Friday, September 5, 2008

Helping a Closet smoker to Quit Smoking

Whenever Steve took the trash out, his wife would comment that he smelled like smoke. Steve always said the smell was from a neighbor that smoked that he ran into outside.
Gail was in sales and before going into a client’s office, she would spray, spritz, wash and cover up any sign or smell that she smoked.
After Richard's heart surgery, his wife found a pack of cigarettes in his bathrobe. She thought he had quit.
Like Steve, Gail and Richard, I was a closet smoker. After my cancer experience, even smokers would bug me about my smoking.
“Why are you smoking, you’ve had cancer?”
I wanted to scream at them to leave me alone, after all, how did they know that they DIDN’T have cancer but just didn’t have a diagnosis yet? So after another failed quit attempt, I hide my smoking from everyone even other smokers. At work, I would take any opportunity to run errands, so I could smoke.
It was at an all day picnic for the 4th of July when I couldn’t stand it anymore and pulled out a cigarette and lit up. I could hear the disappointment in my friend’s voice when she said,
“But you were doing so well.”
Not really, she just didn’t know I was smoking. People don’t notice when you don’t smoke, they only notice when you do smoke.
Closet smokers hide their behavior because they do not want their friends and family to nag them about their smoking. They don’t want to hear the disappointment, the anguish, the frustration in their loved ones voice. Closet smokers feel a range of emotions from failure, shame and guilt to indignation and self-righteousness. What you don't want to do is escalate the situation. If confronted, the closet smoker will likely tell you to "BUTT OUT!"
The problem is that when a closet smoker wants to quit, it’s hard to ask for help for something that you’ve hidden from everyone. But that doesn't mean that they don't want to quit but they don't feel comfortable talking to you about it.
The best way to help a closet smoker to quit if you find out they are smoking, is to NOT make a big deal out of it and make them wrong, or blame them for being a failure. Most likely they have tried to quit before and there is nothing you can say that they haven't already told themselves. The last thing you want to do is make them feel guilty or shame. The best thing to do is just tell them that what a great job they did do with their last quitting attempt and this is just another step to becoming a former smoker and when they are ready to try again, you will help in anyway.

1 comment:

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