Quitting Smoking & Vaping For Dummies
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Quitting smoking is one of the toughest challenges a person can face. It takes the ability to handle frustration, manage intense cravings, break strong associations, and ignore frequent temptations. Having support from family members and friends can improve a person’s chances of success.

Being around someone who’s trying to quit smoking presents its own challenges. The smoker may start showing disagreeable behaviors, reactions, and emotions that you’ve rarely seen before. This article helps you anticipate these possibilities and deal with the person you care about during an especially difficult time.

Although this article describes helping someone you care about stop smoking, the advice applies equally to those trying to stop vaping, chewing, or other related addictions.

Make your home a no-smoking zone

The fewer places a smoker has available to smoke in, the better. For smokers, part of the problem is the numerous associations they have between certain environments and their smoking habits. For example, if they always smoke at the dining room table, that location in and of itself tends to trigger strong urges and cravings to smoke.

no smoking ©Gorynvd/Shutterstock.com

Make your house a no-smoking zone. While you’re at it, make your car a no-smoking zone, too. Eliminating the opportunity to smoke in the house or the car cuts down on the number of available triggers. By doing this, realize that you’re not telling the smoker that he or she can never smoke again (which could lead to unproductive rebellion). Mutually agreeing to a no-smoking zone merely sets the stage for quitting. This action can happen prior to actually setting a quit date.

You can help make the case for declaring your home and car smoke-free by explaining that you’re also trying to improve your own health by reducing the amount of secondhand smoke you and your family are exposed to.

Clean up the smokey mess

Over time, your home has no doubt taken a hit from all the tobacco exhaled into the air over years of smoking by the person you’re helping. Tobacco smell, as well as toxins, permeate the carpet, walls, curtains, furniture, bedding, and clothes throughout the home. Consider the quit date a time for massive spring cleaning, no matter what time of year it is.

Removing the odors will also cut down on the associations that trigger smoking. Smokers will hesitate before lighting up in a newly decontaminated environment. Consider opening all the windows and doors in the house to a day or two of completely fresh air. And if you want to really go all out, have your duct work cleaned as well.

Don’t forget to thoroughly clean the car. This is a great time to get your car professionally detailed.

Remove all ashtrays, lighters, and other paraphernalia from the home. If you can’t stand to throw away your great-great-grandfather’s ashtray, clean it up and store it in a drawer out of sight for a while. Maybe someday, you can use it as a place to put paper clips. But that’ll come well down the road, after months of smoke-free living.

Remain positive

Helping someone quit smoking, chewing, or vaping can feel like a burden. Plus, when you’re around someone who’s unusually irritable, it’s easy to become crabby yourself. It’s important to work at staying as upbeat as you can. Think about a future when cigarettes and such are no longer a part of your lives.

Remaining positive doesn’t mean you put on a sickeningly sweet persona. It doesn’t mean you give in or capitulate to honest disagreements. However, this probably isn’t such a great time to have deep talks about long-term relationship issues or chronically difficult subjects. Postpone arguments if possible. Be sincere in your effort to stay positive.

Depersonalize crabbiness

It’s hard not to take irritability and cantankerousness personally. But when someone is trying to quit smoking, his or her crabbiness is not about you. Withdrawal from tobacco sets off moodiness and discomfort in most quitters. The person you’re helping probably feels like lashing out at the world and you’re the part of the world that’s most available. This isn’t fair, but the withdrawal symptoms — including the crabbiness — won’t last forever.

When you feel like striking back, take a deep breath. Ask yourself what your goal is. Will you really achieve something useful by counterattacking? Probably not. And you’re only likely to make things worse. What you really want, down deep, is a nonsmoker. Play the game for the long haul.

Keep judgment at bay

Look for ways to express empathy with your family member or friend who’s trying to quit smoking, chewing, or vaping. Empathy is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. If you’re a smoker or a former smoker, that’s probably pretty easy to do — you’ve likely had the same struggle with trying to quit.

