The Closet Smoker

The Closet Smoker

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

14 Mar 2001, 19:51 #1

Joel's Reinforcement Library

The Closet Smoker

"I can't come to the rest of the sessions. Nobody in my family knows I've relapsed and if I have to come here the next five nights, I will have to tell them where I'm going. I couldn't face them after that." I've had a number of past clinic participants who had relapsed and came to the first night of the clinic to tell me they were going to try on their own, without the support of the group and the rest of the sessions, solely to avoid the embarrassment of admitting their relapse. While some do quit after staying for the first session, others just continue smoking because they just can't seem to muster up the motivation to get through the initial stage of withdrawal on their own.

What follows for these closet smokers are lives complicated far beyond that of the potential life threatening health risks from smoking. More immediate of a risk is living a lie that places them in constant fear of being exposed. This will drastically reduce the amount smoked. The closet smoker will only smoke when the opportunity permits. But that means spending numerous hours every day, and possibly even entire days in a state of constant withdrawal. When they do get a chance to sneak a cigarette, what if someone sees them? What will that person think of them? Who else will they tell? Even if not seen, what about the smell? For a while the smoker may claim that the smell is from second hand smoke, but that just puts them deeper in the deception. If they do eventually get caught everyone will know that all the other times that they were being accused by some significant other, who thought they smelled it, that their denial then was a blatant lie too.

While some who are reading this may think, "Who cares what other people think," you should understand that to this kind of individual, others' opinion of the smoker's strength or integrity is extremely important. If it were not, they would not have faced the initial dilemma of how to come to the clinic without admitting the failure. They are stuck in chronic withdrawal and the chronic anxiety of being caught, all for the luxury of sneaking a cigarette here and there to temporarily alleviate withdrawal whenever possible. It is obvious that the closet smoker is not smoking for enjoyment. They can't enjoy it during the act because they're afraid of being caught. The reason for lighting any given cigarette is plain and simple - the nicotine addict is getting their much needed drug fix, a fix that would not be necessary if they would just quit smoking and end the vicious withdrawal cycle.

The only logical solution to this problem is to quit smoking. And while the closet smoker may eventually be successful in quitting smoking, since they were already supposed to have quit, how will they then explain the serious mood swings and other physical withdrawal symptoms (including why they seem so irritable or maybe even irrational), during the first few days of withdrawal? While it may be embarrassing to confess, it is in all probability the best solution. Admit to relapse and find the time needed to get involved in a smoking cessation support group. Also, let people around you know what you are going through. Those closest to you can often be extremely supportive and understanding, but only if they know that their help is needed.

Once you do quit, do everything in your power to avoid ever having to go through quitting again. Smoking will be more expensive than you remember, more socially unacceptable, just as unhealthy and it could cost you your life It may effect your social status, making many question your general sensibilities as well as your lack of concern for all non-smokers and ex-smokers around you. If you try to hide the fact that you relapse, you expose yourself to being caught and then viewed as a liar and a cheat, all for the "joy" of a nicotine fix. Never forget what each day was like when you were a smoker and it will make it much easier to always choose to - NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!

Edited 12-29-13 to insert related video Closet smokers
Last edited by Joel on 29 Dec 2013, 15:44, edited 1 time in total.

Carolyn (gold)
Joined: 07 Jan 2009, 19:12

14 Mar 2001, 20:22 #2

I cried when I read your post Joel, that was me, always on the lookout for an opportunity to smoke. Missed out on a lot of good things I could have shared with my family. Went backpacking in Egypt, last summer for 6 weeks, I must have visited every rest room in that country, I think I made the decision then to kick this addiction into touch.

Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:00

15 Mar 2001, 07:40 #3

Wow.....I was actually a closet smoker. I only smoked in front of people that smoked. To everyone else, I was a non-smoker. I was constantly worried about the smell, changing clothes, and taking showers and baths to cover up the evidence. Talk about missing out on things. I would not go to certain events (mostly weekend) because I did not want to go an entire weekend without smoking. This really is freedom, and every now and then I have to really stop and think about the things that I can do now, that I was not able to do before. Also, who wants to listen to a therapist who specializes in addiction who is puffing away. NOT.

Joined: 07 Jan 2009, 20:35

18 Oct 2001, 23:34 #4

Joel, you are amazing. How do you know all of this? I felt and still feel exactly what you wrote. I was going through withdrawnal day in and day out. Of course not realizing what it was. I did come clean with my children last weekend, it wasn't a pretty scene. My oldest son was beside himself. I have talked to him sense and he's better, pleased I stopped for good. It was a let down, they were so proud of me quitting smoker, especially since I do have emphysema. All I could do is ask for their forgiveness and to realize I am not perfect. And I will never have a relapse.

