The journey to quitting smoking

That first cigarette was so easy. It was a way to fit in, a way to be cool. That last cigarette is one of the hardest habits to break. What would I tell my 16-year-old self? Do not sit on the side of that bath at the party and share the cigarette offered to you. It's almost like a switch is flicked to becoming a smoker for life, even after quitting.

The battle of habit and routine continues on. One in the morning, one on your break, one quickly before work, bedtimes, after meals, and the hardest time to resist for me, whilst having a drink. A Jack Daniels and a cigarette!

It's been over a month now since I quit, and I'm still craving at certain times. However, dedication, willpower and distraction helps a lot! I used food and reading. I took a book to work for those difficult break times, snacked on a piece of fruit or packet of nuts. This also helped with keeping my hands busy.

A lot of people struggle with this part of quitting.  I tried electronic cigarettes, and although these are great for some people, they kept my habit of smoking alive. Total abstinence was my method. No gum, no patches, nothing. Just me and my dragon. The first week was awful. I felt angry, irritated, moody and the slightest thing turned me into that dragon.

Finding inner-strength, distraction tools, knowing that my friend has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and still smokes, plus the shock of discovering that my 26-year-old friend has the lungs of a 62-year-old through smoking, was a big wake up call.  I'd never heard of COPD before knowing him, but in time I discovered that it is not a nice thing to watch. Parts of the lung become damaged and make the airways narrower. This, along with him also having sleep apnea, has resulted in him needing a breathing machine on a night-time.  Smoking contributes to making both of these conditions worse. To know that this disease never goes away, and seeing somebody fall asleep on the sofa and then jerk themselves awake because they've stopped breathing, is a scary thing to see.

If you're a smoker, have you ever woken up in a morning with a 'smokers cough' that goes away as soon as you have a cigarette? We paralyse tiny little hairs in our lungs that have a purpose of removing dirt, and things that shouldn't be there. I know that my chest feels better since I quit. Apparently if a smoker quits before the age of 35 then the lungs will repair themselves to their original state. Even if you are over the age of 35, then the change can only be a positive thing. A better future.

Everyone has the strength to choose a healthier lifestyle, and everyone can tame that dragon.

Leanne Draper, Nourish Leeds employee