Binning the cigarettes – Days 4-7

I’m running slightly behind with this diary so I’m doing my utmost to get up to date. I only decided to start making the diary two weeks in so I’m slightly further ahead in the process than my posts would suggest. For this reason you will see me churn out the next two and a bit weeks in the next few days. Unfortunately I have not mastered the science of time travel yet. Rest assured though, once I’ve cracked it you’ll be the first to know!

As I mentioned in my previous entry the first few days have been a complete non event. On Tuesday I was rushing around and didn’t have time for breakfast. I took my pill anyway just before leaving the house and by the time I’d walked the twenty minutes or so to work I felt like I was going to throw up! It’s like travel sickness, something I’ve always suffered from. When you’re in a car or on the loser cruiser (my A-Level Philosophy teachers witty name for the bus) and your stomach goes all funny, all you want to do is vomit but for some reason you can’t. Anyway that was probably the pinnacle in terms of excitement over the first week and after eating a cereal bar and some fruit I felt fine.

I am worrying now that these pills aren’t going to have any effect on me. I still feel no different and I’m five days in. I have my next clinic appointment after work so I’m hoping they’re going to tell me this is normal and I am not some kind of Champix resistant freak of nature. Funnily enough my colleague who was raving about Champix and started taking them a week before me seems to have thrown in the towel. She should have hit her quit day by now but she’s still going out for her cigarette every break. It doesn’t fill me with much confidence and to settle my nerves I give my Dad a quick call to find out whether the pills had an immediate effect on him or not. Big mistake! He tells me he is pretty sure they more or less did have an immediate effect on him and were really good. If I was unsure about these pills not working on me before, I’m utterly convinced by the time I get to the clinic.

Lawrence isn’t there to greet me this week. Instead it’s a lovely brunette lady, (can’t quite remember her name) who talks in a very soft pleasant tone and has a constant smile painted on her face. I’d guess she’s in her late thirties and normally this kind of over the top nicey nice attitude would annoy me, (in large part because I’m a miserable bugger.) However, I find it oddly reassuring this time around. I explain my worries while she continues to smile and nod. She brushes it off almost as though she was expecting it to come out of my mouth. It’s perfectly normal apparently. The tablets take time to build up in the system and it can build up quickly or slowly. She explains if I’m still not feeling any different after another week then we can start to look at other options. I’m not keen on this. I’ve invested in the Champix now. It’s going to be my saviour, my smoking penicillin.

Smiley Mcsmilerson (it really annoys me that I can’t remember her name) show’s me a couple of booklets and the smoking calculator so I can keep tabs on how much money I’ll be saving, which is the tangible upside to this torture. Sure I’m less likely to get heart disease and all kinds of cancers, but that’s not something you will really feel or immediately see when quitting. The extra £150 in your bank account every month definitely will be. She recommends a good few apps I can get on my phone as well which I promise to download and look at.

Finally I blow into the carbon monoxide detector. It’s basically the same as a breathalyser but instead of detecting alcohol it detects the carbon monoxide in your system. At my first appointment with Lawrence the reading was 21 ppm (parts per million), this time round it’s 19 ppm. I’m guessing the slight difference is because I had a cigarette before my first appointment and waited until after my appointment the second time round. I’m still supposed to be smoking at this point so I thought the breath test was a bit of a waste of time really.

I leave this appointment feeling slightly more reassured but it is starting to dawn on me that in about a weeks time I’m supposed to be having my last cigarette. This is something I still can’t quite wrap my head around. I finish my first week off still smoking roughly the same amount of cigarettes and unfortunately still not really feeling any different. 

Binning the cigarettes – Days 1-3

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Putting aside all the faff of actually procuring the Champix, (it would probably be easier getting heroin) I’ve actually got to start taking the things now. Seems pretty simple, I take one 0.5 mg pill every morning for the first three days. Then take the same pill morning and night for the remainder of the first week. After this I work my way up to the big boy dosage and start hitting the 1 mg tablets twice a day.

I don’t really know what to expect from these pills. I’ve heard different things. My Dad took them a few years ago and said they were really good. However he’d already quit cold turkey about a year before so the hard work was already done. He’d found himself falling back to the dark side and started taking the Champix to prevent full blown relapse. I have a colleague at work who has just started taking them a few days ago and she said even though you’re supposed to keep smoking when you start taking the tablets, they’re so good sometimes she forgets altogether to have a cigarette, (I’m taking that one with a pinch of salt!) In the interest of fairness I’ve heard some not so great things too. Another colleague of mine has tried quitting using Champix before. The side effects really hit him hard. He said when he got to the increased dosage he started tripping out. He likened it to an acid trip, I’m not familiar with this type of trip myself but experiencing it every day while you’re at work probably isn’t ideal.

