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.

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