Follow my lead in Stoptober
11:00am Monday 30th September 2013 in News
STUBBING his cigarette habit out was a life or death decision for Nick Sheppard, and now he is encouraging smokers to stop as part of a national campaign.
Tomorrow marks the first day of Stoptober, a national campaign to end smoking which last year saw thousands of Wiltshire’s smokers stub it out for good.
Two years ago, 47-year-old Nick, from Walcot, was at death’s door after struggling with alcohol and drug addictions which forced his body to shut down.
But 16 months ago, after going through group therapy sessions and engaging in drug dependency services, Nick said goodbye to his last addiction when he stubbed out his last cigarette.
He said: “I was coming up to the end of my treatment for my drug and alcohol addictions and that’s when I got involved with the service and that’s really what spurred me on to give up smoking too.
“Encouraging people to give up their addictions and then nipping out to satisfy your own nicotine addiction just seemed hypocritical.”
Before taking the decision, Nick struggled for years with his other addictions which had left him close to death.
He said: “My liver was on its way out and doctors said I had just months left if I didn’t stop. I’ve got an addictive personality so it was a case of all – drink, drugs, tobacco – or nothing.”
Being arrested for possession of cannabis was his final wake-up call, and he began to engage with group therapy sessions before becoming a volunteer himself.
He said: “Former service users were volunteering in group work, and that made me think I could do something positive too.
“I’ve started to train to be a counsellor and hope to be able to pass my life skills knowledge on to others who have dependency problems.
“I now haven’t had a cigarette for 16 months.”
Nick started smoking when he was a boy, and the addictions continued to grow as he grew older.
“I started smoking at the age of 10 – back then you could buy two cigarettes for 5p from vending machines outside shops and I bought them with my pocket money,” he said. “By the time I left school at 15, I was hooked and smoking 20 to 40 a day.
“I did manual work in the welding and construction industry, so you smoked in your breaks and then went to the pub in the evening. That’s when I got into alcohol and cannabis as well. It soon spiralled out of control and I could drink as much as nine pints of strong cider a day, plus spirits.
“If I forgot my tobacco tin, I had to go back for it. I couldn’t just enjoy one drink, I had to get totally wasted. The addictions totally controlled me,” he said.
When he finally sought help and started receiving therapy, he recognised the health benefits immediately.
With the help of various nicotine replacement therapies including patches and click mist spray, he finally stubbed out his last cigarette.
He said: “I was also on nicotine patches to wean me off gradually and had lozenges, which I found really effective.
“It has been amazing to actually smell and taste food again. I’ve got my appetite back and love a good curry. I cook a lot now and feel so much better.
“It’s not a good thing to smoke. It takes years off your life and doesn’t give anything back.”
Now Nick volunteers as a health ambassador, helping thousands of others to change life-long habits and addictions, and is encouraging smokers to take up the Stoptober challenge.
He said: “I think it’s a case of people needing a bit of support to give up.
“It’s not going into something on your own when you do something like Stoptober. If you’re the only one in the family or the only one in the office giving up it can be hard, so knowing there are thousands of others out there also trying to give up is something that can keep you going.”
For more information about Stoptober and the support available, visit www.swindon.gov.uk/Stoptober.
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