SUAS, Testimony

30 May, 2019

Giving up smoking: deciding to quit is half the battle

A former service user tells us of her experience of becoming a non-smoker and shares some advice for those who wish to give up smoking.

Giving up smoking

It took me ten years to completely give up cigarettes. It’s now been more than twice that amount of time since I smoked. I cannot express adequately my delight and relief at this fact. In earlier years, I felt overwhelmed at the daunting prospect of becoming a non-smoker. However, from my perspective now, I have lots of things that I wouldn’t have had, were I still a smoker. I am years healthier than I would have been, had I not broken the habit. 

Now that I have successfully achieved this, I am happy to share a couple of my hints to others who wish to embark on this journey themselves. 

For the moment, let’s put to one side the reasons we all began on the perilous road to smoking. I don’t know a single smoker who is glad they started smoking. Most smokers of a certain age are worried that they smoke, and feel a little desperate that they can’t stop. The dilemma for a smoker is that their daily smoking habit accrues in ways that hugely impact on their health. The litany of health hazards is legion. However, on ceasing to smoke, the body begins to recover (partially), almost at once. 

There are thousands of good reasons to cease smoking, and virtually none to continue. 

Build a plan

It’s essential to have a plan to quit. I smoked 40 cigarettes per day for many years. In today’s terms, that is a weekly cost of €150. For many smokers, they are smoking their mortgage money. Heavy smokers will sacrifice almost anything to pay for their smoking habit.   

A key to successfully ‘beating the weed’ is to imagine yourself for a few minutes a day as a non-smoker. Imagery is a very important tool. See yourself in your mind’s eye, as a non-smoker, and keep re-enforcing the image. Imagine, for example, yourself on a sunny day, smiling, without a cigarette, and yourself and your clothes no longer reeking of smoke. Keep seeing this image: in idle moments, on the bus, or wherever you are free to imagine it. Don’t let go of the image. This will increase your chances of quitting, because it convinces you that you’ll quit.

I found nicotine replacement chewing gum essential in the armoury of ‘smoke-bashing’. At the time of my giving up, this gum wasn’t available for medical card holders. I therefore spent many thousands of euros – yes, you heard right: literally thousands! – to try and quit. Fortunately, almost immediately, I cut my smoking in half; for me, the gum was invaluable as a deterrent to smoking a lot of the time. This was the beginning of quitting altogether.

Another hint is to keep a record of your smoking every day. If I smoked 20 cigarettes on say, 1 July, I would aim to smoke 16 on 2 July. If I didn’t succeed in reducing by four cigarettes as planned, but reduced by two cigarettes, I considered that progress. Ridding yourself of your cigarette addiction is a work in progress. Some days, you will not smoke at all, while other days, you will waver and flop. Every day, mark in on your calendar the number of cigarettes you smoked that day, and put the calendar in a place you’ll see it every day. This way you can chart your progress on a weekly or monthly basis. Take a daily log of how many cigarettes you smoked that day, and keep trying to reduce the number.

Fight the urge

The most important aid to quitting smoking completely is to fight the urge to smoke. Long-time smokers who are trying to quit usually smoke for the end of their discomfort. They can struggle with the withdrawals they feel when they don’t smoke. For them, smoking may be more about a change of mood than the pleasure of smoking. They don’t want the pain or difficulty that can come with not smoking. They may smoke to feel different. The temporary relief supplied by smoking takes the cravings away, but it can compound their difficulties in trying to quit. At some point, like it or not, every quitter has to go through the wall of pain that withdrawal constitutes.

An important aspect for me in giving up smoking was not to ask the question “will I have a cigarette?”. If you don’t ask yourself the question, it won’t happen; you won’t smoke. Having said that, never asking the question takes an awfully long time, but it helps to aim for that, to have it as an intention in the back of your mind.

If you feel like smoking, say ‘no’ at least half of the time. Space out the time between each cigarette, and get used to the discomfort you feel when you don’t smoke. Practice makes perfect is definitely the order of the day, when trying to quit smoking.

Know your triggers

Make a mental note of the difficulties you encounter on your no-smoking journey, to see if you can circumvent, or get around, these difficulties.

Where are the places and situations where you feel most tempted to smoke? Decide to stay away from the places, situations or people where you are most vulnerable and prone to smoke, if at all possible. 

Ask for support

Ask someone who cares for you to encourage you along the way, especially if you are feeling particularly vulnerable or downhearted.  A little bit of encouragement goes a long way! Sometimes, it takes someone else to show us or remind us of just how well we’re doing. Accept the affirmation they give you. 

Keep heart

It’s a very difficult thing to do, but the good news is that many millions of people have done it! Don’t lose heart. For most smokers, giving up cigarettes takes a while.  My father gave up smoking 60 cigarettes per day overnight, but that’s fairly rare. Most people can’t do this - nor could I! - and must keep persevering, even when they are tired of trying. As long as you keep going in your efforts, then the victory is on your side. Making the decision to quit is half the battle. 

Giving up cigarettes is notoriously difficult, but it can be done - and you can do it.  Take heart; just take the first step.

Good luck!

Paula is a member of our Service Users and Supporters Council (SUAS). All views and opinions are the author’s own.

Useful links

Useful links

For more information on quitting smoking, please visit:

For expert help, freephone the National Smokers’ Quitline on 1800 201 203 or visit

See more from Paula

See more from Paula