Ways to Support Someone Quitting Smoking
Stopping smoking is hard. For those who are lucky (or sensible) enough to have never smoked, it can be difficult to appreciate just how hard. Even for ex-smokers, memories fade – it’s easy to forget the struggles you went through once they’re past.
The key thing to remember is that the person you’re trying to help is hooked on one of the most addictive drugs known to man. Their mind and body has become dependent on the little spikes of pleasure that nicotine provides, and has come to crave a constant level of nicotine-based stimulation.
As the nicotine leaves their system – which it does surprisingly quickly, in as little as three days – they will be going through a range of withdrawal symptoms. These are not much fun- ranging from anxiety to irritability, a difficulty in concentrating. Although they won’t mean to – and will hate themselves for doing it – they may well take out some of these frustrations on you.
Dos and don’ts
Don’t tell them you know what they’re going through. You may well be an ex-smoker yourself, but quitting is different for everyone – some are hit by withdrawal symptoms more than others. The best advice you can give them is not suggestions from your own experience, but to go and see a healthcare professional to get support and help tailored to their needs and personalities.
Do tell them they can do it, and remind them how well they’re doing: “You’re three days in – it will only get easier from here on out!” Encouragement and support are great motivators – but keep it positive.
Don’t hide their cigarettes or lighter. You may think you’re helping by removing their ability to light up, but this will just heighten the irritability they’re already struggling with through nicotine withdrawal. If they’re in the middle of a craving, they’ll likely get angry and head out to buy more.
Do try to distract them if they’re about to weaken. “Why don’t we go for a walk, and if you still feel like one later you can decide then?” Or try a suggestion from our ways to replace the joys of smoking. Most cravings only last for three to five minutes, so if you can keep them from lighting up for that long, chances are they’ll be over it. Every cigarette not lit is one step closer to a successful quit.
Don’t threaten them. Telling a smoker “it’s the cigarettes or me” or reminding them of the dangers to their health – and the health of those around them – isn’t telling them anything they don’t already know, especially if they’re undergoing a bout of anxiety. They need positive motivation and encouragement.
Do keep track of how they’re doing, and celebrate their successes. The first three days are the worst, as the nicotine leaves their system. The first three weeks are still tough, as the body adjusts and cravings kick in. After a month, they’ve hit a major milestone – and one that’s worth making a fuss about. Reward their progress with treats to give them something – beyond a smoke-free life – to look forward to over the coming weeks and months.
Don’t assume that because they’ve made it to the six month – or even one year – mark that their journey is over. Although the chances of long-term success are hugely improved after six months, it’s incredibly easy for an ex-smoker to become a smoker again. They’re in it for the long-haul – and your encouragement and sincere happiness at their success could be just the motivation they need to stick with it. Even something as simple as telling them “you smell nice” can make all the difference.