Tips for helping an ex-smoker remain smoke-free
Are you married to or partnered with an ex-smoker? Trying to find ways to support your mate without being overbearing? Need some real tips on how to be helpful?
If the answer is yes, you have come to the right place. That’s because I am a former smoker. In fact, I used to put those nasty things in my mouth for over twenty-years.
But thanks to a lot of hard work – plus MAJOR support from others, I’ve managed to remain smoke-free for over a year now. Not that it has been easy. Trust me, it hasn’t. And goodness knows I am still vulnerable.
That said, I’d like to share with you what I wish someone would have shared with me when I quit. Well, not with me per se but with my spouse. Yep – I’m about to give you the real deal now.
Are ready? Check it out.
1. Don’t make big meals
Right off the bat, it’s important to know that food is a major trigger for smoking. Ask most folks who used to smoke and they will tell you the first 10-15 minutes after a meal can be horrible.
There are tons of reasons for this that are psychological and physiological in nature (see this post from Smokefree.gov).
That’s why I’m saying during the first couple of weeks of your mate’s quit, be mindful of diet. In other words, if you are the one who cooks (or shares in that responsibility), avoid making meals with heavy carbs.
I’m talking about things like meatloaf, burgers, pizza, and pasta. Instead, opt for the lighter fair that isn’t as triggery. Examples include fish, salads, soups, and chicken. Oh, and while I am at it …
Alcohol can also be triggery. I’m not saying the two of you can’t have a drink. But I am saying it is something to be aware of.
2. Rethink caffeine
If you are the one to make coffee at home, you may want to rethink this activity. And not just because caffeine is triggery.
Most folks don’t know this but when a person stops smoking, the level of caffeine in their system dramatically increases. In turn, this can cause the ex-smoker to get super anxious and wig out!
If you have time, read this post from the people at Why Quit to learn more. You are going to be shocked to learn that ex-smokers who continue drinking the same amount of coffee each day have double the amount of caffeine in their system.
Talk about jittery! This is why I am suggesting that coffee be revisited. Maybe pick up something with a fifty-fifty mix or make half a pot?
3. Break old routines
One way you can help your mate stay quit is by being OK with change. The truth is nicotine is no different than any other addiction. It thrives off familiarity.
Example: If your spouse was accustomed to lighting up after dinner, it might be helpful to grab their coat and say, “Baby – we’re going for a walk.”
I’m not saying you should force change on them. That could actually backfire. But I am saying that being with them and suggesting activities that break up old routines can be helpful. But there is a catch – you will need to be okay with change too.
Yep, I know. If someone wants to stop smoking, it is up to them. That’s 100% true. But it does help when they have a partner who walks with them on that journey. Make sense?
4. Encourage them to chill
Obviously, you should offer praise to your mate for the decision to stop smoking. Encouraging words are totally important.
But in addition to that support, here’s what they really need. Get your mate to chill!
I’m saying this because ex-smokers often become filled with anxiety during the first weeks and months after their quit date. It’s natural and normal. To cope, they may become consumed with different projects, hoping to take their minds off their addiction.
There’s nothing wrong with distraction here and there. The problem is addicts (and I’m one of them) tend to take on too much, which can paradoxically be triggery.
That may sound weird but I’m being for real. The more the addict loads onto their metaphorical plate to distract, the more stressed they become to get things done.
The end result? Massive anxiety. And if left unchecked, it can lead to a relapse.
So, what can you do? Probably the best thing I can advise is to encourage your mate to relax. Examples include streaming a movie from Netflix or offering a body massage.
The idea is to gently remind them they may be taking on too much, too soon. Chances are, the person will thank you.
5. Be patient
The last thing I’ll share is the importance of patience. When your mate stops smoking, the odds are high they will become irritable and impatient. Goodness knows I was.
That said, understand that you aren’t the cause of what they are feeling. Instead, it’s nicotine withdraw. The best thing you can do is not take it personally and recognize this is part of the quitting process.
One thing that might help is to offer them some relaxing tea. I’m talking about ones of the caffeine-free variety. There are lots to choose from.
Personally, I used Quit Tea because it helped me to stay calm. But there are many others to consider, including herbal mints and green teas.
The wind up is this – expect the person to be edgy and crabby. Try not to take it personally.
If your mate has decided to quit smoking, they deserve lots of praise. But to help them stay quit, there are things you can do that go beyond mere words.
By trying some of the tips I’ve shared here, you’ll be doing much to assist your mate on the road to better health.
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