite easy to ‘find yourself’ smoking again when you were convinced you’d stopped. Sometimes he would set a specific date and get rid of all his smoking paraphernalia, or just wake up and say he wasn’t smoking. Each of these attempts was ‘equally as unsuccessful as the others’.
Andy now thinks that if you have a proper reason and want to give up, then you will. When he failed, his heart wasn’t really in it. He knows that now if he just has ‘the one’ it will be horrible. He now thinks he is past the point where smoking would give him any pleasure whatsoever, despite his having enjoyed smoking in the past. He says that it gets easier to ignore and he is quite happy it is in his past. At the end of his smoking he didn’t enjoy it anymore and says he felt ‘enslaved’ to smoking. As he approached 30, he was getting to the point where he would have smoked for half of his life, and also he began thinking more about his health. He noticed that colds were getting ‘more difficult to shift’. He hasn’t found any significant health benefits to giving up smoking, although he says his ‘wallet feels better’. He did wonder if he had still been in a group of friends who smoked heavily if he would have given up so easily. Since he has given up, lots of things have become easier. He found the cravings for a cigarette intense and annoying and wonders if they were the same for everyone. He didn’t have nicotine patches as he felt that would just have continued his nicotine addiction. He thinks the first three days are the worst, and ‘absolute hell’. He says that if you can just get through those three days it becomes easier. He put on some weight when he gave up and saw this as ‘unavoidable’. He sees it as a series of small obstacles: ‘initially the cravings, then breaking the routine, breaking the habit, you know, the cigarette after dinner or leaving the cinema’. He says that there were a couple of battles that he ‘refused to fight’: for example when he went to Glastonbury, where he smoked for the duration. He prides himself on the fact that he doesn’t ‘give in’ anymore. He now realises just how it must have been for non-smokers to be around smokers. Even as a smoker he wanted the smoking ban to come in as he thought it would be ‘an awful lot easier’ to give up. He had always associated the health risks with older people and thought he would have given up by the time it had done him any harm. He never sought out advice about how to give up, but was aware of the general advice. He didn’t use any of the help lines.
10 years ago at university, Andy spent much time with his friends in bars smoking and surrounded by smokers.
But it was yes, I’m just trying to think if I actually ever gave, tried to give while I was at university. Because I’m sure I must have done, because there must have been the times when I said, I don’t think I can afford this at all. But if it did, I failed miserably while I was at university, because it was a, I don’t know, because you’re surrounded by lots of other people smoking and I was weak willed [laughs]. And I think truly to be perfectly honest I didn’t have the desire to give up. I think that was probably the crucial element of it.
Andy was still smoking when the ban came, but realised that it might help him give up smoking in the future.
The thing is the smoking ban came on a fairly interesting time for me, because I still smoked when they were first talking about it. I mean, all the debates you’d have with your friends in the pub about should they be banning smoking, human rights, blah, blah, blah. Even as a smoker, I said, “To be honest with you, we haven’t got a leg to stand on here. You know, I mean, you find, you find a pub, that’s, you find a dingy little room where all the smokers can go and drink and work and things like that. Kind of fair enough. But in a normal pub which people who don’t smoke want to go and enjoy the evening. There is no excuse. So there’s no argument, genuine argument you can give as to why we should have a right to smoke in here, because, you know, it’s damaging to other people’s health. It’s unpleasant for people who don’t, who, don’t smoke.” And I think we didn’t really have a lot to stand on as smokers at that point to say they shouldn’t bring this ban in. And for me as well as I actually thought to myself, I hope they do bring it in because it will help me give up. And I almost kind of flagged that up in the future as may be a day to give up when the smoking ban comes in I’ll knock it on the head because it will be a yes, it will make life an awful lot easier.I think it was a problem because I was defining all of my smoking being around drinking. Which it really, which it really wasn’t. But I knew it would just make life a little bit easier if you couldn’t smoke in pubs. If nobody was smoking in pubs. And what I didn’t, I didn’t take into account, I think around the time the ban came in I decided to start giving up, but it was also, I think, I’m think I’m right in saying it was around the same time we had the really nice hot summer and so we all sat outside in pub gardens and, and everyone was smoking outside. So I just carried on smoking.
