Husband Quit Smoking. How Can I Help Through This?
April 1, 2015 3:14 AM   Subscribe

Aaaaand we've had an argument almost everyday since. I've gotten better at holding my tongue and realizing things are incredibly tough for him right now. What else would you suggest?

This is maybe the fourth or fifth time my husband's attempted to quit smoking. He's smoked a pack a day for nearly two decades.

Chantix seemed to do weird and scary things to his mental state, so he's stopped using it. Vapes and patches haven't been successful either. (And yes, he's read that book by Alan Carr.) So my husband's quitting cold turkey, and I'm trying to figure out what I can do to make it easier.

Things that seem to help:
- Offering massages
- Not getting into arguments with him
- Keeping our place clean (he gets stressed out by my general messiness)
- Avoiding any negativity
- Not asking him how he's doing
- Avoiding any commentary about smoking and quitting smoking

He is definitely NOT in the mood for sex. He seems to be in a rage most of the time.

Please help me help him. Thanks!
posted by neeta to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh darn, as soon as I posted this, this thread came up as a related question.

Will be reading through it. I guess if anyone has anything to add, please do. (Or if the mods want to take this question down, feel free.)
posted by neeta at 3:18 AM on April 1, 2015

I quit last Fall and don't think i would have been able to without the videos and articles at

Give it a look, maybe join their facebook group. Encourage your husband to get educated about what is going on in his body and mind as he weans himself off of nicotine.
posted by bricksNmortar at 3:52 AM on April 1, 2015

Bite your tongue for three months and then point out you are THE best wife ever and ask for a couple of back massages.

In most circumstances, when couples are unkind to each other (not that you are) I recommend other paths but quitting smoking, while one of the best things you can do for your family and relationship, turns you into a ridiculous stupid bastard monster. Not intentional. It's possible there will be moments your love can be rational about his behaviour and its impact on you, but why risk it.

After 3 months, if he is not improving, sit him down, tell him what he's been doing, tell him how it impacts on you, ask that he sees a health care professional for assistance, maybe Wellbutrin (or whatever it is called in your country) or nicotine replacement.

My experience in quitting and being part of quit smoking groups for over 15 years is that 3 weeks will take care of the worst of it, 3 months extended version. After that, he's extending his withdrawal with sneaking cigarettes or he's being a dick.
posted by b33j at 3:55 AM on April 1, 2015 [10 favorites]

Just remember that the only thing that will really make him quit and stick with it is his own decision. If you're helping someone quit any bad habit, you run the risk of them doing it "for" you, which isn't really quite the same as quitting because you decided to quit. For me, anyway, it's much harder to break a promise I made to myself than one I made to someone else.
posted by deathpanels at 4:35 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would suggest running far far away, very quickly. Perhaps send a postcard from afar to ascertain whether it is safe to return?

Ok, I kid. But helping someone to quit is AWFUL. It does get better after the first few weeks, but man, keep on doing what you're doing, and definitely never mention smoking. My fiancé quit long before we met, and he still says that some days he gets so stressed he feels capable of eating a pack of cigarettes to get the nicotine. You can ride this out for a bit, you can do it!
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:05 AM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

It sucks, right? I bit my tongue so hard it bled and complained to a few kind friends instead. That way I was able to take deep breaths around my husband and ignore his bitchiness.

The good news is that after a few days, it got better, and after a few weeks, it got a LOT better.
posted by sutel at 6:40 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

Hi! I quit smoking 90 days ago. ("Cold turkey," no pills, no gum or vaping or any of that garbage.)

I smoked more than a pack a day for almost thirty years and had never tired to quit before.

I also am a married person and I am still married. :)

Honestly, just leave the country. Go away! (I'm assuming here that you two are childless; obviously things get more complicated with kids around.) Can you see the common threads with "what's working"? RIGHT: you moving around like a quiet mouse, taking up no space, not irritating the annoyed monster. Well that sucks! Who needs that? Neither of you! And you count too. Just because he's quitting smoking doesn't mean his life dominates the household.

If my husband had left the house for the first 30 days or even 60 days everything would be SO MUCH BETTER. Honestly it wouldn't be the worst thing if he disappeared for a while now. I'd be so happy to see him when he came back!

I will also say that I went to yoga almost every day for the 90 days. I might have lost my mind and/or broken some things without doing extremely vigorous physical exercise combined with meditation constantly. (Also, even with this, I STILL gained almost ten pounds.) It's on HIM to take care of himself, though, so don't even bring this up because OMG you'll get your head bitten off.

