Kate Pickering (53), from west Belfast, has a 23 year old daughter and works in the community sector. She smoked for 41 years, starting at the age of 12. To help her quit she started up a support group for others.
“For me, as with many people, smoking was something you and your peers tried or didn’t – I did and it stuck.
By the time smoking became an anti-social activity I was smoking 20 a day. There is a lot of new information available about the dangers of smoking, so about 10 years ago I thought I would try to give up. I had smoked for about 30 years at this stage. I was successful and was very proud of myself – I used Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), which was great. I was off the cigarettes for about three years but noticed I had put on a lot of weight – this depressed me and I started smoking again.
Deciding to stop
Last year, I had a few chest infections affecting my breathing. I was on a few antibiotics and inhalers and, as a fit and healthy person, this shocked me. I decided to stop before I did irreversible damage to my lungs. I knew the weight issue was a problem but that I also needed to maintain a healthy weight.
I got in contact with Cancer Focus NI – this was a great service with one to one support and started me on my journey to succeed. After smoking for so many years I needed further support, so I arranged with Cancer Focus NI and my boss to set up a support group, which started last October.
Sharing and listening
We started with 14 people, Cancer Focus NI came along and gave a presentation on the harm smoking does and the charity provided a specialist one night a week to run a support group in our office. It’s still running today, providing information, good craic, NRT, information on other services available, for all ages and genders, tea, coffee – and most of all sharing and listening to others and how they succeed in reaching their goal.
We also provide acupuncture free of charge at the group which helps with difference aspects of anxiety you may feel in choosing to stop smoking.
So far, nine people have stopped smoking (myself included), two have set a stop date, and two are still with the group in preparation to setting their stop date. A knock on effect of this is that one girl’s husband stopped smoking because she had, which was fantastic to hear.
The great thing about this service (especially when you are working with hard core smokers) is that, as you progress with a stop date, you have a chance to try different NRT until you find the one that suits you. Then you can start thinking about a stop date.
I felt there was absolutely no pressure to stop straight away or put a 12 week time limit on it. I started last October and finished my NRT in February. I know I will never smoke again. It was a very relaxed process and I could do this at my own pace, I got appointments with a dietician to help with my eating plan and got a personal trainer to help with my fitness – these services are free of charge in our group and I feel this support will help me change the habits of a lifetime.
So why not put your health first, think of the money you will save (especially if you are a couple) and come along and join us.
We are based in west Belfast and are in the process of starting a support group in south-east Belfast.”
For more information contact: Kate Pickering, CRJI, 1st Floor Slemish Buildings, 105 Andersonstown Road, Belfast, BT11 9BS, T: 028 9030 1521.The group runs on Wednesdays from 3.30pm to 5.30pm.