Change Your Health Direction: A year in the life of a non-smoker

Hi everyone!

My name is Naomi O’Farrell and I’m the Health Strategy Manager at LloydsPharmacy Ireland. In December 2013, I was still a smoker. And worse still, I was a smoker who was about to launch a Smoking Control service for our customers. The irony continued to be lost on me as I finalised the last aspect of our campaign by reaching out to our smoking colleagues in the pharmacies, asking them to consider quitting and to write a blog for us about their experience.

We talk a lot in LloydsPharmacy about ‘inspiring more positive lives’ and this time last year, I experienced that first hand when faced with the obvious dilemma of heading up an anti-smoking campaign while still addicted to the terrible things. How on earth could I expect my colleagues to help me promote a quit smoking service when I wasn’t prepared to do it myself? And that’s when I decided I would be the one to kick off our new blog; finally, I would start practicing what I preached and give up smoking. On the 13th of January 2014, I became a non-smoker…

When I was asked to write an account of how things are now, a year after quitting, I tried to think about the differences I’ve noticed. To be honest, it just seems normal now. There are times when I would love a cigarette, I won’t lie – mostly when something very stressful happens. You can’t always go out for a run when tensions are high! So I’ve tried to think of other ways to calm down and it’s usually just a few deep breaths. But overall, you actually just get used to it.

That said, being a non-smoker facilitates you being fitter, obviously. Initially, to tackle some weight gain I experienced just after quitting, I started the C25K running programme in May 2014. This was a really big deal for me – I had never run, or exercised much at all for that matter, because smoking makes that difficult. My proudest achievement in 2014 wasn’t actually quitting smoking; it was running two races, 5K in September and 10K in November and finishing both! I am aiming for another 10K in April and have also started swimming. And I’ve become a much healthier cook. I’m currently in the midst of our Change Your Health Direction weight-loss programme, trying to get to optimal BMI. But this all feels like so much less effort than it would have done a few years ago, honestly.

This all sounds too wholesome to be true, right? I promise I’m not making it up! I guess I was consciously trying to keep the momentum going after quitting, keeping my focus positive and healthy, so I carried it through to food and fitness. Smoking was very much a way to keep calm for me, a tool to keep mentally healthy (or so I thought at least). My substitute turned out to be exercise and healthy eating.

It’s no secret that quitting smoking is the single most significant improvement you can make to your health and that once you reach the point where you start to look and feel infinitely healthier, you’ll never look back. However, the most positive aspect of this whole experience for me has been sharing the journey with my fellow blogging quitters. This to me is what it means to inspire more positive lives – sharing your experience, your knowledge and your expertise with others in order to provide the necessary support for them to reach their goals, whatever they are. This is what we do in our pharmacies every single day.

You cannot give up smoking without support. Our bloggers talked about it time and time again; your family and friends must be behind you for you to succeed. Too many slip-ups occurred on a night out when someone offered a cigarette to one of our quitters. Throughout the past 12 months, I have been blessed with consistent encouragement and support from colleagues and friends, without which I would not have succeeded. And what’s more, some of my colleagues and friends have since chosen to follow our lead and also quit smoking. Talk about inspiring positivity! I know my friends and family are very proud of me and I thank them for their support.

nsmokI asked my friends to tell me their thoughts and my gorgeous pal Ciara (pictured with me here) said:

‘Naomi has a whole new outlook since quitting smoking last year. She now enjoys big walks with us at weekends. And she seems to only cook healthy food now. She is now healthier than us non-smokers ever were! I need to start living like her rather than in the past when we were lecturing her on healthy living.’

If you are considering taking the plunge and quitting the habit, there is no better time than right now. If the time is right for you, luck and willpower alone won’t do it for you – you need to work hard at staying positive, keep picturing the end game, stay focused on your goals and, I cannot stress this enough, let those around you help, not impede, your progress.

But don’t just take my word for it – check out what my amazing co-quitters went through by checking out our Quitters’ Blog. We hope that it inspires some of you to make the most positive decision you can for your health. I certainly couldn’t have done it without them.

Written by Naomi.

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Quitters’ Update 2nd April 2014

rigaHi again everyone and welcome to our last Quitters’ Blog! Fitting perhaps as this week marks the 10th anniversary of the Smoking Ban in Ireland. As it’s our last update, I suppose a summary of my quitting experience is in order. First things first though – some self-praise!

