How to be a Good Friend to a New Quitter

Anne Mitchell Health Guide
  • When you see a friend or loved one suffering through the pains of quitting smoking, you want to reach out and do what you can to ease their suffering. Here are some ideas for you to try when you want to help a quitter be successful.

    If you’ve never had an addiction to nicotine, alcohol, or drugs, it can be difficult to understand why it is so hard to quit. Maybe you see your loved one suffering from health issues because they smoke. Or maybe you just see them sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. It must seem terribly obvious to you that all they need to do is to stop doing whatever it is that is making them sick. But with addictions, rational thought has almost nothing to do with it.

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    Addictions like smoking affect people’s emotional, social, and physical well-being. This insidious habit can become a part of the addict’s very sense of self. They see smoking as a friend, a calming refuge, an exciting high, a comforting escape. It can become so engrained in their daily act of living that to consider saying goodbye forever feels like a part of them is threatened with being torn away.

    Let’s start with some things you should try to avoid when you're wanting to help.

    • Please don’t ask them how they can even THINK about smoking. Chances are that is ALL they can think about.
    • Help them avoid or limit alcohol, at least for the first few months. They do not need any substances that could affect their resolve.
    • If you are a smoker, please do not smoke around them. This is cruel and will greatly increase their likelihood of failure. New nonsmokers need to be around other nonsmokers. Instead, try to join them in quitting and then you can support each other.

    Now, here’s some things you can do that will help.

    • Ask them how they feel each time they successfully battle a craving. This will help the quitter reinforce their reasons for quitting and will remind them that they have what it takes to get through the next craving.
    • Help divert them if they start to get the crazies for a cigarette. Take a walk with them or offer to go do something where you can’t smoke, like see a movie or go swimming.
    • Be there to talk things through. When smokers first quit, they often feel very lost without their addiction - you can fill in and be that friendly crutch until they become strong enough to develop their own internal resources.
    • Remind them that now is not the time to try to lose a few pounds (or to worry about gaining a few). He or she can worry about their appearance later - now is the time to focus on quitting smoking.

    But what if they keep relapsing?

    • Remind them that every hour they spent not smoking was like another chip in the addiction wall that locks them in. If they lasted a little longer this time than last, then they were successful. Even if they didn’t last as long as the previous time, they were successful for trying. Each attempt is practice for the final time.
    • Help them write a list of the reasons they want to quit and remind them of that list each time they relapse. Eventually they will be successful for the long-term, but it could take dozens or even hundreds of attempts before it sticks.

    The biggest thing you can do to help is to never let them give up on quitting. Remember, a life is at stake here. And every successful quitter serves as an inspiration for another smoker who wants to quit. They may even serve as an example to a young person who is thinking of smoking. When they see how hard it is to quit, then they may think twice about starting (at least we can hope).

    These are just a few of the things you can do to help smokers be successful at quitting smoking. If you have more ideas, please add your comments to this post!

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    Related posts:

    Smoking and Alcoholism: How to Fight Multiple Addictions

    How to Quit Smoking: Week 1

    Quitting Smoking: Easier in Groups

    Avoiding Nicotine Relapse without Losing Friends

Published On: September 07, 2008