Tips for quitting smoking - for the partner!
January 2, 2015 5:21 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend has given up smoking. Its been less than 12 hours and she's ready to rip my throat out.

We have discussed this for some time and have also decided that I will give up drinking in the house (currently the only place I drink). I have never smoked and she drinks very infreqently.
The main reason for this decision is financial, not health. To boost our resolve, each weekend we will put in a jar the money we would be spending on booze and cigs that week. This will be our wedding "slush fund".
My girlfriend is stubborn and will not consider nicotine relacement aids or any other physical help.
already, her anger is giving me cause for concern. Having a gobby pre-teen and mischievous pets is not helping. There is plenty online about support for quitters to quit, but what about holding the family together while its happening?
posted by Gabriel ricci to Human Relations (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
the stats say, if you wanna be successful in quitting, you're better off with the patch/gum
i would tell her that, and then make myself scarce. also, her quitting smokes doesn't give her a free anger pass, at least in my book.
good luck to you both.
/former smoker here
posted by angrycat at 5:30 AM on January 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

Try to weather the next 3 days as best you can. I've been on both sides of this, and I found that the anger and irritability really did start to lessen after about 3 days. When you can be supportive, do so - remind her of the benefits, try to change the situation if you can (if she's sulking at home, take her out for a coffee). When she's being particularly nasty, TELL HER THIS. I agree with angrycat that she doesn't get a free pass at being angry or mean. Maybe she needs to leave and cool off awhile, or call a friend, when you've hit your limit and need a break.

Try to watch for backsliding after a few weeks, once she's been clean a little while she might think "oh, I can have just one cigarette." No, not really.

I used an ecig and it did help. If she starts talking about giving up and smoking again, try and see if she'd do an ecig instead.
posted by cabingirl at 5:41 AM on January 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

I gave up cigarettes seriously at least 40 times (the beginning of every season) for 10 years, and the rage was spectacular. In fact, it's how I first ended up on at I-depressants. I recommend that she seek an online quit smoking support group, to share these feelings and the struggles with cravings (many of those quitting will be doing cold turkey, for all sorts of reasons). I recommend that you move to another country for a minimum of 6 weeks, but failing that opportunity, avoid her as much as possible and disagree with her never, even if she claims the sky is made of crushed frogs. Hopefully, by 3 weeks, she'll be over the worst of it, and in about 2 years, you can tell her what an absolute stone cold bitch she was and get brownie points.

I'm not joking even a tiny bit.
posted by b33j at 5:43 AM on January 2, 2015 [30 favorites]

You and the pre-teen should stay away from her as much as possible. Now is not the time to have any discussions about the cleanliness of the kitchen or what you're going to have for dinner or who is going to put gas in the car or what time pre-teen needs to be dropped of at the friends or anything. I quit cold turkey, and cabingirl is correct about the three days. It's best to be able to avoid humans for those days as much as possible. I quit cold turkey because I read something that said nicotine replacement just drags out the withdrawal. I just wanted the whole awful ordeal over as quickly as possible, and it worked for me, although the rage was something else.
posted by Mavri at 6:29 AM on January 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

I gave up smoking on November 5 last year. Im at about 58 days.

The first couple days are the worst, but what helped me through them is having an understanding of what was going on inside my mind and body and why.

And that's where came in. I found it by googling "quitting smoking disoriented." I was a wreck on the second day. The site has loads of articles and videos to help you get educated about what's going on inside your mind and body. It helped me immensely.

I love how they have the articles and videos organized. Example, The first 72 hours.

They also have a Facebook group which I joined. If you go on the Facebok page and post that you're on day two and having troubles, the admins will send you links to articles about what's going on inside you on day two. It's nice to see the supportive messages on my feed.

It is a Cold Turkey method. For me, it's worked fantastically. I applaud your girlfriend for quitting.
posted by bricksNmortar at 6:47 AM on January 2, 2015 [10 favorites]

My girlfriend is stubborn and will not consider nicotine relacement aids or any other physical help.
I used a vape for the simple reason the act of smoking was a large part of the appeal for me.
Worked like a charm, no rage, no cravings and paid for itself in like a week of not smoking.

Can feel a bit of a tit going outside for a "smoke" but you know, smoking is stupid expensive.

I'm only suggesting it because I too was very against nicotine replacement aids but was completely won over.

Good luck.
posted by fullerine at 7:01 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

My girlfriend is stubborn and will not consider nicotine relacement aids or any other physical help.