Pictured this week you’ll see my beautiful non-smoker friends in Riga. You may remember my first purchase with my smoking savings was a trip to the Latvian Capital and we are just back. This was my last big milestone I think. Smokers, you’ll know what it’s like preparing to get on a plane for 2 and ½ hours! I was really dreading walking by all those smokers before you enter the airport.

Thankfully, it all went off without a hitch (relapse). Mind you, I did forget my Nicorette Inhaler and had trouble getting one in Riga so I opted for a temporary e-cigarette. While it did the job, I much prefer the inhaler as it’s far less rough on your throat and indeed, you know what you’re getting with something you buy in the pharmacy. In any event, whether it was due to my extra-sensitivity to smokers or true to fact, it seemed to me that smoking was far more popular and ‘in-your-face’ in Riga. There is a smoking ban but there seemed to be more people than you’d see here outside shops, restaurants and pubs sneaking in a quick cigarette. This did present the temptation to smoke again, I’ll be honest. But my fabulous friends were there for encouragement so I remain smoke-free.

So how would I summarise this journey? I made the decision to quit in January, mainly for health reasons and for my friends & family. Without doubt, the publicity that came with writing this blog made it possible; I don’t think I would have been successful without it. But it was also in the preparation. See below; this is a check-list for giving up smoking and I highly recommend you do the same before you quit.

quit

You really have to have a plan for the tempting situations you know you’ll find yourself in – the pub, a crisis in work, bad news… And you also need a method of distraction for the evening time – mine was knitting and this genuinely helped me keep my mind and my hands occupied. And DEFINITELY, pick yourself a new exercise. Putting on weight is commons so ensure you tackle it to avoid demotivation.

The most important aspect of the whole quitting thing is SUPPORT. I was very lucky to have the full support of all my colleagues and social network. None of my smoker pals smoke in front of me or offer me a cigarette. I continuously get praise for my efforts from those around me at home and in work (and I AM a glutton for this!). And comments from our blog readers also keep you going. Quitting with my boyfriend was a huge benefit so we could support each other. It was also incredibly motivating to read the updates from my fellow Bloggers as they continued to battle the cravings. Thanks so much to David, Alison, Ciara and Lyndsey for volunteering to share their journeys with you all. I really hope we helped either keep you motivated or gave you some encouragement to consider quitting.

nmaoSo there you have it, I’m a non-smoker. And have been since the 13th of January. Never thought I’d see the day! Last picture is me with a map of Malta… Yes, you guessed it! I only went and booked another holiday. And no, they’re not paying me too much here but this trip is also being paid for with the money I’ve saved from smoking. Myself and my lovely boyfriend are off in two weeks for some well-deserved non-smoking fun after all this good work quitting.

Thanks to everyone who read and shared this blog and here’s hoping my fellow bloggers and I will be back in touch with you next year, still smoke-free and still full of the joys of health!

Best of luck to any of you trying to quit. Check out http://www.lloydspharmacy.ie/SmokingControl, www.quit.ie or speak to your pharmacist if you need support.

All the best,

Naomi…

Quitters’ Update 25th March 2014

Hi again everyone!  Week 4 of Lent is upon us.  I’m no longer chocolate-free but thankfully I am still smoke-free!  We’re going to learn how one of our past bloggers has been getting on since we saw her in February but first, there are a couple of things to get through first…

#nomakeupselfie – did you do it?!  There’s a boy version and even a dog version.  And what a wonderful example of how a social media craze can help a charity raise much-needed funds, with the Irish Cancer Society currently clocking up over €600,000 in donations.

What struck me first about the resulting Facebook posts was how amazing all my friends look with no make-up on.  Seriously – it’s crazy that they bother with any at all.  I’m so lucky to be surrounded by such natural beauties!  What also struck me was how (relatively) young we still seem to look without the slap on.  Again, very lucky.  My own #nomakeupselfie showed how much healthier my skin is since quitting.  All good news and all very motivating.  It got me thinking though about the effects smoking has on your skin and I came upon a rather scary SmartPhone app (Android and Apple links below the image).

