She imagined living to 100, but it was only at 47 years of age that Belinda Wilson, a packet-a-day smoker, had a heart scare that threatened to take her life. Belinda, a Ngarrindjeri woman, 57 of Munno Para, said she tried quitting many times, but after her angina heart attack all she could think about was being there for her children and grandchildren. “It was either give up smoking or I die. And I wanted to live and see by grandchildren grow,” Belinda said. “I knew it (smoking) was impacting upon my children, but I didn’t know how to stop. I know see that I was depressed and used cigarettes to self-medicate.” A mother of two and grandmother of four, Belinda said when she was growing up all of her relations smoked and drank. It was a continuous activity and they were never without it from day to day, “They smoked in the house, the car. Even when you were sleeping you could smell it. And I thought it was a normal thing,” she said. “The smoke in the room would get so bad that it would sting our eyes. I started to really dislike it as a child as I could taste it in my mouth.” It was not until Belinda was 26 years of age that she started smoking. “I was very unhappy being away from my family. So I started with a drink in one hand and a smoke in the other because everyone else was doing it. That’s how I was brought up,” Belinda said. “My partner was from another country so he didn’t understand the cultural side of us Aboriginal people at all. And it made it very, very hard and lonely. “I didn’t even like it, but I felt that cigarette was my friend.” Belinda said smoking made her lazy and all she could think about was that cuppa tea and that cigarette. But since giving up she is now back swimming with her grandchildren, walking and gardening. As an Ambassador, Belinda wants to encourage young Aboriginal people to not follow the same path that she did. “I don’t want them thinking that a cigarette in your hand is going to be your friend or be kind to you and make you feel good when things are really difficult,” Belinda said. “If you feel depressed, it is important that you seek help.”
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