My Quit September 2013
My name is Ian. I have been smoking since I was around 17 years old. I’m now 39 which makes it around 22 years I’ve smoked.
I have smoked many things in those 22 years, but it was mainly tobacco, around 20-30 roll-ups per day.
I’ve had always enjoyed smoking. I actually liked the smell of burning tobacco and my roll-ups were like a friend to me, they were always there when I was stressed, sad or when I felt lonely.
I liked to sit in the garden at night with a coffee and a roll-up staring at the stars, or early on a summer’s morning sit on the garden step, again with a roll-up and a coffee, watching the sunrise. I felt calm, relaxed and any worries I had just seemed to melt away. Smoking also helped me though some difficult times during my life; including some anxiety issues I had been suffering with. Smoking was just part of me and it would be hard to imagine my life without it.
During the summer of 2013 I really started to notice that my health was not that great. Running around in the garden with my son or walking up the stairs (107 steps) to my office got me quite out of breath. Other things also got me thinking; like the fact I was the only person in the office who smoked and actually unlike the good ole days when 2oz of tobacco use to cost me £2.50 it was now becoming extremely expensive to smoke. I calculated that I would be spending between £100-£150 pounds per month; just burning all that money away and on top of that, it was now making feel quite unwell. I’m only 39 years old, and I know I have hay fever, but getting out of breath running around the garden? Hmmm, that does not seem right.
I had also started to notice that my anxiety was becoming more of an issue, even with the comfort of smoking. My anxiety had always been related to heights, my trigger, where I had a near death experience nearly falling off a 40 metre tank some 15 years ago, scared the hell out of me. But now it stated to effect not just heights, but open spaces and just generally, it was really starting to mess with my mind set.
With all these health issues and now my anxiety seemly getting worse I decided that actually I didn’t enjoy smoking any more. In fact I blamed all my health issues on smoking and I had also been reading how nicotine affects anxiety keeping that vicious circle going.
Quitting Smoking = Improved health and less or maybe even no more anxiety?
With my body telling me to stop poisoning me and my mind telling me no more anxiety, this was it. It’s time to quit smoking for ever.
I decided to set my quit date for the 1st of September 2013. I would do this quit using patches, starting at 25mg 16 hours a day. This seemed like a good plan.
During the latter stages of August my health seemed to improve a little and I started to feel a little better about myself. Did I really need to quit? I felt like I was getting better. Why put myself though this, I will be OK. The quit was postponed.
But over the next couple of weeks I developed a cough, or it was more like a clearing of the throat and my chest started to hurt on one side whenever I smoked. Again I start to think about quitting smoking, having wished now I had started this in September. So I decided to set my quit date for 1st October. Stoptober.
During September I drastically cut down the amount of roll-ups I was having. I went from around 20-30 to maybe 7-10 a day. I would normally have my last roll-up before I went to bed at around 10 or 11pm, but now I was stopping my last roll-up at around 6 or 7pm.
At first this made a massive difference. My chest would no longer hurt, and my coughs seemed to go again. But during the last week of September my cough returned! – I say cough, again it was more like a consent clearing of the throat, all the time, like something was stuck at the back of it.
I decided I wanted to start my quit sooner than my original quit date of the 1st of October. I made an appointment with Doctor for the 24th September, but I went to Tesco’s on the 23rd and brought some 25mg 16 hour nicotine patches.
The 23rd of September 2013 would be my last day I would ever smoke!
I had my last roll-up around 7pm on the 23rd and I can honestly say I didn’t really feel as sad I thought I would. In fact I was really starting to look forward to becoming a non-smoker, being less anxious, richer and a lot healthier person. I started to think of all the benefits of becoming a non-smoker like being able to get on a plane because I would be less anxious, buying a new PC with all the extra money I would be saving and being to bike into work again without coughing my lungs up when I got there. I was feeling really positive about this quit.
I woke up early on the 24th, patch on and made my way to the doctors. I told the doctor what I was doing and how I wanted to quit smoking. I had decided 16 hour patches starting with 25mg, as I was what I thought I classed myself as a heavy smoker.