It’s called Smoking Time Machine and it’s by the Cumbria NHS in the UK. If this doesn’t convince you to consider quitting, I really don’t know what else will.  Check me out below.  I am NEVER smoking again!!

n1

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.com.rancon.smokingtimemachinefeb2013

https://itunes.apple.com/ie/app/smoking-time-machine/id605504270?mt=8

I am going to print out this picture and put on my bathroom mirror.  Motivation enough I think!

Next up:  Social Smokers!  We need to talk.  You are rearing your heads time and time again as I speak to quitters and ex-smokers, and not in a good way, sorry.
n2Almost every single person I know attempting to quit has had slip-ups, of course.  But almost every single one of them has had a slip-up on a night out with a ‘Social Smoker’ pal.  Social Smoking is dangerous (we’ll get to that in a minute) of course, but you guys have the “luxury” of being able to limit your smoking to selected times and return to the life of a non-smoker very easily on Monday morning.  You must remember however that we  full-time smokers can’t.  When we fall off the wagon, it’s much harder for us to get back on and it can be extremely demotivating after all the hard work of quitting. We’ve heard a lot about support throughout the course of this blog and you guys need to help your quitting pals at the weekends.  And quitters, you need to make sure your social circles are aware of your efforts and therefore support you when temptation presents itself.  Don’t let the fact that ‘everyone was smoking’ be a reason you tarnish all your amazing work.  Take control of those situations instead of letting them control you.

I’m not finished with you yet!  Social Smoking is something that I’ve been wondering about a lot.  Is it okay just to smoke at weekends?  No, it is not.  You are tripling, yes TRIPLING, your risk of heart disease even with as little as one cigarette per day.  Check out the article below for more.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/a-20-a-day-smoker-will-rack-up-lifetime-bill-of-200000-260986.html

Okay, I feel like I’m lecturing now.  Let’s check in with one of our previous bloggers and see how she’s been getting on…

Lyndsey, Manager LloydsPharmacy Blanchardstown, Aged 27

 

Quit Date: 15th January

Still Smoke-Free: YES-ish

 

lyn‘Hey everybody!

So I’m writing this with a little bit of a sad face 😦

After me doing so well off the smokes I cracked and had a smoke….  February is my worst month of the year for personal reasons and I was dreading facing it being off the smokes as this would be where I would’ve smoked the most. 

I had a really bad day and I honestly thought “have a smoke it will make u feel better, it will clear your head”. So I did, but it didn’t do anything of the sort it just made me feel light-headed and gutted that I had given in 😦

But I’m back on track now. I know it didn’t help having a smoke so I’ll remember that when I think it will fix things. However on the positive side of things we have booked our 1st family holiday for August from the savings and now I’ve two very excited kiddies.

So it’s back on with the patches and being back to smoke-free Lyndsey :)’

 

Thank you Lyndsey and congratulations on the holiday!!

Lyndsey is doing wonderfully to have only slipped up once.  And indeed that slip-up made her realise that she is doing the right thing.  EVERYONE I speak to who has given up smoking is glad they gave up smoking and is healthier and wealthier as a result.  What on earth are you waiting for?

Remember, you are 4 times more likely to quit with one-to-one coaching so visit your local LloydsPharmacy and ask how we can help you get Smoking under Control, or ask your local pharmacy what support they have available.  Further support is available at www.quit.ie

Chat soon,

Naomi…

 

 

Quitters’ Update 19th March 2014

hatIt’s the 3rd week of Lent!  And welcome back to our Smoking Control Quitters’ Blog.  And guess what happened by accident?!  I thought it was more than enough for me to have quit smoking and so didn’t give up anything else for Lent.  And I’ve just realised I haven’t actually eaten any chocolate (I’m almost sure anyway) since Ash Wednesday.  So go me!  Well one my way to optimal health and well-being.

Today’s picture is me with a hat.  Sadly, it’s not my hat as I’m pretty fond of it now.

(Okay, where’s she going with this?!)

You may remember that I decided to take up knitting in order to keep my hands busy and my mind distracted in an effort to break some of my evening-time smoking habits.  Well, behold my first ever knitted thing that’s not a scarf!  It’s a present for my boyfriend though I may re-think that as I’m pretty attached…

Knitting really has been a great help.  You have to think about it while you’re doing it and you need both hands. Previous evening-time activities were easily done while smoking; watching TV, surfing the internet, chatting on the phone.  I’m addicted now and am taking orders from friends and family.