One reason why Andy started to think about giving up smoking was that it cost too much.
I mean there were other reasons as well. I mean I think I knew deep down it was getting to the point where it was actually getting too expensive. I think it was getting to the point where they were just about to go to £5 a pack. And I think at some point I sat down and calculated how much it was costing me a month and I looked at how much I was, because I was struggling a little bit at the time with money, and I was thinking, God if I packed in smoking, I’d have ‘x’ amount of money extra a month so I could, those nights I had to stay in, I’d be able to go out. Or you know, you know, the old, the old chestnut, you know, if you give up smoking put the money aside and get yourself something nice. I thought, you know, I could save up and get, I don’t know, an iPod or something like that, back then. And, then I looked at it, and I thought God almighty how much is this costing me, and that coupled with the fact that I wasn’t really enjoying it any more. I was just going through the process of doing it, I think was enough to, to, you know, for me just to kick it in the head.
Andy went ‘cold turkey’ and took three days off work. He thought fighting the routine as well as his desire for cigarettes would be too much.
But for me, the way I saw it, is having nicotine patches and continuing nicotine therapy, while it might make those cravings much easier to deal with, it means you’re going to have the cravings for a longer period of time. I think. I mean I don’t, I don’t know this for a fact. This is just how I read, how I read the situation. Because I remain I remember reading that, and again I don’t know how true this is, I remember reading that effectively the nicotine leaves your body in the space of 72 hours or something like that. And once that’s happened, it’s basically just a psychological thing. It’s just a… because the physical cravings are no longer, no longer there, because you’ve processed all the nicotine out of your body. And from that point onwards it’s just the habit, it’s the routine, which is just as hard to shake. And again, I don’t know if that’s fully true, that’s just something I read and that’s something that I stuck by when I decided to give up. Because I figured that if I decided to go on the whole process of nicotine replacement therapy then I would make it, it would make it last longer. It would make the situation just go on longer, and longer and longer and I wanted a, I wanted it to be over as quickly as humanly possible. I wanted to just get rid of the just get it out of my system and get it fundamentally dealt with as quickly as I could.
And so for me what I did, I had three days off work and I think I just had them off work for whatever reason. I think it was just using up some holiday, using up some leave. And I just decided to myself, right, here’s a perfect opportunity. I’m not at work. I worked in a job where you could have a smoke on the job while you, while you’re going round and it was very easy, if you were having a stressful day, have a smoke, and it was, it was, a good way of, of passing the day. But I, I decided three days off work, basically I’m just not going to anybody. I’m going to lock myself into the house. Not go out. Not do anything and just ride out all the horrible cravings. All the nastiness, all the, the bad tempers and, and, and all of that. Ride as much of that out as I possibly could at home, get all that out my system and then three days later, theoretically speaking, if what I’ve read is true, I should be able to then go out and it would be a habit thing, and then I can deal with the two things separately.
Because I don’t think if I’d gone out at work doing routine things, shaking the routine of smoking, fighting the routine as well as fighting the cravings, I think would have been too difficult. It would have been taking on too much at the same I think. So I kind of did it one at a time. And that worked. And I think the first three days were just the worst, they’re absolute hell, and you know, I never want to put anybody giving up smoking, but I think most people have tried it and they know how difficult it is. But if you can get through those three days, and it is around three days. If you can get through that all of a sudden, it falls off a cliff and becomes so much easier. I mean it doesn’t become easy, of course. I’m not going to suggest it is easy, because it’s not. But it becomes an awful, awful lot easier once you’ve got kind of past that, you know, that get all the physical cravings out the way with. And it becomes easier.
Looking back Andy can see that giving up after 15 years of smoking has improved his health and lung capacity but it was not immediately apparent.
Andy said it’s important to know why you are trying to quit smoking and to break the task down into achievable goals.
And to always keep them at the forefront of your mind. And when it gets difficult even during the times when it’s tough, and it’s annoying and its hell on earth, put those reasons, the reasons you’re giving up at the front of your mind and you know, quite often it’s just a matter of riding it out in weathering the storm. And, and I think as long as you know why you’re doing it, I think generally you’ll be fine. It’s, you know, the most ruddy difficult thing in the world to do, but I think, I think if you want to do it, you will. I think ultimately you’ll succeed, but you just need to tell yourself that, that I want to do it.