Speaking of side effects, there seems to be a list as long as my arm. So many in fact they fit into four categories; very common, common, uncommon and rare. Pills can cause drowsiness, nausea, increased appetite, constipation, diarrhoea, abnormal dreams and even stroke to name but a few. Here’s a picture to give you an idea:

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I haven’t read them all if I’m honest. I have always believed that the more you look at these things the more you start thinking they’re going to affect you. The more you start thinking they’re going to affect you the more likely it actually happens. Power of suggestion is very real in my opinion and sometimes ignorance is better. If I start feeling weird or tripping out everyday I can always look it up.   

I’ve decided to take my first pill on Saturday 5th April, (good a day as any I suppose). If I’m honest it is a pretty uneventful day. Actually it’s a completely uneventful first three days. I’m only taking one 0.5 mg a day and I can still smoke while taking these pills, something which I’m taking full advantage of while I am able. Slightly anxious these pills aren’t going to work. The only side effect I’ve had so far is something which resembles travel sickness if I take the pills on an empty stomach. Other than that there’s been nothing, nada, zilch. Still smoking the same amount as I usually do and not feeling like I want to stop smoking any time soon. I have an appointment at the clinic on the Wednesday, five days in. Hopefully this is all normal.

Binning the cigarettes – Prologue

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I’ve recently decided to stop smoking. A habit, I have for the most part, enjoyed over the last twelve or so years. Sure it’s incredibly expensive, makes you smell, shortens your life, increases the risk of a horrible death and is anti-social almost everywhere these days. But I assure you, this is not an easy thing to do. It may actually be one the toughest struggles I’ve had in my twenty seven years on this planet. I have attempted to quit a few times before but not with the same vigour or enthusiasm I intend this time around.

Katie has nagged and nagged, and I’ve ran out of excuses not to sort myself out and at least try. I really don’t want to smoke any more that is the truth, but the reality is quitting is hard work and why go through the hard work when you can pop down to the shop and buy some cigarettes? That has been my view point for years. From the above list there is only one thing that makes me want to do it more than anything else. That is the money. I spend around £1750 a year on cigarettes and that is a stupid amount. It hasn’t been enough to deter me yet but I think I’ve turned a corner in that respect. As I said, I’m twenty seven. This is really last opportunity to get fit and healthy. Once I hit thirty I will never be able to get as fit as could have been in my twenties.

I’m going to do a bit of a diary to document the experience as it happens. Succeed or fail I will write down exactly what help I’m getting, what non smoking aids I’m using, how good they are, and how nicotine withdrawal effects me.

So I’ve made up my mind and it’s time to stop smoking. I’m not that confident really, I find it hard to imagine a world without cigarettes. If I’m not that confident to begin with I’m almost positive I wont manage it without help. This led me to iQuit website ran by NHS Dorset. It’s not the easiest sight to navigate but in the end I managed to work out which clinic was closest with the opening hours that worked for me. I looked up the number of the clinic online and gave them a ring. A very polite woman told this was indeed the right clinic for the stop smoking service but unfortunately I couldn’t book appointments direct?!?!? Apparently you’ve got to ring 0300 number on the website and book through them. Ever so slightly tedious but not to be deterred I eventually manage to book an appointment for the following week.

I’m not nervous at this point, the reality of this mammoth task has not kicked in, of course, I’m still allowed to smoke at this point. I go to my appointment and meet a nice chap called Lawrence. He asks me the standard questions;

“How long have you been smoking? How many a day? What’s made you decide to stop?”

I give him my spiel, a mixture of what I think he wants to hear and the truth. He asks me about stop smoking aides and immediately I mention Champix. I know a few people who’ve successfully quit using the pills, including my own dad. I’ve heard good reports. A colleague of mine at work is currently taking them and she said they’ve worked really well providing she does not take them on an empty stomach. Lawrence explains the way they work. You start taking a small dose at first to build it up in your system, during this period you continue to smoke as normal. Between days eight and fourteen you start taking a larger dose and during that time you pick your quit date. After you’ve stopped you continue to take the pill for a further ten weeks. It’s a twelve week process in total. Sounds simple enough right?

The way the pills actually work according to Lawrence is by cutting off the receptors in the brain that actually cause nicotine cravings. Sounds excellent, however he then goes on to explain that nicotine addiction is not in reality all that strong. The real battle is breaking the habit. I think if I was to sum up what he was trying to say in a sentence it would be. This is by no means a magic pill, but it should help.