My point here is (apart from promoting my new craft business!) that you really do need to think of something else to do.  It sounds obvious but it’s so important.    Break the habits and change your routine so that the activities and times you associate with smoking become associated with something else.

I’m still in the warm a fuzzy self-righteous glow of being a new non-smoker so it may be hard to take advice from me.  So this week, I’ve asked one of my colleagues, a long-time non-smoker, to tell us a little about how she feels about things now…

Noeleen, LloydsPharmacy, The Mill S.C. Clondalkin

 

Quit Date: 3 years ago

Still Smoke-Free: YES!

20140106_141627Hi guys,

Anyone out there trying to give up the cigarettes, hang in there, believe me it will get better. I was there myself and it will be worth it.  The ‘freedom’, as I called it at the time, was like I was released from something.

The best advice I would give is to do something with the money that you would normally spend on cigarettes, that is if you could afford to smoke in the first place. I got myself a loan and I knew then that the money was spoken for. I got my first car and paid back the loan within a year, I was so proud of that little Micra.

Apart from my car and back to the more serious side, my health was my main reason for giving them up. I got bronchitis every year and I have never had it since I gave them up. All the other little things like tasting my food again, my house smelling good and having loads of energy were a bonus. So if you’re trying to kick the habit at the moment, keep going and set yourself a goal, maybe a nice holiday or a spa weekend when you have reached your 3 or 6 month goal.

 Noeleen’

 

Thank you Noeleen!

 

I love Noeleen’s tactic of getting that loan.  It’s not unusual for a smoker to spend €300 in a month on cigarettes.  That’s the repayment on the loan for a very nice car.  But health is obviously the more important aspect.  Giving up smoking is the single most significant improvement you can make to your health.  And as I hope you can see from our blog, it’s not impossible; it’s not always easy of course but not impossible…

We’ll be back next week with an update from one of our favourite bloggers and amazing pharmacy managers, Lyndsey, to see how she’s been getting on since we heard from her last.

Chat soon,

Naomi…

Quitters’ Update 13th March 2014

namHi again everyone. Naomi, Health Strategy Manager here at LloydsPharmacy, back with you again for the second week of Lent. I’m finally starting to feel really, really healthy.  The recent sunshine has of course helped me with that but it’s also down to being able to catch a breath while exerting myself in any way whatsoever!

Here is me with a bike.  Yes, a bike.  And I realise I’m merely standing beside it in this picture but I promise you I also cycle it nowadays.  Last Sunday, my boyfriend and I cycled from Donnybrook to Sandycove and back.  He’s really, really fit so I was nervous I would be a panting, sweaty mess before I made it up the first hill but I wasn’t; I kept up with him.  What’s more, I actually enjoyed it! Anyone who knows me will tell you that me enjoying physical activity outdoors is quite the shocker.  It’s such a change for me to be feeling healthy and fit and I actually WANT to get out there and be active.  This would not have been how the smoker version of Naomi behaved, I assure you.

People have been constantly asking how I’m getting on throughout the course of this blog.  And I’ve been saying since the beginning how it gets easier every week.  And it truly does.  But I’ll be honest; it’s only these last two weeks that I’m genuinely certain this is it for me.  It was really hard not to revert to normal behaviour.  My skin went through a huge change, with acne and dryness, and I have put on a good bit of weight – I am ALWAYS hungry!  (I think that’s because I can finally taste properly though!)  It seemed at times to be so unfair that something so good for my health was making me feel and look so much worse.  But that just shows you what effect smoking has on your body.  The changes I’ve been going through have made me realise that I was harming myself in so many different ways.  Now, I’m more determined than ever to stay smoke-free and to get fit and healthy and to enjoy this coming summer.

It’s not going to be easy, be under no illusions.  And you’ll feel like it’s not worth the enormous effort.  But I promise you that coming out the other end IS worth it.  I have more energy than ever, I’m sleeping better, and I’m in a much better mood!  Don’t delay…

That’s enough from me.  Let’s check in with one of our past bloggers…

David, Teacher, Aged 33

Quit Date: 13th January

Still Smoke-Free: YES!

