Quitting Smokes while living with a smoking partner
September 19, 2008 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Another quitting smoking question - has anyone made it while living with a smoking partner?

What's realistic? What worked for you? I am motivated (again) to quit, but my partner isn't. We live by the tennant that one can't control another person, and if I ask him for a cigarrette, or take one from the stash in the house, he, rightly, I think, says nothing. I set a quit date as last Monday, and I have cut down (one to six, average three) per day. I have read and re-read Carr's The Easy Way To Stop Smoking and it makes sense to me. Any specific experinces or advice in this situation welcome.
posted by rainbaby to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Actually, the only thing that finally got me to quit for good was a girlfriend (now my wife) that absolutely would not tolerate my smoking. To make it stick, I also had to cut all of my smoking friends out of my life. Whenever I had a girlfriend that smoked, my smoking increased. You would have to have a will of iron to quit while living with someone who smokes.
posted by Crotalus at 7:06 PM on September 19, 2008

I quit while my wife was still smoking. Here's a couple of suggestions.

Your partner can offer a reminder. More than once, I bummed a cigarette off my wife after having a few because I forgot that I was trying to quit (something about booze and cigarettes). So I asked her to remind me, which she did. It was very helpful.

But your partner should not have to police you. One reminder, that's it. And no lecturing your partner on the dangers of smoking. You know. They know. Don't be that self-righteous ex-smoker.

OTOH, WTF do I know. Pregnancy and kids eliminated the very possibility of smoking in our house. Not that I have any regrets.
posted by cjets at 7:15 PM on September 19, 2008

I'm sure at some point, someone somewhere managed to quit while living with a partner who didn't, but I can tell you that even when my stepfather's health deteriorated to the point where he was told by his doctor to stop smoking or it would kill him, he couldn't make it more than a few weeks without a cigarette... because my mother didn't quit. And yes, he passed away a few years later (in his 50s). 14 years later, my mother still smokes.

I agree with Crotalus. Quitting smoking needs to be about more than simply not picking up a cigarette. To stay a nonsmoker, I think one has to cut smoking out of one's life. This includes not going to smokey bars and not sitting in smoking sections. Smoke isn't like cereal where you eat the healthy stuff but your partner eats the sugary stuff. Smoke is in the air you breathe. It's on your clothes and in your hair. And when you kiss, it's in your partner's mouth. And yours.

I wish you the best of luck and I hope I am absolutely dead wrong.

Whatever you do - be strong.
posted by 2oh1 at 7:20 PM on September 19, 2008

I'm half thinking substituting nic gum is the best I can do. I understand that still leaves me addicted and vulnerable. Where I live, a pack of cigs costs less than a gallon of gas, and the gum is much more expensive. I've previously done the gum for about two weeks, successfully. I don't qualify for the patch or a perscription as a good option, because I can not smoke for twenty hours and be fine. At the end of the day, though, at home, I am weak.
posted by rainbaby at 7:46 PM on September 19, 2008

I quit in January. My husband still smokes a pack a day. It was an organic process - I never set out to quit smoking. Over time, I found myself smoking less, and when I was at the point of smoking as much as you are right now, I got the flu. Realized I hadn't had a cigarette in three days and figure I might as well not start up again. But, and this made a huge difference to me, I never said to myself that I can't smoke. In fact, I had two cigarettes at a show last Sunday (and have stolen numerous drags since January). But the psychological need is gone. Your mileage, of course, may vary. But it can be done.

Also, if this is relevant, we never smoked in our house. I don't think it would be out of line to establish a no smoking in the house rule, should that be necessary. A New England January night is a good incentive to quit in itself.
posted by Ruki at 7:47 PM on September 19, 2008

On non-preview - it's actually a good sign for you that you don't need a cigarette until the end of the day. Part of the severity of addiction is how soon you need a cigarette after you wake up.
posted by Ruki at 7:50 PM on September 19, 2008

dont forget the nicotine lozenge. I think the main brand goes by Commit Lozenges. They come in 2mg and 4mg. You would fall into the 2mg catergory easily. You can break them in half or quarters even- to get more bang for your dollar. Try a Costco or Sam's Club in their pharmacy section for a good deal.

And no, I would not have made it if I had a partner who also smoked.

Here's my standard pitch to anyone considering quitting smoking: You have to be extreamly motivated. You also have to be confident that the steps you take to quit smoking will actually work.

I came back from 3 1/2 packs a day! No kidding.
posted by captainsohler at 8:13 PM on September 19, 2008

My mom quit smoking while my dad still smoked (he has since quit). She used all of the tools available to her, including the Nicotrol inhaler (which she swears was her lifeline), patches and 5mg Valium as needed.

She'd been a two pack a day smoker from the age of 13, and she has now been quit for almost 8 years. The catalyst was her brother, who died quite horribly of lung cancer. The point is that it absolutely can be done.

