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28 days later - we check in with our Quit Leaders

28 days later- we check in with our Quit Leaders to see how the stop smoking challenge has gone

Published: 14 April 2020

If you stop smoking for 28 days, you are five times more likely to quit for good. Our three volunteer staff Quit leaders have now passed that milestone, feeling positive and even more determined to stay off the cigarettes.

For Shauna Strutt, her goal of running a 5k by the end of the year seems closer than ever.

I made a promise to myself that this year I would run a 5k by then end of the year and feel that since giving up my training has definitely come a long way. On the mental side of things, quitting has done a great deal for me and given me so much more belief in myself. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and to be able now to look back and see how far I’ve come has 100pc given me more confidence” she explained.

You would have excused Shauna if she put her quit attempts on hold – not only did her smoke-free days start as the country faced into the COVID-19 pandemic, but she then started a busy new role as Personal Assistant to the Area Director of Mental Health Nursing, DNCC.

“The obvious state of the world didn’t help. Trust me to try to give up smoking just as the world goes into a pandemic. The temptation was there definitely, and I’ll be honest I did have a slip or two when everything got on top of me but I didn’t enjoy it at all and was more annoyed at myself and disappointed in myself for that so it kept me off them then,” she explained.

“On top of that, I also went for a promotion in work two weeks ago and was successful so started last week. Then there was the added pressure of starting a new job on top of everything else. I really didn’t make it easy for myself!”

Distraction was the key for Shauna as she was determined to stay away from cigarettes.

“If I was sitting on the couch and got a craving I’d get up and move to a different room and do something. If I was in the car, I’d higher up the radio and belt along to whatever song was playing - I apologise if anyone had to witness that. If I was in work I’d get up and fill my water or make a coffee. I just tried to keep it out of my head. I made myself accountable also and I told everyone who would listen that I was giving up so that they could support me,” she said.

She vowed that there was no going back to cigarettes now. I just keep reminding myself of how far I’ve come and how much of a waste it would be after everything that I’ve gone through for this process,” she said.

“People who are thinking about giving up, just believe in yourself. You can definitely do it but you need to have the will power and be strict with yourself. It’s so, so easy to just give in but if you just stick with it and discipline yourself it gets easier as the time goes by.”

Jennifer Curtis credited nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and the support of the Quit team in helping her get to 28 days smoke-free.

“If I was to give advice to somebody that was thinking of quitting it would be, make sure your ready mentally and that you’re doing this because you want to give up. Also have a set quit date as this will build you up to quitting. I gave myself two weeks and in those two weeks I was able to mentally prepare myself. I would highly recommend NRT. I don’t think I would have succeeded without some form of NRT to help with the cravings. I found the gum and the inhalator really helpful so I would highly recommend them to anybody thinking of quitting,” she said.

“I would also recommend anybody thinking of quitting to link in with the Quit team. They have been extremely supportive and I am truly grateful to them for the on-going support they have provided,” said Jennifer, a PA for the Ireland East Hospital Group based in Millennium Park, Naas.

She said she was feeling really good physically and mentally after the four weeks.

“I feel I have a lot more energy than I had before. To keep busy and distract myself from craving I have been out walking as much as possible. Another one of my distraction tactics has been doing some home workouts which I never done before and I am really feeling the benefit of them, I keep mentally reminding myself during them how much more difficult the breath work would be if I was still smoking so that’s motivating me to keep on going,” said Jennifer.

“I have noticed since all that has been going on with the pandemic and the change in my daily routine, working remotely and at home with the children all day, I have felt cravings slightly creeping up again but I’ve been just reminding myself how far I have come, distracting myself by using the nicotine gum when it is needed and drinking lots of water.”

Reflecting on the last 28 days of her quit journey, she said her biggest challenge was the first two weeks when the cravings were intense.

“I didn’t think they were intense at the time as I was expecting them to be a lot worse. However, after 28 days, I look at those two weeks as the most challenging as the cravings were a couple of times a day. Also in those first two weeks I was trying to break all the habits that I would associate with smoking like that cigarette in the morning or straight after food or before bed so defiantly the first two weeks are the toughest, but once you get through them it’s a very rewarding feeling.”

Our third staff leader Martha Clarke, a peer support worker in the Recovery College South East in Kilkenny, said the biggest surprise for her at the end of her first 28 days smoke-free was the change in her mindset.

“I feel mentally strong, and it has made me feel better about myself and what I can achieve if I just put my mind to it,” she said.

For Martha, the four Ds - Delay, distract, drink water and deep breaths – helped her beat the cravings and kick the habit.

“The two I used the most were delay and distract, though deep breathing made me aware how well my lungs were recovering. Delaying the reaction to cravings and distracting myself really helped. I was also shocked how much easier it was with the patches. They were a godsend and gave me confidence that I wouldn't be hit with a sudden craving in work,” she said.

That other dreaded C word – COVID-19 – didn’t make things easy for Martha but she was determined to keep going.

“I had a few wobbles where I wanted to give in and use the current situation as an excuse. Every so often I'd think, ‘This is the wrong time to give up - I'll give up later’, but I had to remind myself that actually logically this is the best time to give up. I knew the virus was associated with breathing problems and cigarettes would not help the situation if I did fall ill. I learned to delay how I responded to these thoughts - not to react, but respond. I talked myself out of a lot of cigarettes just be delaying my reaction,” said Martha.

She also found her habit of smoking indoors made quitting tougher.

“Being stuck inside and being used to smoking inside was my biggest challenge. I wish I'd never begun smoking indoors. Having to go out for a cigarette will support you to quit when you're ready to. You won't have the associations of smoking indoors,” she said.

Martha said she has plenty to keep her motivated to stay off the cigarettes. “I hope keeping track of the money I've saved and all the health benefits I've experienced will continue to motivate me. I'll also keep avoiding smoking areas as much as I can because with passive smoking you might as well be smoking. It's still bad for you.”

There are lots of practical tools, tips and support to quit available at Quit.ie or free call the Quitline on 1800 201 203 to speak to a Stop Smoking Advisor. If you stop smoking for 28 days, you are five times more likely to quit for good.

Make 2020 the year you quit for good.