Last Despatch!

daveHello again folks,

January is long gone and most of those earnest New Year’s Resolutions are distant memories. The long weekend is on the way and for a lot of people – hopefully me included – a trip to the pub with friends and family is on the cards. Will I be with the crowds heading outside to smoke and chat?

No way! Not all resolutions have been kept, but getting off cigarettes is one that I’m delighted to have stuck with. My reasons for staying off them are still the same. It’s expensive, causes both short-term and long-term illnesses, affects fitness and has been a part of my life for too long. These are all reasons that continue to motivate me.

On top of this I am finding that smokers are rapidly gaining pariah status so it is the norm for people not to smoke. This means there’s less temptation. All of my friends and family have been totally supportive and have given loads of encouragement. This is a huge help and not one that I had considered when I decided to quit. My girlfriend has also quit (and done much better than I have!) and now is disgusted by the smell of them so would know if I had a sneaky smoke.

I haven’t had one since I slipped up in January and smoked a few cigarettes one night whilst having wine with friends. The Nicorette Inhaler is great when out in a pub as you’ve something to keep your hands busy. The taste is a little sour so it’s not something you want to be attacking all evening and pretty soon you forget about wanting a cigarette and stop fiddling with it. The patches are absolutely great for everyday situations.

Being open about it is a good idea as everyone knows that you’re supposed to be off them. They’ll be very quick to tell you off if you appear with a cigarette. I’m loving quitting smoking and can’t see myself ever taking up the habit again.

Thanks everyone!

David.’

Thanks David! Great to hear you’re still doing so well.  Congratulations 🙂

David referred to support in his update and that’s something that’s come up time and time again while we’ve been working on this blog.  Your friends and family HAVE to be behind you in your efforts to quit.  There’s no point codding yourself into thinking that living with a smoker will make this any easier, or keeping ashtrays around or going out with a gang of smoker friends.  You can’t do this on your own.  And remember, you are 4 times more likely to be successful with 1-2-1 coaching and support. Visit http://www.lloydspharmacy.ie/content/Smoking-Control/1453 or www.quit.ie for more information and advice.

We’ll be back next week with hopefully more good news about how amazing it is to be a non-smoker!

Chat soon,

Naomi…

Quitters’ Update: Ash Wednesday

naomiHi again everyone and Happy National No Smoking Day. It’s been almost a month since you heard from me and my fellow quitters. I promised we’d make an appearance again as Lent kicks off so here we are… well, here I am anyway! We’ll be hearing how our other bloggers have been doing over the coming weeks.

Ash Wednesday as traditionally been a day when smokers decide to attempt to quit and we can certainly see that in our pharmacies today. Do you know, I think giving up chocolate would be much more difficult than quitting – and that’s from someone who’s been smoke-free since January 13th! Yes, I’m still a non-smoker, and am now finished using my Nicorette Inhaler also, though I still carry it with me when socialising. And I feel great!

It has not been easy, I’ll be completely honest. I have put on weight due to eating more, and it did take quite a while for my skin to return to normal. There were times when I really wondered whether it was worth it. But today, writing to you before going out for a run, I can tell you it IS worth it. There is no way the old Naomi would have managed a run in the evening without collapsing! And my car and clothes and skin all look and smell so clean!

This is all so much more poignant a topic given the sad passing of Gerry Collins this week, the face of the HSE’s Quit Campaign last December. At the launch of the campaign in December last year, Gerry said the ads were an opportunity to show the dangers of smoking and that he took solace from the fact he would be able to say goodbye to his family unlike those who die suddenly. “I hope to continue in the fight against smoking,” he said in December. For me, it’s a nice legacy to leave behind. “People who are killed in a car crash never get to say goodbye. I’ve an opportunity to say goodbye. As sad and all as it is for the family, they’re very lucky. “If I can get through the day with a bit of peace and contentment every day, that’s good enough for me. If I can spend time with the kids, I’m happy with that.”

Gerry’s words make me happier and prouder still that I’ve managed to stay smoke-free for this long and more determined than ever to see it through.

