Sarah's Story

Hello, my name is Sarah and I made the big decision to quit smoking for good at the beginning of 2020, I mean what could possibly go wrong! 

I had started vaping and was cutting down on my own but at the slightest temptation I reverted back to being a 20 a day smoker. I had attempted to go cold turkey back in 2010. Unfortunately 2010 was the same year I lost my sight and am now registered blind. That in itself was a reason to start smoking all over again.
Then 2020 started, out of nowhere I received a text message from the doctors to join up to One You Lincolnshire Stop Smoking service.
Unfortunately full lockdown had started and the idea of being able to visit a stop smoking practitioner seemed unachievable. I filled out the form none the less and attempted to book my appointment, of course there were none due to the pandemic. 
Feeling disheartened, I was pleased to receive a phone call from Monika, a One You Lincolnshire Stop Smoking Practitioner. Having seen my online enquiry she reached out and started me on my path to become smoke free.
To say I was shocked with the level of support is an understatement, not only was Monika at the end of a phone for me but the physical support in terms of the correct patches, mints, inhalers etc and all for free was incredible.

Monika took the time during the first few calls to fully understand the reasons behind my motivation to quit smoking alongside any implications the stop smoking aids may have on my daily life. 

Living with sight impairment meant that I had to fully rely on Monika explaining not only the benefits to any products I was going to use but also all the information that I once took for granted in those instruction leaflets that come with new medications. Alongside the motivational side of Monika’s job, Monika was now fully responsible for explaining the side effects and any minor risks of any product she recommended. I have to say from living with being severely sight impaired for 10 years now it was humbling to me the amount of time Monika took literally walking me through the pros and cons of all solutions she had to offer.
Listening to Monika grow during her time of having to offer products that once again didn't have the support for blind people, along with explaining the materials, and the service on offer, made my journey to become smoke free one of growth and change for us both.
To say it was easy would be a lie. To say that at my first summer's day drink with friends in the garden, 3 weeks into my smoke free journey, I was strong enough to resist the temptation to smoke... would again also be a lie. I did enjoy slipping back into the comfort of smoking and relaxing in the garden with friends and family. (my household bubble of course, we were in lockdown!)
The morning after the guilt slipped in, I didn’t feel personally guilty, I mean at the end of the day I am an adult, I can do what I want…..right! No, the guilt of having to tell Monika that after my pig headed start to quit for the sake of my health and future and all my talk of the right path and it will be for the best, this all seemed so shallow now. I had failed!
Aha! I thought, it will all be ok, I mean it is a telephone conversation. Monika will never know unless I tell her! Yay I don’t need to feel guilty about having a slip, it is not as if I awoke the following day and picked up a packet and started smoking again. Far from it, the following day I had a dry mouth, a cough (which at this time nearly sent me into Covid 19 meltdown!!!!!) I could smell the smoke all over me, I felt more dehydrated than ever. I had failed!!!! 
 My next telephone appointment was looming, I was back on the patches, using the mints at the worst craving moments. I had purchased an electric vape which was keeping my hands busy. I was back on track, definitely no reason to share my slip with Monika. I was back in control………
 The morning came for my first phone conversation since that beautiful summer day. I answered the call with a confident ‘Good morning’ and then the overwhelming urge to confess filled me, I braced myself ready for the fall out. I had let not just myself down but also those supporting me….here goes….

 ‘That’s ok Sarah, it isn't easy to quit’

Wait! What! No shouting, no guilt trip! No shock and horror that I had wasted not just my time on this quest to quit but also Monika's, Nope! Just clear and concise understanding that we sometimes fall, now let's get back up and start again.

 To say that this motivated me further was an understatement. I had convinced myself that it was all ok, I didn't need Monika there in the ether if she turned on me. The understanding through discussing why I had chosen to smoke again, what had been the driving factor to, not only pick up a cigarette, but to send someone to the shops to buy a pack first.
 Routine! Making the most of a special day! Need! Want! Because I could! - These were the identified factors. Did I think I could resist these in the future? ... not really sure, I seem to have slipped so easily after all the hard work of fighting the craving and routine in everyday life.
So let's start again, re-examine what physical support I had at hand and set a new smoke free achievement date.
The following weeks became slightly easier. I banned all those around me from ever listening to me when asking for a cig or to nip out and buy me a pack. During lockdown, I am not sure if it made the ease of nipping to the shop easier or harder. On one hand I couldn’t just grab a pack whilst I was out, every trip had to be planned. On the other hand, do I stock up?
For me, it made it easier. I have to rely on someone taking me out anyway so I would have to say out loud to the friend driving, that I wanted to buy cigs. Something I had now asked them not to let me do.

By week 4 I had noticed the difference whilst walking the dogs of how much easier it was to breathe. The house smelt better, I smelt better. No more smoke smells lingering around the house. Also, yes money was no longer as tight. More food in the fridge in the place of cigs. 

The best thing about the system of phone calls over visits for me personally, was there was less stress of leaving the house and visiting somewhere new. A stress that I could easily have used as an excuse to grab a cig. Also the car was always a place I would smoke. I could plan a journey by the number of cigs I could and would smoke. So not having to leave the house for a face to face visit meant that I was able to get through the worst of the cravings before the next time I sat in a car.
Sat here letting you know my journey, I do wonder what the difference would have been with a face to face visit. I know that my lung capacity could be monitored in a face to face meeting but the realisation, during every-day-life, that I was capable of more during walks with the dogs, meant more to me than someone telling me my lung capacity was getting better.
As I continued through, my weekly calls became fortnightly and I got to the point where I was looking forward to reporting my progress. Smoking aids were sent through the post. I used the mints over the patches. The patches, whilst they helped subdue the craving for nicotine were hard for me to use. Being blind, an excuse I know, but I'm using it! I was unable to check during the day if my patch was still in place. There were times when I found my patch stuck to my clothes instead of my body. I chose, against the advice of Monika, to move forward with willpower and mints alone. 
This did become slightly harder during the later weeks as I found myself relying on the Nicorette mints as I once did a cigarette. Again through discussion and understanding what my body is going through I returned for my final weeks with the last step of the patches.
During August 2020 I was finally able to meet up with friends and join our two bubbles for a short holiday with the dogs down in Weymouth. They were so happy and proud that I was no longer smoking. I felt great during the long walks. I had extra money to spend and I had a great time. Well, right up till the point that I fell down the stairs and broke my ankle and leg. If ever and I mean ever there was a time to lean back on my old friends this was it. The pain was unbelievable and during the 3 hour wait for the ambulance I begged and begged for a cig. Between screams and tears, my friends stood strong and said no.
So a week in hospital followed. I was confined to my bed whilst waiting for an operation. No one could visit without a planned time slot due to Covid and I was in pain. Always someone who looks for the silver lining, I was so relieved that I had passed the point of craving a cig, I was passed the point of relying on smoking to get me through. A good job really as I was in a smoke free zone stuck in a hospital bed. I used my mints and Monika’s support and got through.

So here I am now. Leg broken, even less mobile than I was before but I am so very proud to say that I am smoke free and It is all thanks to Monika. Her help, support and understanding carried me though one of the toughest times of change.

 At the end of my journey I received my certificate and as a special thought a braille printed card  from Monika with a congratulations on my journey.

 If I can do it, someone who the last time I attempted to give up smoking back in 2010 - went blind, (a great excuse to start again if ever there was one) then you can too.

For more information on becoming smoke free check out our Stoptober page

Or sign up here

Sarah

October 1, 2020

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