Good for you. :-)
posted by mewithoutyou at 8:21 PM on September 19, 2008

My mom quit smoking while my dad continued on for another seven years. What did it for her was simply taking smoking out of her daily routine. At first she replaced it with some other simple activity before eliminating it altogether. In the mornings, for instance, she took to reading the newspaper while my dad smoked.

The trick here is that you have to be extremely motivated, and furthermore have to focus on the immediate benefits of quitting as opposed to the long term benefits. For my mother, this was simply time and money. She smoked a LOT (I don't remember the exact quantity), and it was consuming a large chunk of her day and of her disposable income. Also, I was growing up and she needed to invest this time and money into raising me.

Ultimately, it depends on how strong your nicotine addiction is as opposed to how strong-willed you are. You need to quit smoking for you, and you alone. It is certainly possible, as long as you have a clear goal in mind.
posted by wsp at 9:01 PM on September 19, 2008

Years ago I quit smoking while living with a man who smoked, and just this past year my bf's mother has quit smoking while living with her husband who smokes.

I believe the key in both situations was having a partner willing to make one major sacrifice: agreeing to stop smoking inside the house. I was on zyban when I quit, and there is no way I would have been able to kick it fully if the man I lived with had continued smoking in the house. It would have simply been too hard. My bf's mother believes the same thing about her situation. In my case, we agreed to both stop smoking inside about a month before my first attempt to quit, so he was used to doing it already by that time.

I think that if your partner really loves and supports you, it is reasonable for you to ask this of him and that he should agree to it despite the inconvenience to himself. If this is impossible due to some physical reason, then he should agree to only smoke in one room of the house, preferably one with excellent ventilation and one you don't have to go into often.

Also, it took me three serious attempts at quitting before I finally succeeded, and this is very typical. I haven't read the book you mentioned, but I got all the quitting smoking literature from the American Lung Association, and one of the main things they stress is that the majority of former smokers had to make several attempts to quit before it stuck, and that the important thing is to keep making those attempts and not give up in despair.

Good luck. You can Do it!
posted by Brody's chum at 9:19 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I quit smoking 6 years ago, after smoking for 17. At the time, my flatmate smoked, all my friends smoked, everyone in my family smoked and everyone at my job smoked. Inside the office. Right there in their cubicles.

It was very difficult, but I don't consider myself a very disciplined guy or possessing inordinate amounts of willpower. It was more of a drawn-out preparation process, rather than a supreme effort of momentary will. The actual moment of quitting, that Thursday night, was just one more step in a long road. To me, spreading out the effort made it much easier than all the other previous attempts.

I had tried several different approaches: smoking one less cigarette every day until I quit completely, only smoking on weekends, only smoking if I was drinking (an especially bad choice, by the way. It is astounding the sheer amount of beers you can fit into a week when you need a smoke.), switching brands, etc, etc. Nothing seemed to stick.

Thinking back now, perhaps my mistake was focussing on the method, instead of the goal. When I finally stopped being in a rush to quit, stopped the ill-conceived efforts and accepted the fact that I really, really wanted to stop smoking, I began to slowly brainwash myself.

I read The Runaway Jury by John Grisham, I watched The Informant with Russell Crowe, I told myself, over and over again that smoking is disgusting, that I wanted a healthy life, that I did not want my mouth to taste like an ashtray, that it is idiotic to smoke, that that I am not a smoker, I AM NOT A SMOKER, I AM NOT A SMOKER...just drowned out all other thoughts from my brain, like a sort of mantra.

I laid out a reward system for not smoking. I could treat myself to gifts, toys, tools, etc. upon reaching certain milestones: 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years. I could also spend all the money I would have spent smoking on whatever I fancied. I practised Andrew Weil's breathing techniques for relaxation, accepted the fact that I would have to have something in my mouth to cope with the oral fixation.

In short, I prepared myself for battle. Sort of the way Renton prepares to quit heroin on Trainspotting, using the Sick Boy Method, but with three main differences: I did not have to stick opium suppositories up my arse, the preparation went on for much, much longer and it never crossed my mind that I would not succeed.

I must have spent at least six months in this process, inwardly inching closer every day, without telling anyone, until I felt ready. I felt certain. I thought to myself: This will be the last day I will smoke. There was no hesitation, despite the fact the it was a Thursday, and I know going out on Friday would be torture.

I smoked my last Camel about 23:00, crushed it out, destroyed the ones left in the packet, walked across the flat to present my flatmate with my favourite ashtray -to his utter astonishment- and went to bed.

Things got bad as soon as I woke up, but it was sort of distant. That certainty gave me enough distance to view my misery as something apart from myself. It was not me, it was just an effect.

What followed was about six weeks of me being in an absolutely awful mood, being admired/mocked/teased/supported by everyone and me gaining a kilo of body weight every week for a total increase of about 10%. Remember that oral fixation I mentioned earlier? Yeah. Took about a year to sweat off.