At 90 days I am sane and not at the mercy of waves of anger or sadness. It didn't take that long! I mean I reserve the right to be a jerk now and then.

But I *did* have to treat myself like a patient for those three months. I had to remember "Oh yes I am an invalid right now." And yup, I did some yelling. It felt bad! I wish I'd checked into some hotel for most of the winter honestly!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:54 AM on April 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

If he'll hear it, maybe get him to go to the doctor to get something for anxiety? It might be enough to just take B-complex every day for a few weeks (you can often find a formulation specific to stress that has brewer's yeast in it, which has a very mild muscle-relaxant/chill-out effect), and a calcium-magnesium supplement will also help, but so will 6-12 weeks of Wellbutrin/Zyban, which is specifically prescribed to reduce nicotine cravings. Or just some xanax he can take slivers of for a couple of weeks.

I smoked to self-medicate anxiety (and think that most people do as well), and so quitting increased my general anxiety level on top of the anxiety of not smoking, which was enormous. Vaping did help me, but it doesn't for everyone, and if that won't work then he should try to obtain some other relief. I honestly don't think people should get a free pass to be a dick, and if they can't control themselves they're either going to fail or damage the relationship if they don't get some help.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:01 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

6-12 weeks of Wellbutrin

Just pointing out that Wellbutrin IS Chantix, to the point that you can get it by having a doctor write you up for a smoking cessation program if your insurance won't cover anxiety medication (or vice versa).
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:21 AM on April 1, 2015

(RJ Reynolds, Congratulations! And, you're gonna have to change your handle)

I vote try to get out of the house as much as possible. Take a class in the evenings. Go away for the weekend with a friend. Keep yourself "busy" and just out. Hell, take your laptop or tablet or whatever and go and sit and read Metafilter in a coffee shop rather than at home. Just stay out of his way so that you don't become the focus of his ire. And when you do become the focus of his ire anyway, just take a deep breath, apologize to appease him, fix whatever he's asking you to fix, and make a mental note to ask for an apology a couple of months down the line. Once he gets through the tough part he'll realize what a jerk he's been and he'll apologize. He basically has a medical condition right now, and while he probably can't help the lashing out part, take comfort (a lot of comfort) that he is proactively working to resolve this condition. He'll be a whole new person a few months from now, and you can both be proud of that.
posted by vignettist at 7:46 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Quit something together. Is there a bad habit you've been needing to break? Quitting together is a great form of support.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 7:48 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just pointing out that Wellbutrin IS Chantix

Wellbutrin is Zyban, as I said in my post. Generic name buproprion.

Chantix (varenicline) is dangerous as fuck.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:56 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

I would suggest running far far away, very quickly. Perhaps send a postcard from afar to ascertain whether it is safe to return?

If my husband had left the house for the first 30 days or even 60 days everything would be SO MUCH BETTER. Honestly it wouldn't be the worst thing if he disappeared for a while now. I'd be so happy to see him when he came back!

I vote try to get out of the house as much as possible. Take a class in the evenings. Go away for the weekend with a friend. Keep yourself "busy" and just out. Hell, take your laptop or tablet or whatever and go and sit and read Metafilter in a coffee shop rather than at home.

I super agree with the above suggestions to just get out/be on your own/leave him alone as much as possible while he's getting over his cravings. My husband quit smoking by going on a 10-day solo camping trip without cigarettes; I stayed home and did not need to interact with a cravy person. It was great!!
posted by anotherthink at 9:48 AM on April 1, 2015

Nothing that you should make yourself scarce right now and ignore all the horrid behavior when you are there.

My now husband and I quit together. Oh, boy, we had the worst argument we have EVER had, finished off by him driving me to the ferry I used to take to get home, ordering me out of his truck, and telling me he never wanted to see me again. I got home and sliced my whole palm open with a cat food tin lid while opening it, and I was in such a ferocious mood I told my palm to suck it up! Still have the scar. I also did one of my angriest ever closing arguments the next day. (Just as well, as I was prosecuting a very bad domestic violence offender and my tone was quite effective with the jury.)

So, he'll be awful, because quitting is awful, but it has zip to do with you. It will pass in two or three weeks, too. After that he'll still be fighting junky thinking ("I'll just have one! I need a cigarette! etc.) but he won't be so difficult to live with, and you can just be regular supportive spouse. Later demand recompense e.g. chocolate.
posted by bearwife at 10:09 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, these are good suggestions. I'll probably hide out in my office for a while. Even when I'm doing nothing (and staying out of his way), I can feel waves of ire radiating out of him towards me.