If you have been thinking of quitting or know someone in your family who wants to, please please speak to your GP, your pharmacist or health care assistant about how to start. You are TWICE as likely to be successful in quitting with 1-2-1 coaching and support so services like our Smoking Control service can really help you. Visit http://www.lloydspharmacy.ie/content/Smoking-Control/1453 or www.quit.ie for more information and advice on breaking the habit. Quitting smoking is the single most significant improvement you can make for your health. Why wait?!

Chat soon,
Naomi…

Quitters’ Update Thursday: Week 5

Hi again everyone. Naomi back again. Did you miss us?! Well, we’ve decided that we’re going to take a little break from our Quitters’ Blog. We’ve asked a lot from our volunteers so far so we reckon they deserve some respite to enjoy life as non-smokers! We’re going to be back in a few weeks with some new faces we hope, as Lent sparks some new life into our efforts.
For me, I want to start concentrating on other ways to get healthy. While I’m of course delighted to be writing to you now as a non-smoker, I have put on a few pounds and the awful weather has made it unappealing to get outside and get fit. I can’t help but feel a little bit cheated, deflated and unmotivated when I think about having to work again at losing weight…

nm

However, having said that… this picture of me was taken exactly a year ago and it helps to look at it as I’m still over a stone lighter now than I was then.  So, I’m still so much better off than I was a year ago and I need to keep remembering this as I continue to strive to forget about cigarettes for good.

Keep focusing on the positives.  This is the time when complacency starts to creep in.  If you’ve been working on becoming a non-smoker, don’t give up now.  Think of how far you’ve come and how much better off you will be in so many ways a year from now.

For now, David and Lyndsey have been kind enough to give us their final updates.

 

David, Teacher, aged 33

Still Smoke-Free?  Yes!

dave‘Hi again everyone. So here I am at the end of the blog. Is it the end of my time off cigarettes? Now that people aren’t watching will it seem ok to revert back to smoking? No way! I am loving staying off cigarettes and all the benefits that have come with it.

For a start, whilst I didn’t count up exactly how much money I’ve saved, I’ve been able to put the odd tenner or twenty away. Rather than throwing away nine Euro every few two or three days I saved it in a box and am putting it towards a night or two away with my girlfriend. So there’s my financial reward immediately.

On the health side, I guess that it is more gradual. So far this winter I’ve not gotten any coughs, colds or sore-throats. Also I definitely notice how much easier it is to catch my breath when doing exercise.

The biggest test was always going to be during nights out and whilst I have folded once or twice during nights out I have also gotten through just as many without sparking up. This was always going to be a huge challenge and at least now I know I can do it. Also as I previously wrote, most of my social circle don’t smoke anymore so there are less bad influences out there.

Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up. I’ve a feeling that I will this time.

Best of luck to all the other bloggers and readers, I hope they enjoy being a quitter as much as I do.

David.’

 

Lyndsey, Manager LloydsPharmacy Blanchardstown, Aged 27

Still Smoke-Free?  YES!!

lyn‘Hey everyone,

This is me with my kids, Ben and Zoey.

I don’t think I really ever thought of the impact of my kids seeing me smoking or known I smoked until we took this picture as Ben turned around and said “Mammy you really are Smoke Free now,  I’m very Proud of you”. It was a real ‘ahhh’ moment. (pure mammy’s boy haha!)

So I can’t believe I’m still off the smokes. This is officially the longest I’ve been off them by choice. (Whooo)  I’ve given them up before but was only during pregnancy.

I’m going to keep going strong with the patches and hopefully reduce the strength bit by bit.

Have to say I’ve really enjoyed the blog. Loved reading how everyone is getting on.

It’s mad to think the impact smokes had on our lives and what we’ve gone through to kick the habit.

It’s not been easy but I’m enjoying my Smoke-free life.

Talk to you all soon,

Lyndsey xxxx’

Thanks guys! We will check in with you in a few weeks to see how you’re getting on x

And thanks too to our other volunteers who were so kind to share their journeys with us.  We’ve been overwhelmed at the positive feedback we’ve been getting from our readers and all the support we’ve had from our colleagues.  It really has helped.    In fact I doubt very much I myself would have been this successful without this blog.  Having all eyes on me in the office every day meant I wouldn’t have gotten away with failing, even if I had wanted to!

So long for now.  We’ll be back soon with more stories and helpful advice (we hope!).  Remember that support is always available from your pharmacist.

Chat soon,

Naomi…