I also told the doctor about my cough or clearing throat. He praised me about my quit and asked if I wanted to attend a quit smoking group. I declined as I felt I could do this on my own. The doctor gave me some more patches to keep me going and also checked my chest, took my stats and said “probably just a viral infection. There is a lot going round at the moment”. I’m convinced everything is just a viral infection to them! Anyway I was reassured that I was OK and off I went.
As well as patches to help me quit I thought I would also use my Facebook account to help me out. Telling all my friends that I was quitting would add extra pressure on me to succeed, or that was my thinking anyway. My first Facebook status read
“Nobody can force you to give up smoking it has to come from within. My attempt starts tomorrow and by Christmas I will be a non-smoker!”
I also posted a picture of my nicotine patches and I received 18 likes and 16 comments wishing all the best.
So this was it. I’ve told the world and there is no going back now its official it’s on Facebook.
The first week I didn’t really experience many withdraws, apart from some bleeding gums, which actually bleed quit a lot now thinking about it. I can remember pushing on my teeth with my tongue and the blood would just poor out, or even when I took a bite of a soft fruit like a banana, the banana would be covered in blood. Odd I thought. I had read some about withdraws effects from giving up, but I didn’t ever recall seeing this one. On searching the internet I found various other people who had the same issue. It seemed that it had to do with increased circulation now that I had quit. I have yet to that verified by anybody professional. It didn’t really bother me so I did not really worry about.
I was also a little on edge and I was finding it hard to concentrate at work, but my cough had completely cleared up and I was on a high. This quitting smoking is easy I thought and I soon sailed through week 1. As October the 1st approached I posted this status on Facebook.
“Good luck to everyone starting Stoptober today. It's been exactly one week since my last fag and I'm never going back.”
Week 2 & 3
At the end of the second week my cough came back. Not again I thought, consent clearing of the throat and I found myself really starting to cough hard to try and clear whatever was in my throat and actually start to panic that I could not clear it. I brought some cough sweets, Fisherman Friends, as these seem to help the most. I also started to become more aware of aches and pains, where I would have normally shrugged these off, these started to linger on my mind. Perhaps this cough was something else. Perhaps the doctor missed something. Why do I have this cough again? I haven’t smoked for over 2 weeks. This is not normal. These were all thoughts going round my head.
I went back to the doctors, a different doctor saw me this time. A female, I told her that I kept coughing and could not clear my throat and explained that it had kept coming back and it felt like something was stuck or dropping down the back of my throat. I also needed some more patches.
She said it was probably a sinus infection causing post nasal drip. Course of antibiotics it was then. Also another 4 packs of 25mg patches.
During the same night I saw the doctors, I started to cough really hard and I started to panic again that I could not clear my throat. I coughed so hard and violently that when I spat my contents in to the sink I notice some blood. The colour just drained from me, but I tried to remain calm. “It only happened once” I said to myself “and I was coughing really hard”. Most of the phlegm I had been coughing out was clear, with maybe just the odd spot of brown tar. I did expect some of this, but this did not seem right. Why so much clear phlegm, why does it feel like something dripping down my throat? This can’t be just from giving up smoking can it?
For the rest of that week I continued to have clearing throat and coughing fits and I really started to panic more. I saw out-hours GP who tried to reassure me that I should not worry. My chest sounded clear and no fever or anything, although he did say that if this continued, perhaps you should have your doctor do a chest x-ray, for peace of mind.
At the weekend of week 4 I had yet another clearing coughing fit, and again more blood. This made me really nervous and panicky, so I decided to go to A/E because I knew that I would be given a chest X-ray and the doctors there would not let me leave until they knew I was OK.
A/E was packed I mean really packed. I got there at around 11 and got seen to around 5pm. I was really, really anxious. I was convinced I had something serious. In fact I was so anxious that I had actually cut the top of my arm where I had, without realising it been scraping it with my finger nails. This is where my roll-up friend would off ease my mind. – But if it wasn’t for Mr roll-up, I would not be there in the first place!
