Does the pure mention of ‘stopping’ smoking make you reach for another puff? Emma Stavrinides reveals how she went from 20 cigarettes a day to a non-smoker
Quitting smoking. You name it, I've tried it - including every single excuse under the sun. Smoking for me started at school, and I never really contemplated stopping until I finished university. A lot of my friends had visited Alan Carr's Easyway clinic and I gave it a go; I went in there a 20-a-day smoker, came out and didn't touch one for two years.
2008 was a year of happiness and excitement as Ari and I planned our wedding. But it quickly and dramatically changed into a summer of sadness and shock. Six weeks before our wedding my younger brother David died unexpectedly. It was then that I sat endlessly with his girlfriend Beccy, smoking into the night, convinced it made me closer to him; I was back to being a smoker.
My husband Ari had never smoked and actually hates it. He's spent most of the time since our wedding trying to convince me to stop. He was wasting his breath, though; no one was going to convince me. Even when we struggled to conceive and suffered more miscarriages than I care to remember, nothing made me stop. In 2010, I fell pregnant with Luca and I stopped smoking immediately, but it wasn’t even New Year before I was smoking again. I was embarrassed and felt constantly guilty about smoking with such a young baby. I then fell pregnant completely out of the blue with Teddy, when Luca was only nine months old, and again stopped smoking immediately. Yet just a few weeks after he was born I was lighting up.
The 6am wake up calls from my boys would make any mother grab the last second of sleep with both hands, but not me. First chance I had, I was outside having a cigarette as I didn’t know when I’d next be able to. The stress of finding the time to have a cigarette with two toddlers was awful, but still I didn’t think I had to stop.
Then came my lightbulb moment. We took the boys to London Zoo for the day and I spent the whole time working out how I was possibly going to find a time or a place to have a cigarette. I was horrified when Luca took his straw out of his drink and walked around the zoo holding it like a cigarette, and even sucking it in and blowing it out – he was copying me. I was embarrassed, and deeply upset; but I still searched for that time to have one during a family day out.
I went home and thought, ‘I need to grow up’. I applied for ‘StopOctober’, and hoped the 1st October wouldn’t come. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband - I wanted to do it on my own. I wasn’t going for any quick fixes; no patches, no gum - it was cold turkey, with only pure willpower that I couldn’t smoke ever again keeping me going! The first week was hell, I won’t lie to you. I had headaches, I was moody, I ate consistently but every day that passed, my mantra was ‘I don’t want to smoke as it will mean I have to go back to day one again and I’m not putting myself through hell a second time’.
How did I cope with the cravings? Every time I felt like one at the beginning I got up and did something, made a phone call, brushed my teeth, made a cup of tea and I really noticed that the moment of wanting one really only lasts for a few seconds and then it’s gone. My favourite cigarette was the morning one when I arrived at work. I stopped parking in my regular place so that I didn’t have to walk past that same area. As for going out, it’s so much easier now that no one smokes inside so I’m not surrounded by it. It also made it much easier stopping in the winter, as standing outside didn’t have the same appeal.
Best of all, I set up a standing order of the money I was saving (£290 every month!), and how have I spent it? I’ve got a whole new wardrobe, and in September we are having our first family summer holiday, and the money I’ve saved will pay for everyone to have the best time. September will also see me run the Windsor Half Marathon with a group friends and considering I have never owned a pair of trainers it’s going to be tough.
Do I miss it, do I like the smell of fresh smoke and do I still want a cigarette? Yes, yes and yes; but it was time to grow up and realise that life isn’t about you, it’s about everyone around you. I’ll never be an ex-smoker who tries to convince any smoker to stop. If you are a smoker reading this, then do it because you want to do it! It really isn’t that hard and for one of the first times in my life, I’m proud that I did it all on my own.