6 years on, I am very proud that I have succeeded, have regained my sense of taste and my sense of smell, and have used that confidence to attempt other hard things in my life.

Do it. You won't regret it.
posted by Cobalt at 10:27 PM on September 19, 2008 [12 favorites]

Cobalt, you are my new best friend.
posted by matty at 11:02 PM on September 19, 2008

i smoked for 10 years and quit 2 years ago. I tried numerous mental and physical tricks, but the one that finally worked was to tell myself that I am no longer a smoker. Smoking is a memory. Sure, all those years of smoking were fun, but now they've passed, and like good old days of childhood, can only exist in memory, and totally inaccessible in the present. So of course there are kids I see daily in the world, and I see smokers, but that doesn't mean I myself am either a kid or a smoker.

Another thing that worked for me was to learn to loathe smokers. I hate them. I hate how inconsiderate they are. It's a mental trick because really, I miss them so much I can only push them away. Good luck.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 6:40 AM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

i quit a 30-a-day habit. my husband still smokes a pack a day.

the reason i quit was precisely because i was so sick of being addicted. so while it was very difficult to stay quit with all the temptation in front of me, it was also a constant reminder: this is what life is like being addicted. always needing to plan ahead to ensure you have cigarettes. spending £6 a day or more just on fags. standing outside in the rain to get your fix. enduring long-ass plane rides while going through withdrawals. coughing all the time. smelling horrible. yellow teeth.

it cannot work if they're still allowed to smoke in the house, however. once i quit, our house became a non-smoking zone, and husband had to smoke outside.

and also: i'd be lying if i said i didn't feel just a *teeny* bit superior for having stronger willpower than him ;)

i subbed mints and lollies and gum and running and lots and lots of water for my addiction. that was 3 years ago. i'm still quit, and he still "wants to quit".
posted by wayward vagabond at 7:49 AM on September 20, 2008

Thanks for the stories, everyone. Very helpful.
posted by rainbaby at 8:06 AM on September 20, 2008

my pal quit after seeing a chiropracter in staten island who did acupuncture in his ear for a few hundred bucks. i didnt believe it would work at all, but he was over a pack a day and quit cold turkey since that moment, hasnt smoked in 2 years, never even craved another one. and he tried to quit a bunch of times. crazy.
posted by fumbducker at 8:55 AM on September 20, 2008

My dad quit while my mom still smoked. Cold turkey, no big deal. They *did* get divorced years later...
posted by lothar at 9:29 AM on September 20, 2008

Pregnancy and a child eliminated smoking in our house, too. I quit; Mr Kmennie still goes outside for a cigarette.

I had to get rid of a lot of 'triggers' -- leisurely meals with alcohol on patios, and at the end of a gradual quitting process, coffee for almost half a year. I spent months smoking one cigarette a day with my morning coffee before fully quitting. His smoking is inconsequential; the second-hand bits of it are gross, not something that makes me want to light up. I had to be smoking very little before that happened, though. Quitting by gradually tapering off to nothing does not seem to be popular, but it was what worked for me (after many unsuccessful attempts at cold turkey, patches, etc etc).
posted by kmennie at 9:32 AM on September 20, 2008

My dad just laid them down a few years ago on New Years Day. My mom still smokes like crazy. If you want to, you can do it. You're just going to have to develop some new routines. My ex's father had to quit coffee when he quit smoking because in his mind the two had to go hand in hand.
posted by CwgrlUp at 2:25 PM on September 20, 2008

Yes. Because that's how you know that you've quit! When it's right in your face.. and you can handle that and not have to do it too.

What makes quitting hard is moving from say a '97% wanting to quit' position to a more viable 99.8-100% one... :) Goodluck.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:03 AM on September 21, 2008

I tried quitting for ~6 months, failing every time I tried, before I finally got so disgusted with myself that I quit cold turkey. My boyfriend was still smoking but I didn't mind because I was so grossed out by that stage.

Within a year, he'd given up too. This was 2 years ago. The same situation happened with my stepmother and father.

If you give up, maybe your partner just naturally will, because you won't be a constant Pavlovian reminder. My partner had no intention of quitting at the time that I did.

Just keep trying and failing until it finally sticks. You learn something new every time you fail.
posted by mjao at 5:24 AM on September 21, 2008

My wife quit a couple of years before I did, although she had pressing medical reasons to do so. I later successfully used the patches, and didn't modify any other area of my various intakes, smokable or drinkable. Just no more cigs.

You are not "vulnerable" if you are chewing nicotine gum, as long as you make sure you have the gum on hand. Nicotine addiction is not a huge deal. What is a huge deal is the amount of hot, burning shit you suck into your mouth and throat and lungs in order to get this particular hit, and the beautiful alchemy of hundreds of highly toxic compounds reacting with each other and your body tissue as you pump this stuff into your system.
posted by Wolof at 1:03 AM on September 22, 2008

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