‘The constant concern of my wife got through to me’


Paul McFarland’s story,

I live in Dromore. I am married to Lynn, and we have a 22 year old son who is currently at university. I have been working in the NI Ambulance Service for over 19 years, and am also very involved in the Dromore in Action Community Group. My hobbies include working at computers and photography.

I started smoking when I was aged 14 or 15 because I thought it was cool and a bit of peer pressure. I didn’t quit until 2009.

I lost both of my parents to cancer; my Dad from liver cancer and my Mum from ovarian cancer. My wife Lynn and my son were constantly at me to stop smoking. My son is very into his fitness and a keen rugby player. My Dad died when I was 19, so my son never knew his Granddad, and I think this impacted on him and created a fear that he might lose me prematurely.

I remember I had one or two feeble quit attempts that didn’t last any more than one or two days, but to be honest I had never seriously tried to give up before.

In March 2009 I turned 40. The constant concern of my wife had begun to get through to me, and I became worried about potential health problems smoking would cause. There was no particular reason for the date, but on May 14, 2009 I went to the stop smoking service in a pharmacy for advice and support to quit. They gave me a week’s supply of the 24 hour 21mg nicotine replacement (NRT) patches and the inhalator and told me I needed to set a quit date, stop smoking, and use the NRT to help me over the cravings.

When I was leaving the pharmacy that day I told myself that by that time the next week I would have stopped smoking.

At 9.30pm on May 20, 2009 I smoked my last cigarette. I really wanted to quit, and truly hoped that I could do it – I was very determined, and felt I had prepared well.

After three weeks I stopped using the patches, but continued to use the inhalator for the next 4 months. If I realised I was out without the inhalator I almost had a panic attack, especially if I went to work without it as I did not have the same routine every day as a shift worker. I still very much needed the hand to mouth replacement, and knew that the inhalator was to me what a safety blanket was to a young child.

I had been putting aside the money I would normally have spent on cigarettes, and in August 2009, just a few weeks after quitting, my wife and I were able to afford to go to Rome. I felt that being out and about in Rome didn’t quite fit in with the Italian male image, so I used the inhalator in the hotel in the mornings and was able to leave it in the room and do without all day. Within a couple of days I threw it in the bin, and left Rome without it. Finally, I had beaten the habit.

I marked all of the milestones; six months, a year, 18 months, two years .. and on the May 21 this year will have quit four years.