I’m not proud to admit that cigarettes held me hostage for over a decade. I started smoking because it made me feel grown-up — especially in social situations. Fact is, addictive properties in cigarettes took over and before I knew it, I was hooked. Cigarette prices went up. I found a way to justify spending the extra money.
Friends quit smoking. I didn’t. Some cut me out of their lives when I refused to stop. I even ignored health warnings. That’s when a small miracle occurred. I was inspired to start running after learning about a programme launched by Singapore’s Health Ministry. It wasn’t easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy! This was my journey.
I find a local role model
I was browsing the Internet when I happened upon an article about Cheryl Miles. She chronicled overcoming her smoking habit.
The ONE FM radio producer was honest about trying drugs, patches and nicotine gum, yet the former fitness instructor and professional dancer failed repeatedly. After hearing about Allen Carr’s book, “Easy Way to Stop Smoking,” she knew she had struck gold.
Now, she’s perpetually motivated by her recovered health and even runs marathons. This got me thinking: could I follow in her footsteps? I craved more incentives.
And looked for more inspiration…
I got my hands on the Carr book, but it didn’t strike a chord. And like Cheryl, I tried medications, gum and patches with no success. Was there something else out there that might help? I went online again to read about other methods smokers tried. Inspired by their stories, I could feel myself moving in the right direction:
- When Daniel decided to quit smoking, he barely survived the first week. He felt tired, irritable and distracted. Week two was no picnic, either. His body was wracked with coughs as it tried to expel tars left in his lungs by nicotine deposits. Once he stopped hacking, a friend suggested a short run that led to a second one. As weeks passed, Daniel found himself using running to fight withdrawal symptoms. Guess who has become an avid runner?
- Sarah read a study conducted by Taiwanese researchers that proved people who exercise are 55-percent more likely to quit smoking, so the pack-a-day smoker took the study to heart. After all, 434,190 people participated in the research. Sarah, too, decided to substitute running for cigarettes when she also learned that people who stop smoking and start exercising live 5.6 years longer. She used a prescription medicine to help quell her cravings and now she runs daily.
- Yi Ling biked and smoked — until a biking trail accident landed her in hospital where she was cut off from cigarettes. When a healthcare worker asked how she felt, Yi Ling replied that withdrawing from cigarettes was more painful than her injuries! The woman asked, “Why are you stifling your body’s full potential? You can replace the tar clogging your lungs with oxygen, so when you resume biking, your stamina, breathing and performance will vastly improve.” By the time the hospital released her, Yi Ling had survived the initial withdrawal and found the courage to adopt a program called the I Quit 28-Day Countdown.
I decide to emulate Yi Ling!
Being a curious sort, I decided to look into the I Quit program, but did I stop smoking? Sadly, no. That’s when another serendipitous event occurred: I picked up a newspaper and read about how Singapore is working to become a smoke-free nation. Was this headline the sign I needed to make my commitment? Perhaps.
The list of places in Singapore declared smoke free is impressive: 17 reservoirs, 400 island-wide parks, 5 public housing estates and 251 NParks within private housing estates. Fines of up to S$2,000 for smoking scared me.
I’m not about to buck the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources or the National Environmental Agency. I decided that if Singapore is this invested in helping me quit, I’d take advantage of the I Quit 28-Day Countdown initiative Yi Ling tried and off I went to put together my recovery plan.
How my plan works
In addition to adopting the I-Quit protocols, I decided I would walk around the block every time I craved a cigarette. During the first weeks I walked a lot! But I knew, according to I Quit program guidelines, that if I could last 28 days without a cigarette, my chances of quitting for good increased by a factor of five.
I started a diary to chart my journey.
- Days 1 to 10: My anxiety levels dropped a bit each day, but I remained out of sorts as I suffered withdrawal symptoms. As I walked, I kept saying aloud, “If I can survive this, I can survive anything!”
- Days 11 to 14: Nicotine levels in my body were noticeably disappearing by this time because my jitters were manageable. Had my cravings disappeared? I wish.
- Days 15 to 21: Deep breaths became easier and I no longer panted like an old dog when I walked. As a matter of fact, some of my walks morphed into slow jogs.
- Days 22 to 28: According to program guidelines, my brain receptors have stopped responding to nicotine cravings and my body returned to its pre-smoking condition. Did I still have cravings? A few; but they were manageable, dissipated fast and I felt good.
I got in touch with a friend who had encouraged me to run with her and thought I was strong enough at this point to do just that. She acted as my “coach,” explaining the wisdom of taking it slow at first and building up to longer distances and faster paces. I’m not yet ready for a marathon, but the idea seems doable!
8 Reasons I recommend the 28-Day Countdown program
- Nobody would judge or fault me if I relapsed. I can always re-register and start anew.
- This program costs nothing and delivers everything — including community support and assistance.
- I began the program on my own time schedule, choosing a day on which I felt strong and empowered.
- Registration was as easy as going to IQuit site. I could also have called the QuitLine or gone to a participating pharmacy.
- When I learned that Cheryl Miles had promoted this initiative, I felt like I was part of a bigger cause.
- There are I Quit incentives participants can claim as rewards — like shopping vouchers.
- I can use the I Quit Club Facebook page to ask for help, encouragement or kudos when I celebrate milestones.
- By pairing this programme with my newfound running hobby, I sped up my recovery because toxins were pumped out of my body faster.
Success story? I like to think so. My biggest issue now is that I have become something of a zealot, lecturing others about why they should stop smoking, too!
Do you resent other people when they give you unsolicited advice, even if that advice has the power to improve your health and change your life?
Randy Yip is a smoker for more than 15 years since 18 years old. He has now quit smoking for more than one year and is training for his first ultra marathon in Hong Kong.
The article is contributed by members of the community. All stories are based on real life personal experiences or actual events encountered by the authors and related parties. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
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