I leave the clinic with a new found sense of optimism and what I think is my prescription but is in reality just a letter to take to my doctor’s surgery, asking a real doctor to write me a proper prescription. I then have to wait two days and go back to the doctor’s to pick up the proper prescription before taking it to a chemist waiting a further twenty-five minutes for somebody to count twenty-eight pills into a little packet and pay £8.05 for the pleasure. A lot of people quote stress as a trigger for smoking, I’m guessing somebody at the NHS has a sense of humour, deciding that it is a good idea to send someone to three different places over the course of several days just in order to pick up a fortnights supply of stop smoking pills. I have to do this six times as well!

By the next week I have eventually managed pick up my prescription from the doctors. It wasn’t quite so easy as Lawrence had made out with my working hours. Luckily I asked if it was possible in the future for my girlfriend to drop off the letter and pick up the prescription as it is sort of on her way to work and the doctor’s are fine with this. I take the prescription up to the pharmacy on my lunch break, stupidly having a cigarette on the way. I hand over the prescription to assistant behind the counter. She takes one look at the prescription, looks up at me with disapproving eyes and asks if I’ve just been smoking. I muster my most condescending look and retort,

“That’s what the prescriptions for.”

So over two weeks after making the initial enquiries into giving up cigarettes I’ve finally managed to get my hands on some Champix. It’s been a bit of a farce if I’m honest and I seriously hope the NHS look into finding a more convenient process in the future. I’ve decided to start taking the pills the next day (Saturday). Again I’m still not feeling nervous, it still doesn’t feel real.

A trip to the Zoo

On Friday the other half and I decided to take a trip to the Zoo. Any mention of the Zoo brings out the age old gags.

“We’re going to visit the in-laws!”

“I’ve had enough of you now, It’s time we got you back in your cage.”

There always seems to be one involving somebody looking like one of the monkeys, whether it be a resemblance to a big bright red derrière or mischievously fondling your naughty bits in front of any one who will watch. I’m sure you all get the picture.

We’ve been down south now for a couple of years and as you’d expect we’ve done about 5% of the things we had planned to do when moving down here. We’ve managed to have a trip to the beach, (we live about 300 metres away so that doesn’t really count) we’ve been to Monkey World, (disappointingly depressing) had the odd shopping trip to Southampton, (again, nothing special). But, unfortunately we are still yet to take a bike ride through the ‘New Forest’, take a day trip to the Isle of White or make complete fools of ourselves learning to surf! The trip to the Zoo then, was something of a rarity.

We stopped off at the supermarket en route to get things for a picnic, being a reasonably nice day it seemed like a better alternative then what would undoubtedly be an expensive and mediocre lunch in the zoo’s ‘Cafe Graze’. Arriving a good hour and a half later than intended, (around 11.30) there was the inevitable long queues waiting patiently by the entrance to meet us.

We got into the Zoo around midday and Katie immediately decided that we should eat before seeing the animals. Now after three and half years together I know what this really means is:

“Scott, if we do not stop and eat first I will be incredibly grumpy for the rest of the day, complain about how busy and crowded everything is, moan about unruly children and unfit parents, eventually giving myself a headache which will be your fault!”

I am no longer stupid enough to deny my other half of her precious mealtimes. I have been in the past. I took her to Monkey World for her Birthday not long after we’d first moved down here. Instead of eating, we decided to go straight to the monkeys. This resulted in all of the above and if that was not bad enough, right at the very end, just as she was ready to erupt, a bird decided to fly past and drop a little present right on top of her head. Before she could say anything, I put my arm around the shoulder, told her we’d go home and ushered her toward the exit, ingeniously hiding that fact that I was doing everything in my power not to laugh hysterically.

I managed to enjoy the picnic, despite being stared at throughout by a rather scary child. it was so surreal I actually took a picture of her simultaneously giving me evil eyes while forcing far too much sandwich into her mouth. I imagine if her parents had caught me taking a picture of their deranged offspring they’d not have seen the funny side. I’d probably not be allowed in another Zoo for a long time and maybe get a special register to sign. But that didn’t happen so we did eventually see some animals.

First stop was the penguins! To be honest, I’ve never really got the fascination with penguins…or birds in general. Okay, they are sort of cute and their waddle is a bit funny. But they don’t really any thing else do they? One of them did give us a wave as he swam passed the viewing window though so can’t moan.

