Stop Smoking Diary

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.