The doctor checked my all over; I had my chest x ray, which came back all clear. A massive relief I can tell you. He also could not find a single thing wrong with me, checked everything right from my head to my toes! He got a massive hug and a big thank you. I left A/E so relieved, I could of easily of cried and nearly did as I was driving home.
As soon as I got home, my cough went no clearing of my throat. Perfect! I even went to Tesco’s and brought us all a rib dinner, our favorite. I also recall this status I wrote on Facebook as it was just an emotional and odd day.
“Reflecting on a very strange day which ranged from lying on a hospital bed thinking my whole world was falling apart to driving home from Tesco's and a 2lt bottle of fizzy explodes inside the car”
And it really did explode! – I mean the whole of inside of the car was covered!
Seeing the doctor’s reassured me for a couple of days and my cough and throat clearing would also stop after I saw them but would return a few days after. I decided as this week was school half term I would take some leave, perhaps I needed to chill out with maybe a spot of fishing. But the start of this week I felt awful, like a viral infection or something. I didn't want to get out of bed, just lie there not doing anything. Everything I did seemed like a massive effort. I tried to get out in the garden and do some gardening, just raking up some leaves, but I felt completely out of breath and generally knackered. There would be no fishing for me that week, and no real time enjoying it with my son. I felt really bad, as he was stuck in the house as was I.
I went back to the doctors again, and told him that I was feeling awful, I still had my cough and I was feeling generally down. I don’t think he actually knew what to suggest. “Your stats are good your chest x ray was clear your throat does look a little sore. Would you like some more antibiotics?” He said. “I don’t know, you’re the doctor “I replied. The doctor gave me another course of stronger antibiotics, but instead of just taking them like I would normally do, I started to read the label and found myself getting really anxious about taking them. I was meant to be taking two a day, but I would only take one just to see if I would be OK. I felt strange after taking one, really dozy, dizzy, and light headed and just not feeling right. I was convinced I was having a reaction to this drug. I stopped taking them as I didn’t think I needed them anyway, but for more reassurance I called NHS Direct 111. I talked though the nurse on the phone, and she agreed that I properly didn’t need them and I should stop taking them.
This gave me again some good reassurance and I started to feel good about myself again, shame it was the end of the school hols and I needed to go back to work.
I went back to work but feeling really anxious. I still had the clearing of throat cough and eating mostly cough sweets during the day.
I also found myself unable to move from my chair. I was solid, completely tense. I didn’t want to go to the toilet or just even move around the office. I just sat there doing my work and I was relieved when my home time would come. But even at home I continued to feel really tense, sitting upright or leaning forward. I just could not relax. I was consently focusing on my cough and chest, worrying.
During the middle of the week while at work I had a panic attack. I was sitting in my chair, again very tense and I started to shake. I decided I needed to get out of the office, so I walked down stairs. Each step was getting harder and harder as I felt my legs turning to jelly. I decided to try and walk around the office block, this didn’t help. I had thoughts that everybody was looking at me and I was struggling to handle this. I sat down and focused on some fisherman’s friends for around 15mins until I had calmed down. I then walk remember saying to myself “Don’t be stupid Ian, get back in that office, everything will be OK”
I went back in and everything was OK, but I was feeling really scared as to what had just happened.
At the end of week 6 I wrote this on the Facebook
“Week 6 of non-smoking and I've been suffering with, sometimes quite intense anxiety issues. However I've now found that playing Pink Floyd's wish you were here on my guitar helps a little.”
Keeping my mind focused really need help me relax, but it wouldn’t be enough.
I managed to get though week 7, by either doing some work from the office or from at home, but I was still having panic attacks, worrying all the time, coughing etc.
I called into the doctors again for more reassurance, and I began to open up about my anxiety and told him I was really becoming worried. He suggested the Wellbeing service may help. I contacted them and booked a phone assessment to have in a couple of days. The phone assessment went well, I explained everything with had happened and recommended that I have a group CBT session which would start in a couple of weeks. Excellent I thought, not only will I become a non-smoker but after years of being anxious I will finally sort my anxiety out. At this point I was feeling really positive.