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I was really quite impressed by the range of animals on offer at Marwell. No bears, pandas or lions but there was quite a few of the weird and wonderful. Capybaras, (the largest rodent in the world) white rhinos, a tiger, ocelot, amur leopard, something called a bat ear fox and even something I’ve not quite seen the like before from Madagascar called the fossa. There is of course Marwell Hall on the grounds to which we are led to believe was used by good ol’ Henry VIII to give Lady Jane Seymour the 16th century equivalent of the modern day booty call.

We managed to get round the place in about four hours which was plenty of time to see just about everything. We ended up in the gift shop looking at the expensive tat on offer and of course did not leave empty handed. There’s a new addition to the cuddly toy collection which seems to be growing at a concerning rate for a couple in their late twenties. Desmond the Giraffe has joined the group.

Here’s a few more snaps taken from the day.

  I know both my partners and my photography skills leave a bit to be desired but I’m sure they’ll get better the more of these I do. Also, in future I will be looking into how I can get these pictures into one slide show so each article is not huuuuge!

Blogging

I’ve spent the last two weeks writing a number of blogs. You’ll notice that non of them appear anywhere on my page. I’ll be honest, I’ve found it a real struggle. Not in the actual writing, there is five unpublished drafts sat there looking pretty with a total of around 3,500 words. What is troubling me however is the topics I’ve been writing about. The whole point of this blog is to share my thoughts and observations on the general day to day. I want to write something that I would enjoy reading and make me eager to read the next one. So a quick look at the drafts and I see titles such as:

“How to really annoy me.” “It appears everyone is an expert these days.” “Older certainly does not mean wiser.” 

A common theme. Negativity! I’m not saying I want everything I write to be an inspiring positive outlook on life, but neither do I want people to read this and think, “you’d be better off writing to Dear Diedre.” Every now and again it’s funny reading a rant posted by an angry individual. But if you’re doing it all the time it will get very boring very quickly. These angry rants do not make for enjoyable reading, there is a distinct lack of coherence. I find it impossible to stay on point. It reminds me of answering an essay question in a A-Level exam. There is so much going on inside your head that you want to put down on to the page so rather than making a point and explaining it properly, you waffle on for a few lines and then get straight on to the next point hoping that at the end it all comes together and makes sense. I will continue to look at these drafts and they will get published eventually.

At the moment I suppose it is all pretty academic as I’ve only told one or two people about this blog. So it’s not like anybody is reading it. Anyway I’ve decided that it is high time I started writing something for which this blog was intended and that is why tomorrow I’m going to share with you all what is more often than not the highlight of my week!

Eventually getting round to doing this

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Well after weeks and months and quite honestly years of procrastinating I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and start a blog. It has been on my personal agenda for so long now it is surprising I’ve not completely done away with the idea. However here I am and I suppose I had better write something interesting to kick things off.

I’m an average twenty-something north easterner living in Bournemouth. I moved here almost two years ago with my partner, who after completing university found herself a job as a teacher. I posted a CV on a few websites and within two weeks I’d sort of bungled my way into an outbound sales job for an insurance company. The goal was to get a job to pay the bills until we had moved down and settled in, then of course start looking for a proper career. So naturally as I’m sure you will all have already guessed I’m still working in insurance…at the same company. However, I have moved away from the outbound department and I do seem to be progressing through the company, so it’s not all bad. I’m pretty sure my job will become the subject of endless rants in this blog but now is not the time.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I would write if I had a blog. The vast array of topics I would cover. Expressing my interests in history, society, the state of the country and current affairs around the world. I will endeavour to do this on a regular basis however the likelihood is that the majority of my posts will no doubt be a sprawling diatribe of what has vexed me at work or in my life that particular week. Although I will be conscious that this is a blog and not a therapy session for me to vent my frustrations. I know I am quite an opinionated person and I very much enjoy a good debate. However when reading this and future posts please be aware that I am fully aware that not everyone shares my opinion. I know that on occasion I can be wrong, and as much as I would like to be infallible (and have my girlfriend believe the same,) it is simply not the case.

I’m trying to keep this short, sweet and to the point and already, reading back I can see that I am doing a pretty awful job. When I was at university studying history I remember being advised that when writing essays, it is always a good idea to finish with the introduction.

“The introduction should always give the reader an idea of where your argument will be heading and what you intend to prove in your conclusion. So naturally it is easier to write this once you have set out your argument and finished your conclusion”.

It makes sense, right? Well reading back through this blog I see at the very beginning I wrote,

“…here I am and I suppose I had better write something interesting to kick things off.

Hmmm yes, it is nice to see that my university education was money well spent….