I think at a certain point you can say you want her to at least try nicotine replacement or whatever else a doc can suggest. Seriously, your concern is on the level of of holding the family together.

I quit permanently the second time of trying, and did it without replacements or other help, but I also moved away from my partner temporarily. We were driving each other nuts, and having him in the mix was making it harder to quit. Plus, giving up an addiction can really put stress on a relationship, from both sides. Nicotine is an incredibly powerful drug and affects you in your dailiness and all your coping mechanisms. If I had it to do over again, I would certainly have used medically approved crutches in order to stop. Either way, I know you are describing this with good humor but she is going through something really big.

It also sounds like she may not really be psychologically ready to quit. She probably should quitanyway-- smoking is just a disaster, and with a kid in the house?-- but it really needs to come from her. This is a serious addiction, with all the potential for codependency that that involves.
posted by BibiRose at 7:06 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

My experience is similar to cabingirl's. The mood stuff should resolve within a week. The cravings will (obviously) take way longer to go. But I don't agree with taking her out for coffee if she usually smokes when having coffee. One of the best "tricks" in this situation is to do things that differ markedly from your usual routine. Visit new places and do new things as much as possible. Particularly at times of the day when she would normally smoke.

Note that if she lapses, even if only to take one cigarette, you can expect the moodiness to come back, and take another week to resolve. Cold turkey is really the best on this front.

Also, stubbornness is an asset in a quitting endeavour. And nicotine replacement therapy can be expensive, which is counter to your stated goal of saving money. So I wouldn't try to dissuade her decision on that one.

Best of luck!
posted by kisch mokusch at 7:08 AM on January 2, 2015

My girlfriend is stubborn and will not consider... any other physical help.

How about physical help from something that doesn't include nicotine? Appropriately approximately cigarette-dimensioned pieces of licorice root give a person something to hold in their mouth and, perhaps better still, something to clinch their teeth into when the lack-of-tobacco pissiness takes hold.
posted by mr. digits at 7:14 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hi! I am quitting smoking! It's crazy!

1. Get her the Allen Carr book.

2. Don't push nicotine replacement on her. She's working on getting away from addiction. Taking more nicotine doesn't help. The further she gets away from nicotine, the sooner the unpleasantness she experiences physically will resolve.

3. All of it will pass.

4. I don't think the motivation of "saving money" is enough, frankly. I'd rather spend all my money on cigarettes and be homeless than not smoke. Instead, she has to convince herself that she is doing SOMETHING AWESOME for herself, that she is CHANGING HER LIFE IN A GREAT WAY, that she is SETTING HERSELF FREE FROM ALL THE BULLLLLLSHIT. (Heh, yes, that's the Allen Carr all-caps.) Otherwise? Why would we give a fuck?? It sucks! My brain is literally like "when you finish typing this paragraph you can go out and smoke." NASTY BRAIN TRICK. That happens every five minutes. It's incredibly disorienting.

5. She needs to go scream into a pillow instead of screaming at you. Yes, she's unhappy, but she doesn't get to totally treat you like garbage. (Only once an hour. Heh.) GO MAKE HER SOME SUPPER, WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON THE INTERNET YOU JERK. ;)

6. Breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe. Eat. Breathe.

7. Like quitting drinking, quitting smoking isn't about "willpower." White-knuckling is misery. Relax. Open up. It's a wonderful thing to set yourself free from an addiction. Trying to see the magic makes all the difference. I never thought I could do this! It's great! I'm not smoking and the sky isn't falling. Nothing all that bad is actually happening to me!

8. I smoked more than a pack a day for about 25 years. I smoked like a crazy person! I'm about a day ahead of your girlfriend, and I'M DOING GREAT. (Heh, so far.) If she wants, my email is in my profile.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:19 AM on January 2, 2015 [23 favorites]

Starting Day 2 of your Quit
posted by bricksNmortar at 7:27 AM on January 2, 2015

When I quit smoking I waited until I had a four-day weekend because (based on previous, failed attempts to quit) I knew that irritability would be major problem and I didn't want to blow up at work. Which is to say, I don't know of any way to avoid the rage, but it is short-lived and I think is best handled by avoidance. Give her plenty of space for a few days.
posted by enn at 7:27 AM on January 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Did she lower her overall smoking or just go from smoking a lot to quitting? My husband quit smoking about 2 years ago. He was at least a pack a day, then slowed down quite a bit before quitting. He was irritable and all over the place though. He has ADHD and the nicotine calmed him down. He said replacements make him feel anxious and didn't use them.

