To Wonder What It Takes For a Smoker to Stop?

(35 Posts)
MagicalMrsMistoffelees Mon 01-Feb-16 14:51:43

My mum has smoked since she was 13 and she's 65 now. She is a very heavy smoker so her habit has cost thousands which she can't afford and had a serious impact on her health. She was diagnosed with COPD two years ago, has recurrent chest infections and is on inhalers for breathlessness. She has had a kidney transplant too so her immune system is weaker anyway and she catches every cold and bug - always going straight to her chest.

She was seriously ill and could barely breathe over Christmas 2014 resulting in an ambulance ride to hospital. She didn't smoke for two weeks and was determined to stop. But it didn't last, despite encouragement and praise and support from me, my brother and the NHS. First it was just one a day. Then two. Then back smoking in the bathroom. Then in the car. All the goals she set herself got disregarded as she crept back up to her usual level.

We had an argument two days after I gave birth to my third child in April 2015 because tiptoeing around the issue wasn't working and I was desperate for her to see that she was killing herself. She had almost died at Christmas and if she carried on the next infection could be the final one. It broke my heart that she didn't care about herself enough to stop. I tried to make her see that her children and grandchildren loved her and wanted her around. But smoking was more important and she didn't speak to me for five weeks after.

I was later diagnosed with post-natal depression and things have been very, very tough in all areas of my life. I spent lots of anxious nights worrying about my mother feeling everything from sympathy to sadness to anger to despair. It is hard to accept that someone throws money and their health away on something so unnecessary. For a long time I built a wall to protect me. I felt she loved smoking more than her family. She didn't even accept the link between smoking and cot death which made me feel like I was making it up to stop her smoking. Ultimately I had to learn to accept it or lose my relationship with her.

So imagine my surprise when four weeks ago she told me she had given up because the latest illness (causing bad breathlessness) had really scared her. She had been prescribed patches by a nurse at her GP's and was doing well. I was so proud of her, she seemed so determined this time. The patches were great and she was using the e-cig I had bought her last year. I was anxious about asking how she was getting on but she seemed to be doing really well. Her attitude was so positive. It seemed different this time.

But now it's creeping up again. The promises she made herself such as 'I definitely won't buy anymore' are being overturned. It was one every few days - now she's smoking three a day. It's the slippery slope I recognise from last time.

She has great support from the NHS and encouragement from her family. She's thrilled about the money she has saved in just a month. She has already said she is able to walk up the stairs without getting out of breath which she is delighted by and her latest cold didn't go to her chest for the first time. Her skin and eyes look clearer and she doesn't stink of fags! My brother needs a kidney transplant next year and I'm struggling with depression etc and she desperately wants to support us both. She ADORES her three grandsons and has a brilliant, close and loving relationship with each of them. So why can't she stop smoking?

I know it is extremely addictive, I know it is her crutch, I know it's been 52 years. But it is killing her and sucking the remaining money she has away. What will make her keep going with the patches / ecigs, stop smoking those final few cigarettes and give up for good? How can I help her, what can I say?

This is soooo long and I guess too long for most. Perhaps it will resonate with someone who can advise me. If not it's been cathartic to write down!

araiba Mon 01-Feb-16 15:07:13

she has to want to. no other way

Vanderwaals Mon 01-Feb-16 15:11:15

If all that hasn't stopped her then nothing will. sad

itsbetterthanabox Mon 01-Feb-16 15:11:37

E cigarettes have meant life long smokers now find it far easier to not smoke cigarettes. Has she tried them?

Euphemia Mon 01-Feb-16 15:21:55

It's such a strong addiction I think you have to have one hell of a determined personality to give up.

My dad started smoking at 13/14 and smoked his whole life, even when he was undergoing treatment for lung cancer. confused

It's hard but I think you need to make peace with her addiction. Nothing is going to stop her. Accept that. She's chosen to ruin her health this way and she won't stop.

I'm sorry to sound so harsh, but I've been there. I watched my dad fade away and die as a result of smoking, and I needed my strength to support my mum and myself through that. I couldn't have taken on trying to make him stop smoking, and my efforts would have been futile anyway as he just wasn't ever going to stop.

Arfarfanarf Mon 01-Feb-16 15:22:21

they have to want to. Really REALLY want to. And then it's bloody hard.

I smoked since I was 14. Gave up about 3 years ago (I'm 42)

I now consider myself a non smoker because I can no longer tell you the date I stopped smoking. That was a real milestone for me. For a long time i could tell you the date I stopped and how many days/weeks it was since I'd stopped. Now it really is in the past and I'm not counting.

But my god it is hard to get to that point. The number of times you try to give up and then that little voice says hey you know what, you've proven you can quit if you want to, so just have one... In fact, stopping for a while is when that voice is the hardest to ignore. Hey, it's been a week, a fortnight, three weeks, that is evidence that you are in control. If you just have one that's fine because you've shown you can give up.

Then one becomes two and becomes ten and becomes 20 and you're still telling yourself that it's ok because you stopped so you can stop again. You'll stop on monday (always monday, always the next monday) Then you're right back where you started.

