Taking the plunge into quitting smoking is an extremely difficult process. In fact, many people who quit smoking will relapse multiple times before seeing success. However, having access to a solid support system can make the process of quitting much easier.
In this article, we’ll go over exactly how to help someone quit smoking as their CDPAP caregiver. We’ll also give you the rundown on what to and not to do during the process and how you can help if they slip up.
Why is it Hard For a Smoker to Quit Smoking?
Quitting smoking is difficult largely due to the nicotine found in cigarettes. Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that can affect the body in a number of ways, including the following:
● Changes in physical appearance
● Respiratory diseases
● Sexual dysfunction
● Heart issues
● Periodontitis (yellowing teeth or other dental issues)
Cigarettes and other “smokables” are highly addictive due to the presence of nicotine and other chemicals. These chemicals are absorbed through your bloodstream through the lungs and work similarly to other addictive substances in that it releases dopamine.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is the fancy name for one of the neurotransmitters that are integral in how we feel pleasure. When we’re focused or find something interesting and pleasant, dopamine is released and gives us the feeling of contentment in what we’re doing.
The body then spreads dopamine through four different pathways in the brain. Having too much or too little dopamine present in the body at any given time is an indicator of a health problem. The presence of dopamine is largely responsible for a variety of bodily functions and feelings including mood, pain processing, and lactation to name a few.
When you take drugs consistently over a period of time, your body loses its ability to naturally produce dopamine. Therefore, you become reliant on a drug to create dopamine in your body.
The Dos and Don’ts of Helping Someone Quit Smoking
As a caregiver, you may feel responsible for getting the person in your care to quit smoking. After all, this leisure activity largely impacts both their physical and mental health. With that said, there is a right and wrong way of aiding in the quitting process.
To positively encourage quitting, use the following guidelines to keep you on track as a caregiver:
● Show respect and remind yourself that this is their journey. Although you’re helping them through this process, it’s their challenge to overcome.
● Come up with a game plan. Ask them if they want you to check in regularly, and if so, how often. Genuinely check in with them to see where they’re at mentally.
● Be there for them fully. Let them know they can come to you whenever they need someone to talk to.
● Help them get what they need. Using things like hard candy, pre-cut vegetables, and other substitutes can help keep them away from a smoking urge.
● Help them clean their home. Wash any clothing that smells like smoke and do a thorough clean if they smoked inside their home. The car shouldn’t be skipped either. You should, essentially, get rid of any reminders of their smoking habit.
● Do fun activities with them. Going to the movies or taking a brisk walk during cravings can help keep their mind off the urge. Also, spending more time with them means they have fewer chances to light one up.
● Remind them they’re helping others. When they aren’t smoking, they aren’t subjecting others to secondhand smoke.
● Be empathetic to their situation. Know that they’re trying to be better but also remember that this is a difficult habit to overcome.
● Celebrate the good days. When they reach certain milestones (one day, one week, etc.) it’s important to celebrate.
● Get rid of any possible triggers. Remove anything that reminds them of smoking, like ashtrays or any empty cigarette boxes.
Although it may not seem like it, there is a wrong way to approach someone who is trying to quit smoking. Avoid the following to ensure you’re being a positive support system:
● Don’t place doubt on their journey. Regardless of how long they’ve been smoking, their journey is valid. Don’t bring negative energy, especially at the start of the process.
● Don’t project a negative attitude. Yelling, scolding, or berating them for bad days and slip-ups will add nothing positive to the situation. In fact, negative attitudes may lead to them changing their mind altogether.
● Don’t take the bad days personally. Let them feel their feelings but don’t take what they say to heart. Just like with any other drug, nicotine withdrawal can make even the nicest person hard to be around. Make sure they know you support them regardless of the bad days.
● Don’t offer unsolicited advice. The most helpful thing you can do is simply ask how they want you to help. If you’ve gone through the quitting process yourself and they ask for advice, that is the only time you should give your opinion.
What to Do When the Person Quitting “Slips”
Slipping up is incredibly common, especially if this is the first time a person is choosing to quit. When this happens, it’s easy to automatically assume they’re just going to go back to smoking full time again. However, that isn’t necessarily the case.
When the person you’re caring for slips up, there are a number of things you should do:
● Don’t make any assumptions. Just because they smoked one cigarette, or had a puff of someone else’s, doesn’t mean they’re going to completely relapse. Instead, you should offer full encouragement for them to start the process again.
● Mention how long it’s been since they last smoked. When doing this make sure you’re framing it in a positive light. This way, they hear the progress they made and are more inclined to beat their previous record.
● Help them remember the “why.” Why did they choose to quit? Was it for a loved one or their health?
● Give them a distraction. If they slip up, try to get their mind off of it. The quicker they stop thinking about how they “messed up,” the less likely they will be to fall back into their old ways.
● Remind them that nobody is perfect. It’s always helpful to make sure they remember that most people aren’t successful during their first attempt at quitting. In fact, for many people, it will take multiple attempts before they’re successful.
If You Smoke And Are in Contact With Someone Who Quits…
If you’re a smoker and you’re trying to be supportive of the person you’re caring for’s journey, it’s important for you to refrain from smoking around them. This is especially true when they’re at the beginning of their journey.
For the moments when you feel like you have to smoke and you’re with the person in your care, make sure not to smoke anywhere near them. The sight or smell of you smoking may trigger them into smoking again. You should also make sure not to leave any of your lighters or other things that could trigger the person who is trying to quit.
It’s also important to never offer them a cigarette to smoke, even if you’re joining. In fact, it may be helpful for you to try quitting right alongside them. This way, you both have an accountability buddy and you can empathize with each other on difficult days.
How to Help Someone Take The First Steps
As a caregiver, there are several things you can do to get someone to take the first steps in stopping smoking. Without a solid plan, they may be more reluctant to begin the quitting process. But by following these guidelines, you can help them feel more comfortable in taking the plunge:
● Talk about the financial benefits of quitting. Show them how much they would save if they stopped buying cigarettes. Although single boxes may not seem like they cost much, adding them up for 12 months will show otherwise.
● Help them make goals. After showing them a cost analysis, encourage them to make a goal. For example, they might decide to put the money they would use to buy cigarettes into a special account for a vacation at the end of the year.
● Talk about isolation. Smoking causes a smoker to have to isolate themselves from certain situations, like smoke-free events.
● Tell them you want them to live life with them. Smoking can drastically reduce your lifespan so it’s important to give them the perspective of caring about the feelings of those closest to them.
● Help them find a smoking aid. There are specific gums, patches, or other means of quitting that are helpful.
● Be available as a distraction. This could be anything from taking walks to beginning a new hobby together.
● Reach out for additional help. If you feel like you can’t convince them alone, see if they have any family who can offer encouragement and support too. ● Encourage them to find a support group. Having a support system in you is great, but being around others in the same situation is better.