I'll be honest, it was a long road. It took at least 6 months until he had actually had his last cigarette. So be prepared for some falling back on it. Really, I just tried to give him his space and encouragement. For you, I'd try to keep things as calm as possible. Just ignore the raging and try to let it roll off your back, then when things calm down start with some encouragement. Don't push the "I'm proud of you" or "you can do it" right now. I learned that the hard way. Saying that right away leads to conversations about how much it sucks and why they missed smoking and "you don't understand."
posted by Crystalinne at 7:33 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

You or she might consider calling 1-800-QUITNOW. Depending on which state you live in (if you are in the US), they might have counseling available for her and/or you. It's free. In some states, people who are in the middle of a quit attempt can call that number just to talk when the rage hits or when they feel like they are having a craving the can't resist. Some of them have packets of information for the partner, and/or also provide counseling for the partner. It totally depends on where you live.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:46 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I quit smoking cold-turkey... eleven years ago? Something like that. It SUCKED. It was really, really hard, but after the first week or so, it got easier. Just be gentle with her. My husband (we were dating at the time) made sure to tell me that he was proud of me, because he could tell it was difficult. He also made the brilliant move of buying me a shoot-aliens-and-blow-shit-up video game, so I could channel my irritability into something fun. It also distracted me from the "Oh God I want a cigarette!!" feelings nicely. YMMV.
posted by sarcasticah at 7:57 AM on January 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Here's the correct link to the Facebook Group I mentioned upthread.
posted by bricksNmortar at 7:59 AM on January 2, 2015

Nthing vaping if she ends up needing help to taper off or falls off the wagon and starts smoking again. I'm a nonsmoker but I have several smoker friends who switched to vaping and it's been great for them. A couple have even gotten down to 0 nicotine and now just vape flavored water vapor because they enjoy the whole hand-to-mouth habit.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:35 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

1. Get her the Allen Carr book.

THIS is really the only piece of advice you need to take away from this thread.
Seriously - 100% - this is the only advice you need.

Buy her the book, it's $15 ish and it will change her life.
When I quit smoking a few years ago, I was convinced it was going to be the worst.
This book was revolutionary. Quitting smoking was actually easy. And I haven't smoked again and don't miss it at all.
Get it today and your GF will be fine once she's read it.
posted by JenThePro at 9:22 AM on January 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

The first 72 hours are the worst - bear with her!

My husband was very patient. He didn't argue with me or contradict me; he responded to a LOT of mean comments as if they were neutral. He listened to me whine and complain and he would say over and over, "You are doing great" or "I know this is really hard." He would tell me to hang in there, the symptoms would eventually go away, and let me know that he would love me ANYWAY, regardless of whether I relapsed or not. We didn't have kids or pets at the time (and wow, does that increase the difficulty, I imagine), but I'm confident he would have managed as much of the care and feeding of them that I would have allowed him to.

Also, like many others, was crucial to me when I successfully quit 14 years ago. I was on there reading for weeks before AND after I quit (and I relapsed after one day, but unlike previous attempts, I quit again the next day and it stuck). It's really difficult, for the addict and the people around her.
posted by hiker U. at 9:27 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

I quit 2 years, 4 months and 22 days 5 hours and 13 minutes ago. Hardest damned thing I have ever done....ever.

My advice for you is realize that your girlfriend is going to be "off" for awhile. I never got mean or angry, but I got sad, super-distracted, exhausted and a general feeling of being lost. My husband gave me whatever I needed -- be it space, hugs,encouragement, or listening to me go on and on about the epic battle I was waging. I am not saying you need to be her whipping boy, but try to give her what she needs.

My advice for your girlfriend is to find a support group. I found nicotine anonymous meetings and I will swear to my dying day that those people who showed up saved my life by helping me quit. I also quit cold turkey and am not a fan of nicotine replacement products--I tried them many times without success many times. That said, my husband quit with the patch. Let her do whatever she believes will help her quit. Don't judge. She is waging an epic battle too and she needs to believe that she knows best how to win the battle and war.
posted by murrey at 9:28 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I quit 6.5 years ago. Just so you know, I occasionally crave a smoke, but it's no big deal any more.

I used Chantix, which helped me a LOT, but the biggest help for me was, first, that I was extremely motivated to quit, and second, the support from Chantix. The prescription comes with an online program that includes tips and suggestions, kudos every day you get through without a "slip", and lots of follow up. There is a lot of discussion here and there about side effects of Chantix, including depression and suicidal ideation. I never got these, but I've certainly had these side effects in other attempts to quit smoking. I honestly don't think they're Chantix side effects -- I think they are side effects of nicotine withdrawal.