At the moment, I can hear him angrily making himself a sandwich in the kitchen.
posted by neeta at 11:26 AM on April 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm 23 days away from my 1 year cessation anniversary. My partner did the best thing every by straight up never asking me about it at all. He waited until I gave the first direct, spoken signal, which I think was something like, "whew, ok, I feel like I can say this without jinxing anything but I think I've gotten over the hump of quitting smoking and thank you so much for not talking about it." He still doesn't bring it up unless I say something about it, but I expect that to change as time goes on. I think he's as nervous as I was about scaring away this fragile little victory over a habit I had for 15 or so years.

For what it's worth, I also went cold turkey and--putting on my epidemiologist/toxicologist hat--that's the ideal way to go. No intervention claims statistically significant advantages in terms of long-term cessation maintenance, and successfully quitting using any strategy ultimately boils down to a person's conviction and persistence in wanting to quit. For most quitters, wanting to quit seems like the most personal, complex, inexplicable of dilemmas, albeit one that become much, much clearer the further away from your last cigarette you get (e.g. I feel like I love this toxic thing, and I'm going to miss it, but I hate it, etc.). It's difficult--maybe even shameful--to hear yourself talk about aloud, and I don't think many people want sympathy (even from other smokers or former smokers). For me, by about week 5, my weird superstitious feelings about the whole thing seemed to evaporate and I was ready to start thinking in terms of being a non-smoker. It was liberating and my qualms about the process went out the window pretty abruptly. That's when I started talking about it with my partner.

I also wouldn't advise you to tiptoe around him forever. If you get sick of his shit, don't feel nervous about reminding him to mind his damn manners. I think most quitters can recognize (and empathize with) anger and irritation much more easily than they can deal with pity, charity, or positive encouragement.

Kudos to you for asking about this!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:13 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Chantix is 100% not Wellbutrin/Zyban/bupropion. I'm on bupropion for the other reason, and when I had my doc bump my dosage for smoking cessation it was really noticably effective. Unfortunately so were the apparently rare accompanying canker sores all over my mouth. But most people don't get those. So try bupropion. Very low side effect profile. IANAD.

Nicotine withdrawal is a near psychotic state. EVERYTHING. IS. SO. STUPID. RAAAAAARRRR. I am angry at everything when I quit. No hyperbole. Car? Stupid and rage inducing. Traffic? Stupid and rage inducing. Computers? Stupid and rage inducing. That potted plant? Stupid and rage inducing. The only thing you can do to not make him angry is get him a carton or be maybe 100 miles away. After 72-96 hrs it gets better.

You don't mention either way, but my personal experience recommends him swearing off alcohol completely for at least a month or two.
posted by PMdixon at 4:31 PM on April 1, 2015

Oh, something I just remembered: he may be having constipation issues as a symptom of withdrawal, which is not exactly known for improving one's personality. Maybe just leave a box of Dulcolax on the bathroom counter.

Even with the e-cigarettes, this was an issue for me. I had always assumed it was the nicotine that did the job until then, and then decided it must be the pesticides or something.

Seriously, he should be capable of making a sandwich without hating you. It doesn't have to be this bad.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:49 AM on April 2, 2015

Does he not want to quit smoking? Is he doing it because he feels as though he has to? I know I harbored a fair bit of additional rage when I tried the first time because while hubby was not by any means making me quit, but we were "quitting together!" and it kind of felt like I couldn't fail without failing him, which led to a bit of resentment, and ultimately, me starting to smoke again for 3-4 years. It was only when my breathing got much worse, and I went to a doctor who said, "So it looks like you have early signs of COPD..." that I had my "OMG I'm done NOW" moment, and quit again, cold turkey, that very day.

I'm by no means saying he shouldn't quit, nor do I really know if any of the above applies here, but I'm firmly of the mind that the smoker has to be ready to do it for themselves in order to be successful. The second time I did it, I had an epic meltdown on day three, but then it was just a matter of managing the habit, moreso than the addiction. YMMV, though.

Either way, I wish you both the best of luck, and hope that he is successful in his efforts (because once you do break the habit, it is SO worth it), but also agree with other posters that he shouldn't be this angry with you, or getting a free pass for doing so.
posted by meowf at 12:34 PM on April 2, 2015

« Older Why is my 8-year-old cat suddenly defensive to...   |   Eyefi Mobi Pro card vs. Nikon WU-1a Wireless... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.