She won't stand a chance of stopping if it isn't what she truly wants. No external pressure or guilt tripping works. Nothing matters more than having that cigarette when that craving hits you and the bloody crap you will tell yourself to justify it is amazing.

Topseyt Mon 01-Feb-16 15:23:25

Even lung cancer did not stop my MIL.

She smoked right from her teenage years up until just before she died.

Sometimes over the years she would say that if ever a medical reason to stop smoking came up then she would, but even when it did (and her lung cancer was definitely related to her smoking) she carried on.

It is addiction I guess. They have to want to stop.

My parents are lifelong smokers too, though my sister and I never have. They are in their eighties now and have no desire to stop.

TitClash Mon 01-Feb-16 15:43:44

Buy her Alan Carr's book the Easiway to quit smoking and leave it at that. Either she can quit or she cant.
I quit using that book after 30 years of smoking roll ups with no filters.

Loubilou09 Mon 01-Feb-16 15:44:19

I was a smoker until last February and yes I really wanted to give up when I eventually did but what really helped was being prescribed Champix - has your mum heard of this?

MissBattleaxe Mon 01-Feb-16 15:47:47

My parent died of COPD and it was the most unpleasant, uncomfortable horrible disease I have ever seen. This was over a decade after they had quit too.

You can't make anyone want to quit, but I suppose an ecig satisifes the nicotine hit and helps with the hand to mouth habit. Otherwise, she is making a choice to speed up her demise and I guess that's her choice, even if it's the wrong one and must be so painful for you all to see. I'm very sorry for anyone with COPD.

Toofat2BtheFly Mon 01-Feb-16 16:07:45

This is my honest story so please don't flame me

I smoked from aged 15 until 13 months ago (34 now) less in the early days but at least 20 a day for the last 7 years

3 pregnancies and watching my df dying from lung cancer still didn't stop me .in fact gave me reason to justify smoking more (you know,cause of all the stresshmm)

I only stopped in Dec 2014 because I had been selected for redundancy ,I suddenly realised that I couldn't tell my dh to cancel his gym membership,tell the kids no more clubs all whilst spending £10 a day on cigs ....but it was my decision,Id still be smoking today if my dh had even tried suggested it .

some days I cant believe I ever managed to stop ,but I did but ultimately it was my decision,you can't force anyone to make that decision. They have to really want too for them

Skala123 Mon 01-Feb-16 16:30:15

My DM was also a lifelong smoker and tried and failed to give up more times than I care to remember. The turning point ironically came when she discovered she didn't have lung cancer. She'd been poorly for a while, couple of ambulance calls etc, all with chest infections etc but she refused to go to the doctor and get what she thought was the inevitable diagnosis of lung cancer. Eventually we made her go and to her shock she didn't have cancer but does have COPD. This made her stop smoking as she felt she had been given a second chance. She was given brilliant information about how to manage the condition and when to take her steroids and anti b's if she feels a cough coming on etc. She has now been well for two years now but is totally on top of her meds etc, is never slack about taking what she needs when she needs it. Her crutch is her e-cig and there is no way in the world she could have given up without it. Please try and get your DM to persevere with it. My husband has also finally kicked the habit thanks to an e-cig too.
COPD rarely kills people if they listen to the advice, take preventative meds when they need them and do everything they can to prevent an exacerbation. Perhaps get your mum to find out more about the condition and the fact that it's not a terminal diagnosis - yes she will always have it but no it won't kill her - unlike lung cancer. And keep pushing the e-cig

MagicalMrsMistoffelees Mon 01-Feb-16 17:09:28

Thank you so much for all your supportive, helpful comments. They've really touched me and I appreciate you taking the time. Thank you for sharing your stories.

You are right that I have to accept whatever her choices are as there's nothing I can say to influence her. Logic and reason don't seem to factor for smokers trying to quit. Like someone said, the excuses are infinite!

If I give much more anxiety over to this it's going to mess with my head all over again. And that'll be for nowt because I have no control here.

I suppose my frustration is that I had just started to 'accept' the addiction and learn to ignore her continuing to smoke despite her ill-health and then out of nowhere she so determinedly gives it up, I start to raise my hopes and then it starts and I recognise that she is creeping back to it. 'Just one. Just two. I'll finish that last packet but won't buy anymore. I've just bought 10. I always smoke more when I'm ill. confused I'm only smoking in one room of the house.'

It's baffling and I want to understand so I can accept and move on.

Of course she could still make it. I truly hope so as she had come so far.

PuntasticUsername Mon 01-Feb-16 17:12:42

As a long-term serious smoker, she got a kidney transplant?

Sorry, I know it's just one minor point in your post, I just find it a bit curious. I would have thought the smoking would disqualify her from being eligible to receive a new kidney.

RortyCrankle Mon 01-Feb-16 17:18:57

I smoked from age 15 - 68. The only thing which has made me stop, and I had tried many times, was to fall in the garden in 2014 and break my hip and thigh bone resulting in 8 weeks in hospital on traction. I still get the occasional twinge to want a cigarette but am not stupid enough to start again.