You are going to read this a great deal. Bless you Joel for being you.


knowbutts (Gold)
Joined: 07 Jan 2009, 19:25

17 Nov 2001, 11:27 #5

Oh Man,
When I think of what I missed while I was shackled to my smoking hideout. I couldn't go far or stay away long.
Just thinking about that place is making my heart pound and my throat dry. A big ol' CRAVE! The nicodemons lies are like the sirens song. Well he can sing all he wants. I'm busy living and breathing free. Ha

Thanks Joel

katieque (silver)
Joined: 07 Jan 2009, 19:40

18 Mar 2002, 03:49 #6

Wow. I can totally relate to this. I too was a closet smoker for years. I always hid it from my 6 year old son , years ago I would hide it from my husband. Sneaking outside through the basement door while he slept, took a shower or whatever. After the embarrassment of getting caught I finally did smoke in front of him. It was pathetic. The people I work with did not know, except for a few. I'm so glad not to "have to" change coats in the morning or not wear one at all for fear of the other coats on the coatrack smelling. The big worry of being out of gum or lotion. Some days that would stress me more than being out of cigarettes. I have told a few co-workers about my quit but I still feel like I'm living out the big secret. Sometimes I think I enjoyed the excitement of it all but in reality I know I'm just an addict. Thanks for the post Joel.

NevadaGal Gold
Joined: 19 Mar 2002, 08:00

12 Apr 2002, 09:57 #7

I was a part-time closet smoker! I never thought about being a closet smoker while I was smoking, it was just my routine life pattern.

I just figured I could not smoke in certain company, and I would spend hours and days in constant withdrawl. I only smoked in front of some of my family and even had a job for 11 months where I worked up to 24 hour shifts and did not smoke SEVERAL DAYS PER WEEK with twenty-four hours per day of withdrawl times 3 days equals 72 hours every week!! ?.!... Boy, if only I had known that the withdrawls would most likely lighten up within a few hours...

Well, I feel so much better now, even with slight bouts of restlessness and anxiety during this quit (especially the first week), it does not even compare to the level of withdrawl that I maintained for several weeks, probably adding up to several months, in the past few years. Here I am just coming up on 4 weeks, and I feel better than I have in a long time. And the best part is I know that I do not have to do any type of peak withdrawls ever again! I never have to deal with the anxiety of wondering when I will get to break for a smoke or find a hiding place or an excuse for a long lonesome walk...

This is FREEDOM!! Another reason to believe that no matter how I feel at the moment, in the long run I know that I am so much happier as an ex-smoker!!

Three weeks, six days, 17 hours, 54 minutes and 53 seconds. 277 cigarettes not smoked, saving $18.03. Life saved: 23 hours, 5 minutes.

Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:00

12 Apr 2002, 19:07 #8

WOW this article could have been wrote for me, I have lied to so many people and felt ashamed every day of my life over it, and the only one's I can celebrate this quit with, are you people here and my husband, I dont know how this happened, I started of when I was younger having to hide my smoking from my parents as they would have been so disappointed in me ( I could do no wrong!) so that led to me lying to friends workmates, anyone who might let the cat out of the bag, and of course my own children, and it just reached the stage where everyone thought I did'nt smoke , and I would have felt a fool telling them otherwise.
I have had to avoid taking part in school activities I feared withdrawal, and I have even cut short days out and holidays in my need to feed my addiction, there were times when my kids were younger ,if they fell while playing and came running in for a hug, if I had just smoked I would have to say mum just needs the bathroom first, so I could go and try to get the stink off myself first.All of this fills me with shame as I have forfeited years with my family,friends and especially my kids,who are now grown up.But I am now also filled with hatred for cigarettes for robbing me of time spent with loved ones.I cant turn back the clock,so I am now trying to make up for a lot of missed time.
Take care
Love Naymor xxxxx
10 days at 10pm tonight

Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

17 May 2002, 19:50 #9

How can you use someone's closet smoking status to a possible advantage to help the person quit? If you know someone is smoking and hiding it, don't let on that you know. As soon as you do they feel at liberty to smoke in peace and happiness, after all, they have nothing to hide now.

Instead, congratulate them in every way possible. Let them constantly know how proud you are of them. Lay it on thick. The guilt will eat them alive. Maybe it will make them realize the lie they are living and embarrass them into one of two actions.

One, they may just fess up. At least you will have a little more trust of them. But it may take another more positive turn. They may feel so guilty that they quit smoking. The pleasure of a drug fix will be short lived when the guilt of every puff is added to the other obvious problems that go along with smoking.

The more smoking is recognized as a liability, interfering with a person's health, life, money, self-esteem, the way they smell, look, are perceived by others, and even their personal integrity is at risk as is in the case here, the more likely logic will finally prevail. The only logical solution to avoid such a way of life is to never take another puff!


Joined: 07 Jan 2009, 19:09

24 May 2002, 04:36 #10

Holy Cow! This was me...only, I think my closet behavior was magnified aobut 1000X. I worked with 7 women for a year who did not know that I smoked. People thought I was just anti-social, when in reality, I was staying home at night to feed my addiction because I would not smoke in public. So in my case, FREEDOM means a lot, because it means being able to go places and do things that I never would have before.

2 weeks 1 day
Nicotene FREE!