I’m doing it for the right reasons. I want to give up. And just be determined to beat it. Make a goal, make it a challenge. Don’t just do off the. You know, don’t just sort of take it off the back of a whim. Sit down and make it a determined goal for yourself. And break it down into little battles as well, like I said. Break it down into the first battle, get rid of the physical cravings that will last a few days, three or four days may be at tops. Deal with those cravings, then deal with the... all the other little things, the routine, the cigarette you have after dinner. The cigarette you have when you’re on the way to the post office. The cigarette. All of those things. Deal with them one by one, break it down into little battles and the first, the original battles, the first battles are the most difficult and every battle that you ever have after that becomes so much easier. It gets to the point when you don’t even think about it anymore. And you suddenly say to yourself and think actually how long ago was it I gave up smoking. You suddenly realise. Instead of counting the minutes and hours that you were at the beginning you suddenly realise that months have passed and you have just stopped counting.
Andy’s doctor asked about his smoking when he went with other issues. He was offered help with giving up but he wanted to do it on his own.
No I never did. I mean I remember, not to any degree. I think I remember going in once with another complaint and he just asked me a couple of routine questions, things like you know, are you smoking, do you smoke? And I think I remember at one point saying, “oh yes, I do x’ amount a day.” And I remember him saying, “Do you want to quit. There are, you know, we can help you quit.” At the time I think I just said, ”No. it’s all right. Don’t worry.” I think I would have been relatively young at the time. I would have been in my teens I think at that point.
But I think, funnily enough, the next time I went to the doctors, it was actually in my ultimately failed attempts to give up. So he then said to me, “You know, do you smoke?” I said, “No I used to but I don’t anymore.” Even if it was about the third day, it probably was I had given up and which I wasn’t really failed. And I remember then going back, the next time I went to the doctors was a few years later and I was back into smoking quite heavily by then, and the doctor was saying, running through my, my file, he said, blah, blah, ex smoker, this that and the other. I thought you might have to update that actually, because I’m not an ex smoker any more. And again he just went through the whole process of, you know, asking me if there is any help that you want to get giving up and things like that, and I just, I think again I just dismissed it. Primarily because I always thought, which ultimately proved to be the case that I thought that if I ever wanted to give up I think I would be able to, and be capable of doing it on my own two feet and I think I would rather have done it that way.
Andy remembered ‘kidding himself’ about wanting to give up smoking when he still enjoyed it.
At high school Andy and his mates all smoked cigarettes, but unlike some of the other groups at school they did not really go to pubs.
And it was quite defining as to what we did. Which is a bit weird really, but it was, I don’t know, I guess that one of those things where people say it’s a social thing isn’t it? But that’s kind of how I got into it and that’s how I sort of maintained smoking for such a long time.
Tell me some more about that. How it defined what you did?
Well I mean, a good example of that, actually, is when we used to go to a Little Chef, there’s a Little Chef on the A420 between Oxford and Swindon, and you can, this is back in the days when you could smoke in places, and you’d go, we’d go and sit down, order a pot of tea, because they were free refills. So we’d order a pot of tea and just sit there for the entire afternoon or the entire evening, smoking, and having smokes and having tabs we called them.
And then we, I don’t know we were always, always quite precious about what kind of brands. Everybody had their own specific brands, but you know, they were, they were sort of the cool brands that we always wanted to have. But then, you know, ultimately it’s just down to price in the end of the day, when you’re sort of 16, 17 years old. But it was I don’t know, it literally, it literally defined what we do of an evening. It’s where we would go. I mean to be honest with you, it’s just about having a chat with your mates more than anything else. Same, same as you do in a coffee shop or in a pub or in you know, when you’re walking down the street. But we were just doing by, well we’ll find somewhere nice to go and have a smoke.
