As a support person, you can play a very important role in your friends or family member’s effort to stop smoking. Partner support is shown to have a positive effect, but how best to help can be a challenge.
Here are some specific suggestions we have found that are helpful.
Be positive! Offer encouragement; affirm how proud you are of their effort. Avoid bringing up past failed attempts; these past experiences are an important part of the learning process for becoming tobacco free for good. Give your friend or family member some extra attention. If your significant other has just stopped, do something to celebrate his or her commitment to living a healthier, tobacco-free life. Believe in their ability to succeed, and realize that stopping can be very difficult.
Understand that stopping smoking can create a great deal of unexpected change. Using tobacco fills many hours and is often used to cope with a variety of situations and emotions—from boredom, to stress, to anger, to joy. Your friend or family member is working to learn new methods of coping, and may be irritable, particularly during the early withdrawal period (up to a month following ending tobacco use). This irritability will ease as your friend or family member adapts to life as a nonsmoker. Be as understanding and supportive as you can.
Try to be open to how they feel you can be helpful. During our residential treatment program for tobacco use, we have one session in which we invite family members. We meet separately with family members, and ask each the family members what do they do to be helpful, and we ask the patients what can family members do to be helpful. The lists are often dramatically different. Try to create an atmosphere in which they can tell you what will be helpful. As with it may be hard for him or her to share the difficulties and challenges that go along with ending tobacco use.
Being there for your loved one during this difficult time can be challenging. But it can make all the difference.