Jack was involved in a serious car accident 25 years ago. He fractured his skull and had reconstructive surgery. He was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. Jack has been smoking for 15 years, but with the help of health professionals, he’s been quit for 16 months. His life has changed dramatically.
"I don't have to worry about money anymore"
Jack is brimming with enthusiasm about the money he has saved since quitting.
“In the first 11 months I saved $11,000,” exclaimed Jack. “I’m on a DSP [disability support pension] so it’s hard, money-wise. It’s the most money I’ve had in my bank in my entire life.”
Having extra money has opened doors for Jack.
“I can do the shopping early – before my pension goes in,” said Jack. “Little things. I don’t have to worry about money anymore. I’ve got that nice buffer. I can do what I want!”
More than half of Jack’s income was spent on cigarettes.
“$420 a fortnight on ciggies out of your pension! It’s a lot of money to slowly kill yourself, isn’t it?”
“Drugs and alcohol, no problem. But ciggies, they have such a hold on ya”
After Jack was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he spent a decade in and out of psychiatric hospitals. He eventually found stability with medication and was able to address his struggles with drugs and alcohol.
Jack left quitting cigarettes till last. “It’s the toughest thing I ever had to do,” said Jack. “Drugs and alcohol, no problem. But ciggies, they have such a hold on ya.”
Jack smoked 30 cigarettes a day for 15 years. “First thing I’d do – flick the kettle on and spark up a smoke,” said Jack.
“I was sick of being poor all the time”
On visits to the mental health service he attends, Jack was prompted about quitting by the Physical Health Nurse, Niki.
“Niki was always checking if I was still smoking,” explained Jack. “This made me think about it even when I was at home.”
“I thought: Well, it’s getting more expensive.”
Jack used the nicotine inhaler to slowly cut down his cigs over the next three months.
“I believe everyone can give up. You’ve just gotta take your time and you’ve gotta want to do it,” said Jack. “I was sick of being poor all the time. 30-bucks-a-day times 7-days-a-week is $210. Times four is $840.”
The math rolls off the tongue for Jack. It’s been a huge motivator.
“The savings have been great! I take my mum out to dinner. We can go to the plaza and have a big feed at a restaurant. Mates ring me up and we can go and watch movies. I go into the city, I can buy CDs and DVDs and I still save money. And I’m thinking to myself: Why didn’t I do this so long ago? My quality of life would have been so much better.”
“I can smell the stuff I haven’t smelt in 15 years”
Along with the financial buffer, Jack saved enough money to buy what he proudly calls “a massive big mountain bike.”
“I thought if I’m going to give up smoking, I’m going to get fitter as well.”
Jack now rides to most of his health appointments. “My quality of life is way better without ciggies,” enthused Jack.
“It’s amazing. I have a barrage of the senses now! I can smell again. Food tastes good. It’s overwhelming. I can smell the stuff I haven’t smelt in 15 years.”
There were also unexpected health benefits for Jack.
“I used to get really sick with bronchitis. Since I’ve given up, if I get sick, I don’t have to smoke while I’m sick because I’m not an addict … Sickness is even easier on me, and when I’m sick it’s not as chesty.”
“Take your time”
If I was giving advice to other peers living with a mental illness who want to quit smoking:
“Number 1: take your time. Doesn’t matter how long it takes, do it slowly,” said Jack.
“Also, pick your time. Pick a time when you’re not stressed or as stressed. Don’t put a limit on how long it takes…if you slip up don’t worry about it, you can always try again. I don’t believe everyone can do it the first time. It might take a couple of goes but eventually you can.”
Jack says he still has the odd challenging day, but he has strategies to deal with the urge to smoke.
“I tell myself, ‘Nah, look at all the money you’ve saved. Your health’s better.’ I remind myself, ‘Hey, you’re doing so well here, don’t go back to the ciggies!’”
Jack’s confident that he’s quit for good.
“16 months. I’ll never go back. A dollar a cigarette, I can’t afford it anyway!”