But if you have never smoked or struggled with an addiction, it can be more difficult to feel empathy. Imagine a time in your life when you were especially hungry, yet you were hours from being able to eat. That’s the kind of feeling quitters face every day. The difference is that you were ultimately able to satisfy your hunger. If a quitter tries to satisfy his or her hunger by smoking or vaping, the battle could be lost — or at least made more difficult.

Also, we’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that, because you’re human, you probably have a few of your own flaws. Maybe you eat too much, spend too much, have a quick temper, forget birthdays and anniversaries, leave your house a mess, are late to pay bills — you get the idea. No one’s perfect.

So, try to avoid nagging and criticizing. Instead, try empathizing by saying something like the following:

  • I know this is a really hard time for you. Let me know if I can help.
  • I get it that you’re crabby. I would be, too.
  • Quitting is probably the hardest thing you’ve ever done, isn’t it?
  • You look like you’re struggling. How about we go over our list of positive actions?
  • It probably feels like things will never get easier, but from everything I know and have read, you’ll likely feel better in a couple of weeks. Thanks for working so hard at this!

Plan distractions

It’s likely that your friend or loved one has a list of things to do instead of smoking. That may include chewing hard candy, going to the gym, riding a bike, or going for a walk instead of heading into the breakroom at work, among other things. But it’s also good to develop a list of alternative distractions that the two of you can do together. These could include going to a movie, going to the beach, taking a hike, playing fetch with your dog, or eating out. Get creative! Plan your list together, and make sure to identify distractions that don’t serve as triggers for the person trying to quit. If eating out makes him or her want to reach for a cigarette, skip that and throw a ball for the dog instead.

Reduce stress

Hopefully, your friend or loved one who’s quitting hasn’t chosen a highly stressful quit date — you know, like the week before income tax forms are due or when you’re putting your house on the market. But no time is stress-free — and you can help. Offer to take on a bit more responsibility for a few weeks. For example, you can help with childcare, meal prep, or the laundry.

We’re not giving the quitter an excuse to be lazy, but it takes a lot of energy to stay focused on quitting. Give your friend or loved one all the support you can.

This is not a free ride. After a month or so, things should gradually go back to normal. Be clear about what you’re willing to do and for how long.

Encourage all attempts

Slips or lapses are normal and expected. Try not to catastrophize if your partner slips and has one or more cigarettes. We’re not saying that slipping is good — slips pretty much always make things tougher. But they don’t mean that failure looms on the immediate horizon.

So, if the person you’re helping slips, remind him or her that slips can serve as learning opportunities. If he or she wants to talk about why the slip happened, by all means talk and search for reasons together. You can talk about how long he or she was able to go without smoking and all the good reasons for quitting. But don’t criticize, blame, induce guilt, nag, shame, or harass!

Even if the slip turns into a total relapse, it’s still important to encourage more attempts when the time seems right. Remind your friend or loved one that most smokers try to quit as many as 30 or more times before finally succeeding. You both need to be patient and positive. Repeated runs at it still have a good chance of working eventually.

Check in

Some people trying to quit think they should go it alone. They don’t talk about what they’re doing or how they’re feeling. Generally, that’s not such a good idea. Check in regularly with your friend or loved one. Ask about how it’s going. Encourage a discussion about what’s working and what’s not, as well as how you can help.

In other words, ask questions about how you can help make quitting easier. Be sure to stay positive and encouraging when discussing the struggles of quitting. Checking in lets the person know that you appreciate what he or she is going through and that you care.

Celebrate success

Whether the smoker has gone for one hour, one day, one week, or one year, celebrate every successful day without smoking. Here are some ideas:
  • Plan fun activities.
  • Bake a cake.
  • Give a small gift.
  • Send a congratulatory card.
  • Go to a movie.
Recognize success even if your smoker relapses. Each smoke-free day benefits health, and getting back on a successful track is always possible.

Sometimes after quitting, even after quite a while, cravings come up. So, be sure to continue to notice and celebrate regularly!

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Charles H. Elliott, PhD and Laura L. Smith, PhD are clinical psychologists with years of experience treating people with emotional problems, including addictions. They are authors of a variety of For Dummies books including Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies and Borderline Personality Disorder For Dummies.

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