And we, we did that for a really long time. But it saved us loads of cash, because all our mates were spending all their money on booze down the pub. And we were just going backwards and forwards having cups of tea here and there and smoking cigarettes. But it was and I think after a while that actually, that’s probably why I associated smoking for such a long time, what I actually really enjoyed, smoking, the process of smoking, having a smoke. Whether it’s just popping out with, popping outside with somebody to have a fag or whether it was just a matter of you know, I’m a bit bored, what shall I do? I’m going to pop outside for a fag. Or you know… have a beer, have a cup of tea. Watch a film, and have a couple of cigarettes and you know, I think, you know, some people who just smoke do, just smoke through the routine out of it, just because they’re addicted to it and it’s just something they do. But I think we, I mean myself as well, me and all my friends, we just really enjoyed it. And it became, it became, yes, it became a driving force [laughs]. It was, it was really strange really.
As a teenager Andy smoked Lucky Strike – he’d heard that every so often a packet would include a cigarette with cannabis.
So what was that in the end?
It was Lucky, it was Lucky Strike. And because they were quite rare, well particularly when we first started, well sort of when we were about 16, 17 years old, and you could only get them in a few places. You couldn’t get them anywhere in the town we grew up in, so we’d have to go to [Place name]. Or when we were in [Place name], oh get to that place that does Lucky Strike. And it was like a treat.
Actually as well there was a, one of the other reasons as well, was that there was a rumour, possibly started by one of the mates, I don’t know, or it’s possibly something they read or heard or a friend of a friend told them, you know, that kind of… sort of tenuous link, but there was a rumour that every millionth pack or every millionth cigarette they made had cannabis in it. And so, on the streets of, you know, on the High Streets of, of the United Kingdom every millionth Lucky Strike was a joint, and so it became, you know, we bought these on just on the odd chance we might get the one with the joint in it. I don’t know, I can’t remember if I actually believed that or not. Because it’s obviously not true, but that was, I remember talking about that quite long and hard when we were first getting Lucky Strikes, but I hope I didn’t believe it. But it would be funny if I did.
When Andy first gave up smoking, he avoided going to the pub but then tested himself by trying not to smoke there.
Of course there are others ones as well when you’re giving up. The difficult situations, like the first time you go to the pub, the first time you go to the pub and start drinking. You know, it doesn’t matter how many…. you know, I think for me it was probably about a week giving up. Because I tried to avoid the situation. And I got to the point where I just couldn’t avoid it any more. So I ended up going to the pub and I thought, well this’ll be a test. And [laughs] I think I just drank an awful lot that night [laughs]. I think instead of having a cigarette I would just drink more beer. Every time I fancied a smoke, I’d just drink more beer, and I think I got through an awful lot of beer. But there isn’t, you know, there are worse things to do with your time. But I think that’s probably how I dealt with it. I think I also ate a lot more when I gave up. I think that’s probably fairly typical as well.
Andy associated things like bad breath and yellow teeth with smoking as well as more serious smoking related illnesses.
I mean, I mean how the health risks is associated with smoking is as long as your arm aren’t you? I mean you’ve got lung cancer, coronary heart disease are obviously the two biggest things, but emphysema and all kinds of things. But I mean it’s not just is that. It’s cosmetic things as well. It ages the skin and it’s just…
And other things as well. I mean just social things. It makes, it colours your teeth. And it makes your breath smell bad. It makes, you know, it makes things, you know, your general fitness levels fall through the floor. But for me, I mean, always, always the biggest things I associated with smoking were always old people, I think. Old people in bed wheezing away, coughing up their lungs or whatever.
Andy started to realise that he was getting ‘chesty coughs’ after colds, and this eventually moved him to give up smoking.
And I think I realised that probably within sort of a year or so, a year prior to me giving up, I suddenly realised, wait a minute. I always get, I just thought, initially I put it down to bad luck, initially I thought I’m just having, you know, I’m just getting a lot of chesty colds at the moment. But I don’t think it was that realistically. It was because my, you know, I’d been smoking for such a long time. And I think that was a crucial aspect of it. But I think it was a matter of, all of those things put into one, you know, the, the health aspects, the cost aspects and that with the catalyst of, of me suddenly realising that I found myself completely and utterly enslaved to it. I think all of those things conspired together all in one go, came together and that was the moment that I just thought to myself, do you know what, that’s it. That’s time. I’m going to pack this in. Which I eventually did.