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Breaking away from temptation - A journey to quitting smoking

11/03/20

“Not one more puff, not even one, because I’m a permanent non-smoker” a mantra used by Michael DaCosta. Breaking away from habits and addictions is more than just out of sight out of mind, it’s a continuous mental battle to overcome temptations, years of habits and thinking.

With people’s perceptions of smoking having changed over the decades and health advice being so readable available, it is no wonder the percentage of smokers in the UK has fallen. However, according to the Office for National Statistics 7.4 million people over the age of 18 still smoke in the UK today.

Within Orion Group promoting a healthy lifestyle is important to us and with a number of our staff having quit smoking recently we thought we would share one of their journeys to quitting to hopefully help and inspire others who may be struggling to quit.

Michael DaCosta, Recruitment Manager based in London, took part in a Q&A to talk us through his journey to quitting after 20 years of smoking, explaining his struggles and how he overcame them.

 

Q: At what age did you first get into smoking?

“I first started smoking when I was 12 years old. It started at a relatively low level and as it became more habitual, maybe a year or two later, the level per day started to increase, to the point I was consistently smoking 20 cigarettes a day.”

 

Q: What was the reasoning being getting into smoking and how has that changed over time?

“Obviously at that age it was perceived as a cool thing to do as well as being quite rebellious, it was just something I latched onto. At the age of 12/13 you don’t think about the health concerns, you think you’re immortal.

Not many of my friends at that time actually smoked so I wouldn’t have said it was them that got me into it or that it was a sociable thing. In fact as I matured I have tried to figure out why I got into smoking and I found it to be a more anti-social habit for myself. I used it as a way to create time for myself saying, “Yeah I’ll deal with that in a minute” while I went out for a cigarette, taking myself away from everything to reflect and think.”

 

Q: Have you ever tried to quit before and what methods did you try?

“I first of all tried the nicotine patches, and they do say they require will power, which at that time in my life I didn’t have so I was only giving up for a week or so at a time. I then made more of an effort to research other methods, that’s when I came across hypnosis.

The hypnosis was a one off session which actually helped me for nearly three years, I thought I had finally cracked it until my mind started playing tricks on me. I felt I was in control and if I wanted to have a one off cigarette I could, and for a while I flirted with that principle until it just took me back to where I started, 1 a day became 2 a day, until I was back at 20 cigarettes a day.

Hypnosis was interesting, it was very much about giving you the room to control those subconscious thoughts and focus that energy into making positive lifestyle changes. I went back to see if it would work again but the impact of it just wore off and the effectiveness of it was much reduced, to the point it would only last a month at the most”

 

Q: What got you to the point you’re at now that you knew you wanted to quit?

“It got to the point where smoking was no longer enjoyable for me, where in the past I had convinced myself it was. I ended up despising every aspect of it from the smell to the cost and the physical effects, reaching the point where I was depressed that I wasn’t in control anymore and that the smoking now had a control over me. I knew I had to make the stand mentally and do it off of my own back.”

 

Q: When would you say your ‘Quit Day’ was?

“Going back to the 9th December 2019 that was the day I quit. The week before was when I had tried to quit but the thought of smoking consumed my whole day to the point I broke and bought I packed of cigarettes, I was really disappointed in myself! Then the morning of Monday 9th December I had cigarettes with me and normally I would smoke 2 on the way to work but I felt this sense of urgency and I thought to myself, no I have to do this now, so I just threw the lighter and packet into the bin.

Normally people prepare for their ‘Quit Day’, they tell everyone and make a big deal, but for me I wanted to see how long I could go until people noticed and within a few days people caught on I wasn’t smoking, which gave me that spur of support and reinforced that positive decision.

 

Q: Did you have any tactics to staying motivated and avoiding temptation?

“A colleague of mine recommended the Smokefree app by the NHS, a dashboard to give you coaching, support and tips as well as outlining milestones you are reaching in terms of health improvements and other aspects. I found this incredibly helpful.

Temptations almost come in pulses, so if you are able to resist these immediate urges it passes quite quickly. With the app being on my phone it is so readily available and perfectly positioned to give me support.

Some statistics from my progress – I used to smoke 20 cigarettes a day which equated to £10 a day, being off the cigarettes for 88 days, that is 1800 cigarettes I have gone without, I have been able to add 22 extra days onto my life span as well as save £900.

The money which I have saved I have been putting aside so I can see how far I have come and I will put this towards something as a reward for myself

 

Q: What benefits, both mentally and physically did you notice?

“Basic things like me taste and smell have improved, my skin, breathing is better and my cough has gone. I can run for the train or bus, whereas before I would say to myself oh well I’ll be early for the next one and just have a smoke while I wait.

My energy levels in general are better and my relationships with people as I am no longer conscious of smelling of smoke.”

 

Q: What side effects did you encounter when trying to quit?

“The biggest issue was not sleeping, I found it difficult to unwind and relax enough to fall sleep. I had nights where I wouldn’t get to sleep until 03:00/04:00 in the morning and having to get up at 06:00 for work made it really challenging.

I found myself grazing on food more as a distraction but I wasn’t hard on myself with that as I felt I just had to conquer one mountain at a time.”

 

Q: Any additional advice you would give to people to help them quit smoking?

“It all comes down to wanting to make that change yourself, there is so much support out there to help and show people it is possible to make that positive change.”

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