Can Smokers be Shamed into Kicking the Habit?

The ritual and taste of smoking can be incredibly hard to quit, but there are lots of tools available to help you along the way. A smokeless tobacco alternative like Black Buffalo provides the taste and texture of your ritual—along with the nicotine you crave—without the actual tobacco. Switching to tobaccoless dip cuts out the smoke inhalation and can help adults 21 and over kick the smoking habit. Comprehensive smoking cessation programs support quitting as well, and you can even talk to your doctor about prescriptions or other therapies that will support you in your efforts.

Any smoker can tell you, however, that they have to be ready to quit before there is any chance of success. Ultimatums, shame, and other tactics to force a person to quit will most likely backlash and cause the smoker to hide the behavior and not change it.

They go so far as to hide their tobacco use from friends, family, and sometimes even their employers. Unfortunately, the shame that many smokers already feel does not help with kicking the habit. In fact, shame can hinder recovery and fuel that addiction further.

How are Shame and Addiction Connected

Shame is a bundle of emotions:

  • Depression
  • Inadequacy
  • Powerlessness
  • Worthlessness
  • Mistrust
  • Fear
  • Loss of self-control

When smokers try to quit and relapse again and again, they are often burdened with hopelessness and a loss of power. Shame then fuels a return to addiction and casts the addictive behavior as inevitable, suppressing the motivation to try again. The lower one’s self-esteem, the harder it becomes to change for the better.

The Role of Relapse in Stopping Smoking

When a person stops smoking, we celebrate their accomplishments. But in a few months, they might relapse. Well-meaning friends may unwittingly cause shame when they ask about what happened or remind the person trying to quit of how well they were doing.

Relapse, however, is often just a part of a successful quitting story. Smokers quit 8 to 10 times—sometimes even more—before they are successful. When a person relapses, they regret all the time and energy wasted trying to quit again. They spent months preparing for that quit date. Friends and family supported them and celebrated their milestones.

Even more challenging, some people relapse after years smoke-free.  At that point, coworkers or friends may not even know they used to smoke. Suddenly the weight of failure after years of success can be crippling emotionally. The weight of the shame spiral from a relapse can stop people from even attempting to quit again.

Why get friends’ or families’ hopes up? Yet, outside support is crucial to successfully quit. They may feel that they do not deserve that support again.

Forgiveness is Key

The first step in working through the crippling shame of addiction and relapse is forgiveness. Let your friend or family member know that stumbling in the process of breaking the yoke of tobacco does not mean they have lost your love or support. Nor does it mean they have lost the war against smoking. Is it a new hurdle?  Of course. Remind them to forgive themselves for the relapse. Forgive, assess, and let go.

Relapse does not mean they are eternally undisciplined. It means they need to learn better coping skills to use when confronted with triggering events, emotions, and situations. Documenting the situation around relapse, and brainstorming strategies to avoid that response in the future is helpful. Cognitive skill-building can transform a relapse into a powerful tool for future prevention.

Cognitive Skill Building

From self-help books to in-person therapy, exercising a cognitive behavioral approach to quitting smoking can help break the cycle of recovery, relapse, and addiction. A cognitive behavioral approach is to focus on the physical and emotional urges connected to smoking that you want to change.

Examining past emotional states and analyzing reactions to smoking urges is key to change. It is essential to identify what thought patterns triggered the relapse.

Once those triggers are identified, working to develop active coping strategies prevents the learned response of smoking. Keeping busy with activities and increasing physical exercise can keep the mind and body occupied and focused.

Furthermore, when a person has untreated, underlying depression, working the hurdles of stopping smoking may be impossible. A therapist can diagnose and treat clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional problems that compound addiction.

Remember that the disappointment and shame of addiction can build into a powerful force of self-destruction. Every person requires outside assistance to climb out of a serious emotional morass. There is never shame in asking for professional help.

Resources for Friends and Family

Supporting a friend or family member who is trying to quit smoking can be a long road. Your love of that person will give you the strength to see it through. Make it clear to them that you are there for support, not for judgment or shame. If they need a cheerleader, be the first one to celebrate that 30 day smoke-free anniversary.

Be open to hearing about them slipping up in their process of quitting. Support from you could help them stop that slip from becoming a full relapse. Stress is a big factor in relapses and slips. Find activities that you both enjoy and that can help reduce stress like hiking or the movies. Being present, nonjudgmental, open, and supportive. You can be instrumental in someone’s recovery from smoking. There is no shame in helping your friends with love and support.

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