You know it’s hurting them, and they’re probably aware of it, too. Nicotine addiction affects some 50 million Americans who are users of at least one type of tobacco product – cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or alternative smokeless products. Nicotine addiction is the single most pervasive addiction in America. No other controlled or freely available substance subjects more Americans to abuse of that substance. The healthcare expenses of this epidemic are estimated to be in the range of nearly two hundred billion dollars annually. The more personal costs can seem just as large. Those who suffer from nicotine addiction struggle with poor health, struggling finances, physical pain, shame, and more. When a loved one decides it’s time to quit, it may be a relief that is complicated by disappointment as it seems they may choose to sabotage themselves time and again or even lie to you. It’s important to understand that smoking is not a bad habit. It is a debilitating addiction with many complicated aspects that make the process of trying to quit smoking very difficult. However, there are ways you can comfort and support somebody trying to quit.

First, Understand

Trying to quit smoking, as we’ve said, is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Because addiction to nicotine is such a complicated condition, there are so many obstacles your loved one will face on the road to recovery. Many smokers say that quitting was the hardest thing they had to do in their entire lives, and a big reason for this is withdrawal. While physical symptoms can go away in as little as a few days, cravings last much longer. This is part of why they will depend on you, to a certain degree, when quitting. To help, ask yourself a few questions.

Have you argued about smoking, or are you okay with it if they smoke around you? Do you avoid conversations about smoking? Has a problem with either your health or theirs changed any of these factors? By understanding your position in their journey to quitting, you can better understand ways to help them. You may need to avoid criticism and instead celebrate their small victories, such as going a full week without a cigarette or cutting down on their consumption. Encouragement will go a long way, but so will solidarity. If you smoke, avoid doing it around them, or even put forward an effort to quit as well.

Talk About It

It isn’t easy to start a conversation about smoking. Sometimes a smoker will approach the situation themselves, but if they don’t, it’s important to know they are dealing with a hard situation and would probably appreciate some support. Ask if they’ve considered quitting, or mention that you might have seen them smoking less. Consider telling them you’ve read something in the news about the harmful effects of smoking, and see what they really think about their addiction.

Addictions are very isolating. They create a sense of shame, and this causes people to withdraw from others. By being open and supportive, you allow your loved one to confide in you with all the difficulties. It may seem they still like smoking, which might frustrate you – But it’s important to know that this frustrates them, too. Listen and avoid lecturing.

Form a Plan

Because withdrawals are so intense, and the habit can have many triggers that remind somebody of smoking or that it might be time to smoke, it is important to be ready for the long haul. Be patient, stay positive, and have distractions and means to help your loved ones relieve stress as they go through the process of trying to quit smoking. You may also consider a quitting program, but your loved one needs to know that they have access to assistance, including yours.