As teenagers we all do things we never thought we’d do. We experiment, we take risks, we challenge who we are and everything we’ve learned about life. Our ‘coming of age’ stories all have in common those moments of standing at a crossroads where we can continue on with what we know, or go against our better instincts.
When I started smoking I really went against my better instincts. The child in me who spent much of early life snapping her mam’s Silk Cuts in half or flushing them down the toilet kept quiet as her 15 year old self accepted her invitation into the smoking world like an old veteran pro.
Smoking for the first time
It all started with a crush, as many stories do when you’re 15. The summer holidays had come again and myself and said crush were lazing around Stephen’s Green park soaking up some rays when she casually extended her arm offering a smoke. This was the biggest compliment of my life to date. The person I fancied who was a little older and obviously way cooler than me thought that I, was cool enough to be a smoker.
Despite having never held a cigarette in my life, I took it from her commenting how glad I was that she brought a pack because I was only ‘dying for one.’ My nervous hands fumbled with the lighter trying to act like this was an every-day occurrence for me. I sparked it up and inhaled a deep toxic breath of what was to be my first of thousands and as they say, the rest is history.
How smoking made me feel at the start
I wasn’t hooked on my first one. I wasn’t even hooked on my first pack. Smoking to me was all about the image. I looked at smoking through a romantic lens and made dangerous associations that justified my habit. It appeared to be a package deal too. If you accepted the penalty of stale breath, smelly clothes and dry hair and skin, you gained an all access pass to an exclusive social scene behind the prefabs at school and I felt edgy, bold and sexy. I came to realise of course that smoking was the exact opposite of those things.
My physical health
Smoking robbed me of many things. I started to notice that many situations became absolutely impossible to cope with without a smoke in hand. My daily routine began to revolve around times I could fit in a smoke and I had a growing and permanent pain in my chest that felt like a burning anvil. I was always tired. I could sleep 10 hours and still feel a strain on my lungs. The quality of my breathing wore me out.
As someone who suffers with bouts of depression I falsely believed smoking relieved my anxiety and distracted me from my thoughts. I came to realise that it added to the situation as the nagging of cravings and feelings of irritability when I couldn’t light up acted as a mental weight around my ankle. It had long since passed the stage where it looked attractive to me. I stopped feeling soothed by smoking. All my reasons for continuing had fallen away revealing my addiction.
Then finally, smoking took my breath away. I developed an infection in my lungs so bad I couldn’t complete a sentence without taking a huge gulp of air before speaking and I had moments where I couldn’t breathe at all. I was coughing like the people on the scary non-smoking ads and after a trip to the doctor I knew if I didn’t take action I’d eventually have more in common with the people in the ads than a cough.
Positive changes since quitting
Like anything in our lives that once brought us pleasure, living without it won’t be a easy but it’s always possible. I wouldn’t consider myself a reformed smoker just yet, but I know in time if I keep on my current path I will be, and so will anyone who decides to make a big life change for the better. Two months into quitting my skin and hair has dramatically improved and become more shiny and moisturised, my chest feels like it’s opened up and the flavour of food has so much more depth. Everything about life has become more pleasurable since quitting.
The challenge I’m faced with now is surviving a night out without smoking but I’m determined to do this for myself. Weekly yoga classes (I hate the gym) and friends to turn to in difficult times are what’s keeping me motivated and focused. Our quitting journeys and what works for each of us will be a unique story to tell, a story that will inspire and propel others into action and encourage self-belief.
Read more about quitting smoking on www.spunout.ie/quit