Sign up to the Quit plan
Eric Weinmann, from Dublin, kicked a 60-a day smoking habit with the help of the Quit team. He tells his story here...
Eric began to have health problems at age 40.
“A doctor found I had high blood pressure and tests showed my blood was very thick. It turned out I had extra iron in my blood, related to smoking. I was referred to St James’s Hospital and it was found I had so little oxygen coming in that my body was overcompensating by producing extra iron, a condition called haemochromatosis, which left me at risk of a heart attack.”
“A chest X-ray also showed I was at risk of emphysema. So I really needed to stop smoking, and the doctor said “If you don’t give up, you’ll be coming back here in 20 years with serious issues, and I’m afraid you can’t say you weren’t warned.”
Eric had tried to quit in the past without much success. “I only made it to about five days, the cravings were awful. But the main problem was I had no plan to follow.”
This time, having some help made all the difference. Eric was nervous about taking that first step to sign up for support. He says: “The doctor recommended their Smoking Cessation Service, I had to decide there and then whether to go for it. I was a bit apprehensive, to be honest - I had one foot in the door and one foot out the door, but I made the decision to go along.”
It turned out to be a life changer. Eric started off with a block of six weekly counselling sessions and they recommended he keep a smoking diary. He says: “I would make a little mark every time I had a cigarette. They also recommended delaying a little each time I wanted a cigarette to help cut back. Even with delaying, I marked down 50 cigarettes a day! I managed to cut back to 20 a day after the first week and to 10 a day by the second, then down to zero – that was my Stop Day.”
Figures show that smokers who use Nicotine Replacement Therapy to help them quit have twice the success rate as those who just go cold turkey.
Eric started out with strong nicotine patches as he was such a heavy smoker as well as lozenges. As he became more confident in his smoke-free life, the counselling sessions eased off to one every 3- 6 months.
Eric felt far healthier and even lost a couple of stone, but then, about a year in, he had a slip-up.
“I suddenly lost the will and just gave in - everyone around seemed to be smoking around me and I hit a wall. I ended up smoking about 80 cigarettes in two days, I was even physically sick from it.”
But Eric was determined to start again and picked up the phone to make that all-important call. He says: “I got back in touch with the Smoking Cessation Service and told them I needed help to quit again. So I went straight back on the nicotine patches and lozenges.”
It worked and this time Eric has been completely free of cigarettes for two years and the cravings have disappeared entirely. Not surprisingly, it’s given him a new lease of life.
“I feel a lot better, I’ve more energy, I’m more confident talking to people knowing I don’t smell like smoke, that muzzy feeling in my head disappeared, and I’m much more alert with higher levels of oxygen getting to my brain and body.” Best of all, his latest blood tests show Eric’s haemoglobin levels are back to normal so his health outlook has massively improved.
Eric says the help from the HSE Quit team made all the difference to his day-to-day and long-term motivation.
He says: “It’s a marathon not a sprint. You have to stick with it and look at the long-term benefits. Counselling helps with the fact that smoking is an emotional thing, and the addiction can be almost as bad as heroin, they say - it’s very insidious.”
“There were a few times I was nearly in tears over it. But the service showed me how to change my way of thinking and focus on the positive aspects of quitting. The persistence was well worth it. I’m another couple of years smoke-free now - and it’s definitely a freedom. I don’t even think about cigarettes anymore.”