I’ll never forget that night as long as I live. It was the winter of 1973-4 and I’d been in the army for about 4 months. We were on exercise and in a foxhole cold, wet and waiting for an expected enemy attack (simulated). The colleague I was sharing the foxhole with had been in the army a while and did his best to keep up my morale.
“Have a cigarette mate” he said. “It’ll warm you up and take your mind off things”. I’d left school in 1971 at the age of 16 and had always managed to resist the social pressure to smoke that was prevalent at the time but this night I gave in and had my first cigarette. My head swam, I felt sick, had a coughing fit and finished up in a heap in the bottom of a flooded foxhole. That took my mind of things.
“First one’s always like that” observed by erstwhile colleague sardonically. “You’ll feel better in a minute”. I have lived to curse that memory and my so-called friend. From that point on I was a smoker.
I remained a smoker for the next 50 years. Cigarettes, roll-ups, pipes, cigars. Tried them all. Even used to quite enjoy a smoke over a pint or a coffee.
I think I always knew at the back of my mind that I wasn’t doing myself any good. Quite the opposite in fact but there was always that little devil on my shoulder with it’s incessant temptation and false justification. I’m sure we’ve all been there.
I tried to give up several times over the years but there was always an excuse for failure. Stress, sociability, resignation to the addiction I used them all.
I’d always enjoyed fairly robust good health all through my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s but as I moved into my 60’s my health started to deteriorate fairly rapidly. I developed a racking smokers cough but what really focused my mind was a chest x-ray when I was 66 and being told 66% of my right lung had been comprehensively destroyed by smoking, although the damage wasn’t cancerous.
Thankfully a nurse at my practice had the presence of mind to ask me if it was time I considered stopping. My response? “Yeah I’ll give it a go”. Not exactly enthusiastic commitment on my part.
Thank God then for Carrie and the NHS stop smoking service. From the very off there was no judgement or condemnation just solid support for as long as I needed it.
For some strange reason this time around I didn’t experience the more extreme withdrawal symptoms. Not sure why.
Over the 8 week course there were mercifully no relapses. The appointments with Carrie were always something I looked forward to because of the positivity of the whole experience.
I could prose at length about the exceptional quality of the NHS stop smoking service. Something I should have done years ago and if I’d done it I would probably still have a working right lung.
That said I’m 3 months clean now, the racking cough has gone and i'm financially so much better of that the benefits speak for themselves.
I have no hestiancy in commending the NHS program to anyone wishing to undertake it. You’ve everything to gain and nothing to loose and you’ll even make a couple of quid to do other things.
Thanks Carrie and the NHS. Better late than never.