Published: 24 February 2020
Giving up the cigarettes can be tough but three HSE staff members have decided that they aren’t just going to kick the habit – they are also going to help others to do the same.
(L-R Martha Clarke, Shauna Strutt)
Martha Clark, Shauna Strutt (pictured above ) and Jennifer Curtis (not pictured) have volunteered to become staff Quit leaders, providing peer support and encouragement to colleagues and service users who have also decided to give up smoking once and for all.
Martha knows all about the value of support through shared experience – she is a peer support worker in the Recovery College South East in Kilkenny. Peer Support is where people who have experienced mental health issues offer support to service users by sharing their own recovery journey.
“If I can become a role model for other people who are going through the same thing, it would be fantastic. People like to know that they are not alone, that their struggles are not unique. They see others take the plunge and it gives them confidence that they can do it too. It will also help me in that I will be more accountable and will have to take it very seriously,” she said.
“It is also important that by chatting with other people you learn to overcome the perceived barriers – the things that you think you might struggle with but that you actually find that you can do easily. We are all much stronger than we think.”
Shauna, an Operations Team member for Mental Health at Connolly Norman House in Dublin, said volunteering to share her quit journey will give her the kick she needs to banish the cigarettes for good.
“I took them up when I was only a kid. Everyone was smoking and I did it to fit in and feel cool, like most people starting off. I wasn’t a huge smoker – maybe a box a week. That probably made it harder to quit because I didn’t see myself as much of a smoker, that it wasn’t a major problem. I might have a box of smokes when I was out and then not look at them for a week,” said Shauna.
She said there was always an excuse for her not to give up.
“I used to say that I’d finish when I left school. Then it was when I finished college. Then I told myself it would be after a year in my job. There was never a right time. I’m hoping that by putting myself out there, I’ll be too embarrassed for anyone to see me back smoking again. That’s the pressure I need to get through it,” she laughed.
Jennifer Curtis, from Clondalkin, is a PA for the Ireland East Hospital Group and is based in Millennium Park, Naas.
Like many people, Jennifer took up smoking as a teenager.
“I started smoking about 20 years ago. I always thought I would stop but I still smoke about 7 to 8 cigarettes a day and more at the weekend. I spend about €40 a week on cigarettes.”
This won’t be the first time Jennifer has quit smoking.
“I did manage to quit when I was pregnant but I took it back up after a cigarette on a night out. This time around, I’m planning on using NRT like the patches and gum. II hope that they will help me cope with cravings.” Tuesday, March 3 is D-Day when the cigarettes get the boot for Jennifer, Martha and Shauna. They will join thousands of other smokers taking the Quit.ie challenge for 28 days.
Martha said she has been preparing herself and eager to get started on her quit journey.
“I think I am ready to give them up. I have been preparing in my head for it. Every time I have a cigarette now I try to be really mindful about it and ask myself am I even enjoying it,” she explained.
Martha said she became a smoker when she worked in a pub and found that her smoking colleagues were getting breaks that she wasn’t.
“I tried smoking when I was a kid and hated it. It was only when I worked in the pub and one day asked one of my colleagues for a cigarette. I thought there must be some benefits to them if so many people were smoking. I thought they must help you to de-stress, which is a total myth. And then I found myself a smoker.”
As a reward for quitting, Martha is aiming to save up enough money to buy a car.
“I calculated on the app that I am spending about €10 a day on cigarettes, so €70 a week. I am going to transfer that amount each week to my credit union savings account and let it build up. I think it will be a great motivator for me to see the amount going up and up each week. It is a great way of seeing the progress I am making and will be an extra spur on for me,” she said.
Shauna said the hardest part for her will be putting herself in the social occasions where she usually would have a cigarette.
“I have a night out for a friend’s birthday the Friday after I quit. I know that is going to be really tough. Only one of my friends smokes and I won’t want her to be left on her own having a cigarette outside so I’ll go out with her. But I will be strong and won’t give in to the urge to have one too,” she said.
Martha will be using the Quit plan app to track her progress, particularly for the health benefits she is accruing every day she is off the cigarettes. She said the health reasons were her biggest incentive to kick the habit.
“I am looking forward to feeling healthy again. I want to go for a walk and feel good, to know that I am no longer putting myself at risk of health problems. That’s a massive motivation for me. I have struggled with my mental health in the past and thought I needed the crutch of the cigarettes but I don’t. I have all the coping skills I need. Cigarettes don’t give me anything,” she insisted.
Jennifer has had a consultation with the HSE’s Quitline to help her get ready to quit.
An important step in getting ready to quit is thinking about the reason to quit. For Jennifer, a big reason is her daughter
“My little girl really wants me to quit smoking and I want to do it for her and set a good example.
I also want to take back control. The older I get, the more I feel like smoking is an addiction. At this stage, I don’t feel like I even enjoy smoking anymore, it’s more something that I have to do. I want to break the cycle and look after my health”.