It's the hardest thing to stop - the Alan Carr book didn't work for me, nothing did until i was forced to give up.

I wish your DM the best.

MissBattleaxe Mon 01-Feb-16 17:22:53

COPD rarely kills people if they listen to the advice, take preventative meds when they need them and do everything they can to prevent an exacerbation.

Yes it can be managed but it's not true to say it rarely kills people. My Dad did all that and still died. The weak lungs made the heart work harder and it weakens people even when they do as they are told. Sorry to be grim.

TheFogsGettingThicker Mon 01-Feb-16 17:36:11

Your post rang so many bells for me - my MIL sounds just like your mum.

She has COPD too. Then, she had double pneumonia and flu just before Christmas, she was rushed in to hospital and for a tense and frightening 48 hours, she was critical. We really feared she wouldn't see Christmas. We were lucky.

She came out swearing that was it, she was done. No more cigarettes, ever.

That lasted for about two days, then she was back on them. It was heart breaking, but her choice. sad

A chance visit to an e-cig shop on their way back from somewhere, and she got a new one, the sort with a kind of tank attachment. (Sorry, not very up on these things) The previous ones (looked like long cylinder style) she'd had apparently didn't have enough .. oomph, I guess? to draw deeply on.

She's never looked back. Never smoked since (she's 70 odd now, started in her youth) and stopped coughing.

not actual but looks like this

TheFogsGettingThicker Mon 01-Feb-16 17:39:30

I'm not necessarily recommending it, as I say I know nothing of these things, but I know your despair. The trouble is, she has to want to, as we all know.

That's the worst of it. I hope she finds something that will help. flowers

PoundingTheStreets Mon 01-Feb-16 17:48:39

They have to want to.

I am an ex smoker (about 20-30 a day). Gave up many, many years ago. Don't miss it in the slightest. When I gave up for good, I actually found it quite easy.

Despite that, during the many, many failed attempts when I tried to give up before, I recognise now that it was because I didn't want to, not really. I was giving up because I thought I ought to for all the sensible reasons people provide - health, money, smell, etc. But none of them really resonated with me deep down.

I made the decision to stop after reading Allen CARR's Easy Way to Stop Smoking. It transformed the way I thought about smoking, and made me realise I was a slave to smoking, rather than smoking being a slave to me. Far from relieving stress, it actually made dealing with stress harder. Rather than being enjoyable and relaxing, it was actually preventing my body relaxing and requiring me to jump through hoops to facilitate it (smokers will empathise with the need to find out if you can smoke at public events, or where the smoking areas are, etc). I realised that far from 'giving up' I was 'setting myself free' and for me, that simple shift in perspective was enough to make me want to quit - really, this time. The idea of being a slave to smoking didn't fit with my self view, and quitting was an easier option for me than living with the damaging effect on my self-esteem on looking at an addict every time I looked in the mirror.

PoundingTheStreets Mon 01-Feb-16 17:50:15

But no amount of sensible, rational argument would have made me quit before I made that mental change for myself. In fact, well-meant lectures support just made me want to light up more. confused

In short, the best thing you can do is accept you cannot change your DM so that it affects you less.

MagicalMrsMistoffelees Mon 01-Feb-16 17:58:47

Thanks again for your help and support. You could have all been so much ruder about my mum but you've been very understanding. She thinks I hate smoking full stop but I only hate it because I have seen what it's done to her - ruin her health and deplete her already small bank balance. I think it suits her narrative to cast me as the villain who hates smoking because I'm 'fussy'' or ''sensitive' and who makes her feel guilty. I didn't say a word about her smoking for many years because I knew that's what she thought but she still acted as though I went on about it all the time.

Yes PuntasticUsername she got a kidney transplant in 2004. It was her sister who donated it and put no conditions on the donation (such as she'd only do it if my mum stopped smoking ha ha ha like my mother would have agreed to that).

Am pretty sure her being a smoker wouldn't have disqualified her even if she hadn't had a kidney from my aunt. It should have done though! It's crazy really.

MagicalMrsMistoffelees Mon 01-Feb-16 18:06:37

And thank you all who recommended the Carr book. I'm going to buy it from Amazon right now!

She's still in the right frame of mind right now that it might work. A few weeks from now and I just don't know.

groovejet Mon 01-Feb-16 18:14:10

With the ecig it maybe worth her trying out a different make and lots of different flavours.

I had tried stopping with one before and didn't last long on it. Last year I decided to try again went into one of the e-cig shops and went with their recommendation and ordered quite a few sample size liquids until I found one that I really enjoyed, not looked back since.

groovejet Mon 01-Feb-16 18:16:02

www.bigjuiceuk.co.uk/ this was the site I used, went with a few I liked the sound of and the lucky dip selection, my favourite was one included in the lucky dip and was probably one I wouldn't have chosen myself, so worth doing.

Geekology Mon 01-Feb-16 18:24:53

I did the Alan Carr seminar/group a long time ago. I haven't smoked since that day and I didn't believe it would work, but it did and it was EASY. Really easy, ridiculously so.

It's expensive (probably a couple of hundred pounds now) but I was so desperate I was willing to pay.

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