How to help a loved one who wants to quit smoking
By : Vik
8 months ago
Quitting smoking is very difficult and contrary to what we think, the will to do so is not enough. Smoking is a real addiction, which means losing control over your consumption. If you have a loved one who uses tobacco and you are worried about them, you need to ask yourself how you can help them.
This week I met with Dr. Petit, a general practitioner and addictologist at the University Hospital of Dijon in France, who shares his 6 tips to help someone quit smoking.
1. Be a good listener, keep an open mind and be empathetic
The best attitude to support your loved one in their journey is to keep an open mind. This means taking in without judging what the other person is telling you. Addiction is hard to understand when you haven't experienced it. Being "addicted" means losing control. To help, you can try to understand what is going on in your loved one's head. You can take an objective interest in what your friend is telling you. To make sure you understand them, you can use the “mirroring” technique. You rephrase, say what you understood and then adjust. Forcing yourself to rephrase is a good way to understand what your loved one is expressing. You simply need to keep a caring and encouraging approach.
2. Replace smoking with a healthy habit
Occupational solutions are a good first step. Some psychotherapies suggest to stop smoking directly, but it can take longer to succeed. There is no miracle recipe to replace smoking little by little, you have to find something that gives pleasure without calling for tobacco. An addictologist can help at this stage.
You can imagine all kinds of activities, as long as they are healthy: knitting, taking the dog out, drinking water, involving yourself more into work, running... The important thing is that it feels good, that it is easy to do and that it does not call for cigarettes.
This technique is effective, but not always lasting. Tobacco addiction is very behavioral. You can't kick a habit, but you can create a habit that overrides it. As a family member, you can be proactive, but you must not force the other person. If your loved one decides to stop, you can support them, be open to their ideas, be available and try to implement them.
3. Cook healthy meals with your loved one
Another good idea to replace a bad habit with a good one is to cook meals together. Many people worry about gaining weight when the stop smoking. It is a physilogical mechanism: destroying tobacco substances consumes energy. In addition, the lack of tobacco opens the appetite. It is therefore a good opportunity to review the dietary rules. You can help by offering to cook with your loved one. Once again, the important thing is to enjoy yourself together.
4. Reward with a special moment, a common project
Rewarding smoking reduction is a good thing, but you have to be careful that it's does not create a unbalance in your relationship.
In general, financial reward is a good lever. Calculating the money saved by quitting smoking helps you realize how much money is available. With this budget, it is possible to do things. Every week or every hundred euros or dollars saved, you can treat yourself to a spa session, for example. We can also imagine a tourist weekend or any other project that will suit you both.
You can also imagine the time they saved: each cigarette takes 5 to 10 minutes to be consumed. If you put all these minutes together, you will see you can invest them in other activities, like going swimming with your loved one. And that's where you come in by suggesting and participating in these ideas.
It is important to avoid the relationship turning into a parental one, where one rewards the other like a parent with a child. To do this, you can propose activities without forcing, avoid trivializing or demonizing tobacco, do not take over the problem for the other, do not be indifferent either... It is a tightrope to walk. The key is to communicate and keep a good balance between you and your loved one.
5. Know that each step you take is a victory in itself
On the road to quit, the only thing you can be sure of is that you can never be sure. Some people relapse after twenty years, and for others the first attempt is a success.
There are milestones to be reached, steps that allow you to see progress. For example, we know that after thirty days of quitting, the chances of quitting completely are multiplied by 5. This is what inspired the initiative of the month without tobacco and I invite you to suggest it to your loved one! Thirty days is a big first step to celebrate.
If your loved one smokes and uses a treatment such as patches, you should know that the nicotine doses are supposed to decrease over time. So each dose reduction is an achievement in itself that should be savored.
There are three major steps to remember in the process of quitting smoking:
- First step: "I have stopped, but when I see someone smoking, I want to". It's normal, the brain is still used to it and wants it.
- Second step: "The smell is repulsive, I don't feel like it, but I quickly notice it". The body rejects the substance, but it recognizes it easily.
- Third step: "I am indifferent to tobacco.” A big page is turned when you get to this stage.
6. Don't force, guilt, or dramatize
Communication is the key to helping your loved one quit smoking. This means that in addition to the actions you can do, there are a few things to avoid:
- Don't judge or make the other feel guilty.
- Be willing to help but do not force it.
- Try to avoid a passive-aggressive tone.
- To avoid these pitfalls, you can educate yourself about addiction and better understand what your loved one is going through.
It is easy to believe that the other person can stop more easily than they show. But understanding addiction means understanding that you are losing control of your use. To get the best information, you can use an application available in your country that helps you to fight tobacco or consult public health service-driven websites that help people quit smoking.
You can also ask me all your questions in my Vik application!
I hope I have helped you,
With all my love,
Dr Benjamin Petit, general practitioner and addictologist at the University Hospital of Dijon
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