I agree that nicotine replacement isn't helpful. I tried it myself several times, and it didn't help at all. Here's why: Smoking cessation is two things. It's the physical addiction and the emotional addiction. The emotional addiction is never gone (see, e.g., that I still crave a smoke now and then). The physical addiction is, I understand, a three-week hump, after which your body isn't screaming at you even though your mind may still be screaming at you. Nicotine replacement puts off the physical withdrawal while you get used to not having a cigarette in your hand or a smoke when you're frustrated or bored. But to me, that's backwards. That's putting off the physical withdrawal (the fast part) until the emotional withdrawal is under control (which is never).

I know that there are people who have successfully quit using nicotine replacement and I congratulate them and smoking cessation really is about what works, but if your girlfriend is already not inclined to use gum or patches, I would support her in this.

Smoking cessation has all the physiological hallmarks of depression -- disturbed sleep, anger, obsessive thinking, changes in eating patterns, despair about the future, you name it. Wellbutrin (Zyban, when marketed for smoking cessation) can help with all of these and it has also been used successfully as a smoking cessation aid.

Every day she goes without a cigarette is a feather in her cap. I'm impressed that she can do it for financial reasons. I needed something much more visceral and immediate to give me the necessary motivation. Send her my best and give her a big high five from me!
posted by janey47 at 10:19 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Allen Carr book.

Counter-intuitive as it seems the physical withdrawal from nicotine is very mild, and all this stuff about pangs and anger is coming from her head, i.e. from the mental addiction itself. When you quit the normal way (i.e. with patches and what not) you feel like you are giving up something wonderful and you're miserable about it, but when you quit with the Allen Carr method you realise you are freeing yourself from something hideous and feel great about it. And there's no positive-psychology you-can-do-it ra-ra nonsense either - the method is built purely on logic and helping you understand the nature of addiction. I quit two years ago with the Carr book after many, many previous failed attempts and I feel WONDERFUL about it. When people ask me if I miss cigarettes, I tell them it is like I was about to be executed in a gas chamber and at the last moment someone let me out. So would I like to go back into the gas chamber now? No thanks.

Here's a thing that may or may not be useful: if you MeMail me a suitable name and address I will order a copy of that book for your wife. That's how much I believe in it.

One final note: When you're trying to quit with the 'normal' method (i.e. not Allen Carr), one of the standard 'techniques' for getting back to the sweet, sweet cancerous tobacco is to be so intolerable you provoke a fight, and as a result of that fight you can go and get a cigarette without it being your 'fault'. To my shame I have done this. The best way to break that is to quit with the Allen Carr method instead.
posted by StephenF at 10:22 AM on January 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Sorry: wife -> girlfriend.
posted by StephenF at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I quit for a year and a half once, but only with the help of (lots of, almost all the) replacement nicotine, and then (lots of) gum, and it only worked until I encountered a fiercely emotionally challenging time. That said, non-nic things that have helped during other quit attempts: gum again; the "surfing the urge" technique; and burpees.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:11 AM on January 2, 2015

I quit 20 years ago, after 15 years at 2 packs a day.

It took several tries. I had a largish collection of "smoking cessation aids" like nicotine patches and nicotine gum. I'd always tear my mouth up with the gum. Eventually I just said "screw it" and ignored the safety instructions on the patches: I'd slap on a 10mg or 20mg whenever I got the urge, and just leave them on until they fell off. After about a month I started cutting back on the patches, which was pretty easy. In two months, I didn't smoke.


- Doctors get all pissy when I tell this story. It worked for me, but I'm not going to recommend that anyone else try it. Although I think that Vaping is essentially how I would do it now.

- I found that it helped to switch to drinking tea. I had a seriously strong association built up over my morning coffee and cigarette. Changing to tea helped with that.

- I know some people say they never get past the urge to smoke, even decades later. That may be true for some, but for me I had occasional disturbing dreams for about 6 months - and then nothing. When it was over, it was over.

- Finally: do not underestimate the mental benefits of quitting smoking. It was fucking hard, perhaps the hardest thing I've ever had to do. But I did it! And I look back on it sometimes and think "if I could do *that*, I can do *anything*".
posted by doctor tough love at 12:19 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

By the way, if you value your life, or your extremities, I recommend that you do not share any of the (all very good ) quitting tips here with your girlfriend because a. It's her quit and the people she chooses to engage with about it, online or real life, will tell her (so she's not going to miss out) and b. you incredibly stupid scum-sucking son of a pus bucket bitch, how dare you tell me how to manage the withdrawal symptoms of an addiction (said to be) worse than heroine that you know less than a gnat's dick about?

