Darren Lehmann reveals how kicked his smoking addiction
Darren Lehmann reveals how kicked his smoking addiction

Boof: How I kicked my 25-smoke-a-day addiction

Fearful he would not wake up from his life saving heart surgery, Darren Lehmann's road to recovery began with a dramatic change of lifestyle and a 200 metre walk.

After undergoing triple-bypass surgery following a heart attack on the morning of his 50th birthday, the former Australia coach and dynamic left-handed batsman spent a week in hospital and a week at home before being urged to kickstart a new fitness campaign.

"My first walk was only allowed to be 200m from my house and when I got home I slept for the next two hours, that's how weak I was,'' Lehmann said.

"But it was the start of getting myself healthy, being able to breathe fresh air again.''


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Lehmann revealed that leading up to his heart attack in February last year he had smoked 20 to 25 cigarettes a day for 30 years.

"And if we were playing badly or I was angry it would have been more,'' he said.

"Especially when I was coaching, that last five years, it was one of those things that became habitual for me.

"When I was at home relaxing I wasn't smoking too much, but I was pretty bad with the stresses of cricket.


Former Australian cricket coach Darren Lehmann says it has taken a long time to recover from life-threatening heart surgery, but that he’s now feeling much healthier. Picture: Jerad Williams
Former Australian cricket coach Darren Lehmann says it has taken a long time to recover from life-threatening heart surgery, but that he’s now feeling much healthier. Picture: Jerad Williams

"I also was overweight, needed to exercise more, eat better and drink less alcohol.

"It all added up over time to me putting my health at risk.''

Lehmann was counselled about the lifestyle changes that he needed to make before leaving hospital.

He called it a "rehabilitation recovery course'', which helped him "clear his addictions'', covering everything from quitting smoking to diet to fitness and the damaging mental scarring that heart attack victims go through.

But first he had to get back on his feet.

For a week, he was not allowed to walk more than 200m without resting.




The following week Lehmann extended his walks to 500m.

The next week he would try to walk for 10 minutes and the week after for 20 minutes.

"It took six weeks before I could manage to walk a decent distance and two months before I could walk for half an hour without needing to sleep afterwards,'' he said.

Lehmann, 14 months after his surgery, now walks for a minimum of 30 minutes a day around his Newmarket home in Brisbane.

"It's quite a hilly area, in Adelaide terms it's almost like walking up Montefiore Hill,'' Lehmann said.

"It takes me back to my pre-season training days as a player with the Redbacks and running up that hill.


"Walking and keeping active has become a key part of my lifestyle, it's so important for me.

"I walk for at least half an hour a day and sometimes, if I get into an audio book, for as long as two hours.

"The thing I find most amazing now is that when I get to the top of the hill I can breathe easily again.

"It's then that I realise how crook I was and how bad my lungs must have been from all those years of smoking before my heart attack.

"But it's not just about feeling better. Everything smells better, you don't smell like tobacco, your food tastes better and you generally feel much healthier.''

Lehmann said it took him about six months to really get back on his feet and free himself from the stresses of life.

"I had to build a new version of my old self,'' he said.

"Clearly I had some bad habits but stress was definitely a part of my health problems.

"When you've had a wake up call like I did you realise life is not all about wins and losses and the pressures of the game, there is a lot more to enjoying life.

"Family and friends have always meant the world to me and I started doing other things in the real world, such as playing more golf and going fishing, which is something I'm still not very good at.''


The stress piled up on Lehmann during the infamous Australia ball tampering scandal in South Africa in 2018, which led to his resignation as coach.

"As coach it's 24-7, you don't sleep," said Lehmann, who played 27 Tests and won two 50-over World Cups before leading the national team for five years.

"You're thinking about either the day, the coming day, six months ahead, who you've got coming up, what players you've got back from injuries, you're talking to everyone.

"It's literally the most demanding job I've ever had.

"It's great fun but it's really stressful and 300 days away make it tough.''

Lehmann has lost 10kg since his life-changing surgery and feels much fitter, but said the mental scars had not completely healed.

"I've been given a second chance at life but the whole experience has left me really scarred mentally,'' he said.

"Initially after the heart attack I found myself forgetting things and there was nerve damage, scar damage, lung damage from my smoking.

"It's taken a lot out of me, but I'm slowly getting there.''

One step at a time.


*** Darren Lehmann spoke to The Advertiser about his quitting smoking journey as part of a four-part, weekly series to promote the Quit your way in May campaign. It is designed to encourage South Australian smokers to take a key step in improving their health by having a go at quitting smoking during the month of May.



Originally published as Boof: How I kicked my 25-smoke-a-day addiction