Sign up to the Quit plan
In 2015 Waterford man Michael Murphy decided to kick the habit for good.
He had tried to quit every New Year’s Day, using every possible method, for a decade before finally making the breakthrough.
“I tried patches twice, I went to the Alan Carr clinic, I tried just giving up without anything and there was even a thing that you sniffed up your nose, an inhaler, that I tried for two years,” the 50-year-old confesses.
Despite his best efforts, Michael always ended up back smoking, promising to quit again the next New Year’s Day.
That was until he thought about his three-year-old son, Leon, and was struck by a harsh realization. “I said I’d be another ten years smoking by the time he’s 13 and I’d probably be dying of cancer at that stage,” Michael says.
“And he might say to me, ‘who did this to you daddy’ and I’d have to look at him and say, ‘well I did it to myself ’. That’s the reality. Did I want a cigarette that bad, to be in that position in ten years time? Or maybe I could be where I am now, kicking football with him.”
The thought stayed with Michael and he began another attempt to quit, this time using a nicotine substitute in tablet form. And he was under no illusions that it would be easy.
“Everybody says the first three weeks are the hardest, but in a way, they’re the easiest because everything’s a novelty,” he tells us.
“You’re throwing away the ashtray, you’re cleaning out the car where you smoked and everybody’s saying ‘oh you’re off them’, ‘well done’ and ‘you’re brilliant’.
It gets difficult about three months down the line when nobody gives a damn and you smell a cigarette somewhere and you start getting twitchy and itchy.”
“I said to myself, ‘I’m giving up cigarettes now and I’m going to feel crap for 12 months. All this thing about you’re going to feel brilliant in three months time is rubbish but bear with it. You’re giving up a serious drug’.”
Michael would remind himself he was on a 12-month mission whenever a craving struck. “I’d say I won’t have one now, I’ll have one tomorrow. And an hour later I’d forget all about it."
Michael took up a healthy hobby in the evenings, one that would show him the damage his cigarette addiction was causing. “I learned to swim, to try something physical. I remember getting one length of the pool and I nearly had to be resuscitated but there was a group of us doing it and I kept it up for a whole year.
“When I went on holidays that first year of not smoking I felt the benefits because I was in the pool practicing my bit of swimming, and that opened up a whole new section of life for me. Normally I’d be the one sitting on the beach smoking a fag.”
“You don’t always feel great - you might start getting headaches because you’re getting more oxygen!” he adds.
“I was starting to eat more but I’d eat anything because I’m a gardener and I’m fairly active so I knew that no matter what I put on I’d burn it off. You’re always kind of watching yourself and being a bit cagey but all of a sudden you’re one year off them and you actually forget that you ever smoked.”
Michael advises anybody giving up using nicotine replacement to keep them with him or her a month or two after the course finishes; so they’ll have something close to hand on a bad day.
“Don’t cod yourself that you’re going to feel brilliant because you might feel a bit miserable,” he adds. “That’s just part of it. There were days when I was just so down that I just went to bed.
“Just go to bed and sleep it off and the next morning you wake up, you didn’t smoke, you’ve another day under your belt.”
Michael's story was originally published in the Sunday World.