Do not engage. Do not be helpful with information. Good luck. It'll be worth it.
posted by b33j at 12:55 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

As a person who is somewhat of an expert in this sort of topic area, let me offer a note of caution on vaping/e-cigs: Here in the U.S., they are as yet completely unregulated for safety or effectiveness. There are about 400 brands currently on the market, so it's a dicey proposition to recommend vaping or e-cigarettes as a category, nor have individual brands or types been thoroughly studied. Some early studies have shown some types to contain contaminants, adulterants, or to just plain not work (i.e., not deliver nicotine as advertised). So I'd be wary of those as an option.

But it sounds like that's not exactly the sort of advice you're looking for anyway. So let me set aside my mantle of professionalism and talk to you like someone whose husband has quit smoking a couple of times during our marriage. Sorry to tell you, but essentially there's not a ton you can do here. Your girlfriend's brain is lying to her in an effort to have her relieve the withdrawal symptoms of the strongest addiction in existence. It just sucks, and it's going to for a little while. I promise, you can't make her want to do this a different way, so don't antagonize her by pressing her on using nicotine replacement or other alternate methods. Ask her how you can best be of help. Recognize that the anger is a result of an artificially-generated but very real anguish, and short of her actually abusing you or others, interpret it as such. Be as kind as you can, steer the kid and pets away, give her space or reassurance or whatever she requests, and be prepared to ride it out. The first three days, and then after that the first two weeks, are the worst. You can get through this. Best of luck.
posted by Smells of Detroit at 12:56 PM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

I used an e cigarette to quit and slowly went down on the nicotine level. I also started running. I found if you get physically exhausted it easier to stop the rage.

You can control your angry though it's hard for sure but not impossible. The first few weeks suck even on the e cigarette. I spent a lot of time reading every askmeta question about quitting smoking.

I also found it helpful to tell my boyfriend how angry and uncomfortable and sad I was. So instead of letting it build up and be a bitch I would announce how angry I was and then try to direct that anger at Big Tabacco. I spent a lot of time screaming into pillows about how much I hate nicotine.

Fuck Nicotine!!!!

(Day 300 cigarette free for me. ~150 nicotine free days.)
posted by blueberrypicasso at 2:22 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hey! I'm in the middle of quitting too! I'm nearly 2 months free.

Put the least amount of pressure on her, is my first recommendation. My boyfriend's mantra has been, "Even if you only stop yourself from smoking ONE cigarette, that's better than if you'd smoked it!" Imagine that she's doing one of the hardest things of her entire life—because she is. This is Everest.

And I to add to that, for her: Keep trying. There is no real finish line. There is no real failure, either*. If you slip up, smoke for another week and try again. If the patch doesn't work, try the gum. If the Allen Carr book doesn't work, try the the Allen Carr Seminar. If the seminar doesn't work, try cold turkey. If turkey doesn't work, try Chantix. Or a combo of The Book and Chantix. And so on and so forth.

There is no room for "stubbornness against aids" in stopping smoking. Only stubbornness against cigarettes. I would ask her to reconsider her stance against finding help.

Cold turkey or "white knuckling" may be for her. Everyone has their own way. But I don't want her to get discouraged and give up on quitting because one method didn't work.

Nothing works until you find the thing that does. Mine, personally, was a combo of Chantix and The Book.

Good luck!

*Depends on how you define failure, I guess. But there's no point in making yourself feel worse when you already feel bad for slipping up! Journey, not destination, etc.
posted by functionequalsform at 2:22 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

If e-cigs aren't an option (which they should be if you're serious about quitting, ferrchissakes they make it ridiculously easy) and you're worried about your sanity, check with your insurance company. They may be able to offer a smoking cessation program and something like Buproprion (aka Zyban aka Wellbutrin), which would take the edge off in a big way.
posted by mullingitover at 3:23 PM on January 2, 2015

None of the nicotine replacement therapies helped me in any way -- and I tried them all. They just increased my tolerance to nicotine, and well, why not have the occasional cigarette given how much I enjoy them and how nicotine dependent I still am?

Champix, on the other hand, went like a dream. Easy peasy. I just forgot I wanted to smoke. After two packs a day for nearly 40 years.

Two years on, I bought a sports car with the money I'd saved not smoking.

Three years and four months since I last smoked.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:34 PM on January 10, 2015

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