If Your Smoker Tries to Quit...and Fails

Lord, how often should my brother sin against me,
and I forgive him? Till seven times?
. . . I say not unto thee, Until seven times:
but until seventy times seven.

-- Matthew 18: 21, 22

Try not to worry too much if your smoker tries to quit and fails. If you can honestly enjoy your smoker's predicament, laugh about it, and make light of it, your smoker is more likely to do the same. He or she will get back on the horse that much more quickly. But if you make it into something somber, become fearful, and begin to criticize or complain, it will be that much harder for your smoker to quit, and therefore that much longer before he or she tries quitting again.

A study by the University of Ottawa found that most smokers try to quit five times before they finally succeed. If your smoker doesn't quit this time, he or she will quit next time. If not next time, then the time after that. Your smoker will succeed.

While it is important for your smoker to quit, your enjoyment of your own happiness throughout this whole process is even more important. Remember the first Law of Happiness: Enjoying your happiness is the most important thing for you, for your smoker, and for everyone around you. The only real setback in the strategy outlined in this book occurs when you or your smoker nosedive into thoughts you don't enjoy. As long as you continue to uphold your own happiness, you set the stage for your smoker's success.

Whether or not your smoker quits (or even tries), your work remains the same -- maintain your happiness.


Sometimes, when smokers are trying to quit, they might have a cigarette or two almost accidentally, without even thinking about it. Before they realize it, they are smoking again! At other times, smokers might make a conscious, deliberate decision to start smoking again, after they have thought about smoking (and nothing else) for hours or days at a time.

If your smoker starts smoking again, don't make a big deal about it. Give your smoker a few words of encouragement -- this may be all he or she needs to get back on track.

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Most smokers can describe having had "just one" -- at a party or in a weak moment -- and it was all downhill fromthere. Almost every smoking-cessation program warns of this phenomenon: If you have "just one", you will want another, then another, then another.

Is nicotine so addictive that people can't control themselves after having "just one?" No. Nicotine itself is a fairly mild, middle-class drug. The body can take it or leave it; there a is little physiological dependence involved.

It is the pleasure that is difficult to resist -- the joy of smoking the forbidden cigarette. The first puff brings relief from the smoker's mental and emotional struggle, and thoughts about quitting disappear. The moment is beautiful.

Then the smoker starts thinking thoughts he or she doesn't enjoy. "I've blown it. I've failed. I'm weak. I'll never quit. Smoking has a hold on me that I just can't break. My family will be so disappointed in me."

Remember, people change their habits when they feel good about themselves and want to feel even better. When smokers think, "I've blown it, I've failed," they are not feeling good about themselves. These thoughts lead to more thoughts they don't enjoy, which leads to more smoking.

It's not "just one" that is dangerous -- it's the thoughts that come after "just one".

If you continue to enjoy yourself, however, if you can laugh and maintain an upbeat attitude -- regardless of what your smoker is or isn't doing -- your pleasure will help get him or her back on track.

Assure your smoker that "just one" (or two, or three) isn't fatal. If you treat the relapse as a nonevent, your smoker will, too. "You've enjoyed smoking for a long time," you might point out. "Now you're working your way out if it. The most important thing is to keep enjoying yourself. Your happiness will help you break this habit."

Joy is the key. Your smoker thought he or she would enjoy another cigarette or two, so trust in this joy and let it be. If you can help your smoker laugh, feel good, and get back in touch with what he or she enjoys, your smoker will learn to laugh and feel good about not smoking.


Generally not. And especially not after flubbing the first attempt.

If your smoker has fallen off the wagon, now is the time to climb back on. Support the original quit date -- the date was good, the attempt was real, and the work is still going on. Even if your smoker has been chain-smoking for the past twenty-four hours, he or she is still in the process of quitting. The game is still on.

The Scriptures say, if you have "faith the size of a mustard seed", you can move mountains. The mountains of self-doubt and self-recrimination may disappear with a touch of joy, the slightest giggle, the tiniest grain of faith. It doesn't take much to get your smoker back on track.


What do you do when your smoker has failed completely? You can tell it's not a temporary relapse -- your smoker is smoking full steam, refuses to think or talk about it, and doesn't want you to mention it ever again. Your smoker attempted to quit, failed, and now it's over. What do you do?

Enjoy your thoughts. Enjoy your smoker. Enjoy your life.

Failure is embarrassing. That's why your smoker doesn't want to think or talk about it. Your smoker is riding the roller coaster. The less you react to his or her ups and downs, the better off you both will be. Let your smoker know that you love him or her, regardless of whether or not he or she smokes.

Do the same thing you did before your smoker tried to quit. Enjoy your thoughts and keep on keeping on -- you may be surprised at how soon your smoker gives it another go.

Some smokers fail because, on a subconscious level, they want to know what their loved ones will do. We all want to be loved, not for what we do or don't do, but for who we are. Keep loving your smoker, regardless of whether or not he or she succeeds. Isn't this what you would want?

Besides, what else can you do? Go to war? Make demands?

The only war worth fighting is the war against unhappiness, and the only demand worth making is that your smoker enjoy himself or herself, no matter what. If you follow this strategy, you may be surprised at how soon your smoker tries to quit again. And this time, he or she will succeed, because there's nothing left to prove.

This article is excerpted from:

"Help Your Smoker Quit"
by Jack Gebhardt.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Fairview Press. ©. www.FairviewPress.org

Info/Order this book (new edition)

Jack GebhardtAbout The Author

Jack Gebhardt is the founder and head instructor of the Smoker's Freedom School and the author of The Enlightened Smoker's Guide to Quitting as well as co-author of Now Hiring!: Finding & Keeping Good Help for Your Entry-Wage Jobs. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or at The Smoker's Freedom School: 1-800-731-0389. Postal address is 606 Hanna St., Fort Collins, CO. 80521. 


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