Smoking is more than just a bad habit. It is a serious and problematic addiction. Quitting smoking is therefore one of the most demanding challenges that a smoker can be faced with in their life. Partners, family and friends can all play a vital role on this journey. How can you support your smoker and make it through?
Start talking. A lot of smokers find it hard to get their thoughts on the table and talk about quitting. On the one hand, we are afraid of potential failures and, on the other, we are ashamed of our addiction or unwilling to admit we have a problem. It is important to either respond positively when a smoker expresses the desire to talk or address the elephant in the room subtly when you bring the subject up yourself. If you are a former smoker, you can share your experience. It is essential to let them know that you will stand by their side no matter what. Ask many questions. How did they start smoking? What was their first experience? Why do they wish to quit smoking? Listen to what they have to say.
Don’t be a smart ass. Listing the drawbacks of smoking, referring to frightening statistics, making them feel guilty, counting cigarettes and rolling your eyes won't help your smoker achieve their goal. At best, it will push them further away from you and they will most likely never turn to you again in their times of need. You have to realize that fighting addiction is difficult, full of defeats, self-judgement and low self-esteem. Were you in such a difficult situation, you probably wouldn't want to be patronized and pushed further down either, would you?
Recommend alternatives. You can try helping your smoker by recommending alternative activities that don't involve smoking. You can invite them to the movies (let them choose a movie they would like to see), take them for a walk, plan a get-together with your friends or take them to a gallery exhibition. Or you can both enroll in a tango course or take part in a watercolor painting workshop together. The process of quitting is associated with all kinds of different triggers and cravings, so plan in advance how you can help your smoker overcome them. When times get tough, the two of you can join forces in breathing exercises, sun salutations, doing series of ten squats or dancing wildly to their favorite song. You can tell them a joke or say anything that crosses your mind at that moment. The important thing is to distract them and get their mind off of smoking.
Be patient and positive. Providing support to someone who is trying to quit smoking can be demanding and stressful. Withdrawal syndromes can cause mood swings, so do not take your smoker's mood too personally. Focus on the positive changes and never give up. Your support is highly important. Longing to light a cigarette can be difficult, so don't let them lose their confidence and abandon their goal. If they fail, don't get angry. Let them know that you are aware of how difficult it is for them and constantly remind them of the progress they’ve made so far. Stay positive and infinitely patient.
Celebrate success. Recognize the small and big victories of your loved one who has decided to quit smoking. Be it one day, one week, one month or one year since they have quit – each opportunity is deserving of a wild celebration. Send them a postcard or a flower bouquet. Make them dinner. And never forget about tiny little compliments, such as, “This smoke-free life is doing wonders for you – you’ve never gleamed this much before!” Step by step, life will get easier. On this journey, you might run into an obstacle or two, but since you are their companion, your loved one’s victory will also be yours in the end!