Although my Facebook stats doesn't show how positive I was feeling, this is what I wrote
“Week 7 of quitting smoking. I'm still coughing loads (most of the day non-stop), coughing up loads of clear and brown mucus as lungs continue to clear and heal (so the doctors say!). I seem to also have a continuous cold. Several times during the day I can feel my nose, throat and lungs fill up with snot. I have another two weeks left on my 15mg patches then I go on the final lower dose of 7mg. Anybody thinking of giving up, GO FOR IT its hard, harder than i thought but worth it and I would be more than happy to offer support.. (20+/day for 20 years)”
Week 8 and 9
These two weeks were my lowest points, not just in my quit, my probably in my life. Monday started with me getting up early and going into the work. I must say I felt anxious before getting there. I walked up to my office, and as soon as I entered I began to start to shake. I said to my colleague I don’t feel right, I think I’m having another panic attack. I walked out of the office, out of the building and the panic just got worse and worse to the point I thought I was losing full control. It was awful. This lasted for around 10mins and I managed to get myself back to my car. I called work from my car and my colleague was able to come out and calm me right down. He suggested I go back to the doctors and tell him what just happen.
I made an appointment for the same day and told the doctor what just happened. He suggested I take some beta-blockers to see me though till I had my CBT sessions. I was a little anxious about taking these and I didn't really know how they would help.
I got them and read the label. If you have ever had hay fever or asthma these could kill you
Ummm, yeah I don’t think I will be taking them. However the chemist tried to reassure me that I would be OK.
I didn't take them the first day, but I took one in the evening on day 2. At first I was fine, but I then started to worry about what I had just taken and this put me in a full blown panic attack again.
I continued to be highly anxious during the week, at the end of the week after another full blown panic attack this time a doctor had to be called because I was convinced I could not breathe.
The doctor took one look at me and said. “You don’t have a cough, not a chronic cough anyway. You have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Here take these pills! (Anti-depressants)”
It’s odd because after he said I didn't have a cough, my cough stopped!
I took the pills over the next 3 days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). This was the worst thing I have ever done. Those three little pills pushed me to beyond breaking point. I could not stop myself from crying, I was pulling my hair out – I did not know what the hell was happening to me. That weekend alone I had about ½ hours sleep. As I’m writing this now it sends those horrible thoughts back, so I won’t go into much detail.
The following Monday I returned back to the doctors, with family, and I broke down, I was referred for a mental health assessment and told not to take any more anti-depressants. The mental health nurse was excellent, she really looked after me. She explained everything. She also gave me a folder containing loads of information on self-help. I was also giving some Damazapan to help me sleep. The doctor had signed me off work until the New Year, which gave me some time to start to mend.
From this point I started to build I wanted my life back. No more panic attacks, feeling stressed or most certainly no more smoking.
Right, time to get my life back!.....
From this point, although it has been a real struggle to accept what has happen to me and to deal with it, it has been mostly positive. I have met some fantastic people, learnt how people very close to me had also suffered from mental health issues. I have also learnt how important it is to relax and not to get stressed and most importantly I have learnt that
No matter what life throws at you, turning to smoking does not help you. Smoking will only mask that stress and that worry. Smoking does not comfort you. Smoking will KILL YOU
I’m now approaching four months without smoking and I’m now back at work. I still get my cough on and off, and I still continue to cough up that brown crud. The doctors and the NHS website both say it can take anywhere from 1 to 9 months for your lungs to heal. And haven spoken to a friend of mine recently who is six months quitting, he still gets his cough now and again and still brings up that brown crud.
I found that quitting smoking was both physically and mentally challenging. And was probably the hardest thing I have ever done.
Many times throughout my quit I could have easy picked up a roll-up and puffed away knowing that my cough would probably stop (for a little while) my anxiety would ease and I would have been able to relax and stop worrying.
Stay Focused and Positive
But now as I continue to push out of the other side, I now have the summer to look forward to smoke-free! I continue to learn new ways to control my anxiety and I believe I will come out of this a much stronger person.
I really hope, that whoever reads this, will realise that no matter what life throws at you, smoking is not a comfort; smoking is not your friend.
And once you have made your journey to the other side you will soon realise that you’re in control of your life. Not that nasty habit - Smoking