Just do it – Maria Moran’s advice may take a few of us back to the Nike ads from moons ago but most of us would have to acknowledge it’s the best advice any of us could ever get or give. Do it. And she has done it. She has quit smoking. And Caoimhe is delighted. Caoimhe is her nine year old daughter who was the inspiration for her mum’s decision to quit late last year.
Having been a smoker since her teens, Maria had considered quitting in the past but never actively tried. Caoimhe’s announcement last year to her mum that she didn’t want her to die, was an emotional bolt she had not anticipated.
“You could see it with her – she would see the packets of cigarettes with the horrible pictures on them and every time she would see me with a cigarette she would just seem so sad.”
It was Caoimhe’s birthday in November so Maria made a pact with herself that quitting would be her gift: “Although I had toyed with it in my head before, I had never really tried to give up, so I just thought, why not. It’s very hard to go back to a child afterwards if you haven’t succeeded.”
HSE QUIT Programme
Having made the decision, the prompt of a work e-mail (Maria is a HSE Business Manager with Older Persons Services in Cork) providing details of the HSE Quit programme was the perfect opportunity. Her interaction with Miriam O’Shea, Smoking Cessation Officer, sealed it.
It led to Maria embarking on the three month programme that would initially involve weekly calls with Miriam for four weeks, then a three month follow up call and finally projecting to a year on when the two would formally speak again on Maria’s first anniversary.
Now three months in, Maria reflects on the importance of Miriam’s advice, support and wisdom: “One of the first things she did was ask me my reasons for quitting and my reasons for staying. And honestly, there were no reasons for staying. That first session copperfastened my commitment and we set the quit date.”
Preparation and NRT
Miriam’s insistence that preparation was vital was embraced by Maria: “She explained how to use the NRT – and all the various supports like the Mist. So, on the morning of the 18th when I woke up, I had my NRT, my mist, and my plan. Preparation really is key.”
And that included clearing out her house: “Doing things like checking handbags from last summer or coats I wouldn’t have worn – making sure there are no cigarettes in them. Even my cupboards and drawers – making sure there wasn’t a packet or one or two cigarettes in there anywhere. “
Although the first week seemed very manageable, Maria realised by the second and third that maybe a mix of naivety and adrenaline were sustaining her: “At the end of the second week I was I was irritable and snappy.” But as the days turned into weeks, Maria began to adapt. Setting herself goals, she also ensured rewards: “After things began opening up again, I went and got my nails done and brought my daughter shopping. Quitting really is like any new routine, it very quickly becomes part of who you are. Over the weeks I adapted and I got to the stage of not wanting the nicotine or the spray any more.”
Although she acknowledges to having always tried to be relatively fit, Maria always feared the consequence of her continuing smoking would one day find her: “It was always at the back of my mind - I knew if it wasn’t today – it would get me at some point. And it’s funny because lockdown has actually made it a little bit easier for me – no birthday parties, weddings, events. Of course its been a horrendous time for so many people and while I haven’t been directly impacted, I was very conscious of being a smoker if I did get Covid.
Couch to 5KM
“I have always walked and enjoyed activities like hillwalking. But like many people there has been a little bit of a weight gain since Christmas - between not smoking, lockdown, being inactive. So I joined Slimming World and am now walking 60 - 70 km a week.” Having started a Couch to 5k, Maria hopes that for her birthday in July she will be able to run a full 5k.
“If I said it was easy I would be lying but at the end of the day I just knew I did not want to be a smoker all my life. I had exams in January and for me previously that would have meant lots and lots of coffee and cigarettes so I found that tricky – even the habit of it – it was my mental health break – to walk away from the books for a while and have a coffee and cigarette. And while times like that weren’t easy, they do pass and they pass much quicker than I thought they would.”
The reward of course is Caoimhe’s joy at seeing her mum quit: “She is a great child and has great understanding. There are times when I will tell her that its hard and she will tell me its all right – its like role reversal! So she continues to be a huge motivation for me.”
While Caoimhe’s approval and pride are a fulfilling reward, the mounting savings help too: “I tracked from the beginning how much money I have saved and after this all ends, whenever that is, we are going on a fabulous holiday!”
And her advice now that she is three months in? “There is always a reason not to quit. For me this time there were a million reasons - new job, Covid, lockdown. Ultimately you have to just do it.” Reflecting on her success to date, Maria finally notes that she now looks in the mirror, she recognises the person peering back as a non smoker and that feels good.
National No Smoking Day Webinar
National No Smoking Day is an opportunity to learn how you can support the work of the HSE as they work to build a Tobacco Free Ireland. Register for our webinar and learn about our upcoming Quit month in March, the 28 Day Challenge campaign and hear from specialist staff who will highlight the latest evidence and actions the HSE is delivering on to support smokers to quit. Registration for the webinar is available on this link