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10 Nov 2015

Smoking and mental health

stop smoking

My cigarette used to be my best friend. I smoked about 30 a day from 1987-2009 – twenty-two years.

I used to associate them with a number of situations – sharing a chat with other smokers, reading a book, writing a poem, on an interesting phone call, nervously waiting for someone to arrive, taking smoke breaks at work, buying some time out on my own (usually after a meal), pepping myself up when I felt down, rewarding myself for an effort I’d made (usually housework!).

Although I had smoked very occasionally through the years it wasn’t till my third hospitalisation in 1987 that I started to smoke regularly. At that time most people suffering from mental illness smoked and the smoking ban was ahead in the future.

How I gave up smoking

I had read Alan Carr’s “Easy way to give up smoking” at one stage and stopped for nearly ten months in the early 1990s. But the book didn’t really do it for me a second time. I later found a good book by Gillian Riley called “Quitting Smoking – the Lazy Person’s Guide (Newleaf 2001) which I found very helpful.

I am now off cigarettes since February 2009. I haven’t smoked even one in that time. I do, however, still rely on Nicorette (which I get on the medical card) but my psychiatrist and my GP both prefer that option to smoking. It doesn’t smell, it costs next to nothing, and it doesn’t have 400 additives.

My motivation this time around was that a close relative developed lung cancer, and that scared me. I had a chest x-ray done and got the all clear and decided to quit while I was ahead. The relative got over the cancer and is fine now, thank God.

Why give up smoking

There are many good reasons for giving up smoking, as I’m sure you well know. I don’t wheeze anymore. I don’t smell of stale smoke. I have lessened risks to my health. I have saved a lot of money. In the old days I would spend half my income on cigarettes and skimp on shopping for food. Now I buy more healthy food – another plus for health – and have more money to spend on socialising. And the good news is that exercise gives the same feel-good factor as smoking does, in a much more positive way.

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