Welcome to Ask Ada, Folks’ bi-weekly advice column for people impacted by health issues or disability. Want Ada to help you with a problem? Email Ada at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag @folksstories on Twitter with the #askada hashtag.
Secretly Smoking During COVID
I started smoking again during the pandemic, and I just can’t stop. I had gone over 12 years without smoking cigarettes, but all of the stress of losing my job and not being sure how to provide for my family really got to me and I selfishly chose to go back to my bad habit. It’s been 6 months since I started smoking again, and my wife just caught me. She’s furious that I’ve been lying to her, and she wants me to stop smoking, because her father died from lung cancer. I haven’t really been lying — I just haven’t told her. I just don’t think I can mentally quit right now. What should I do?
Lying by omission is still lying. But let’s move on.
What you really need right now can’t be found in a pack of cigarettes. I’m going to venture that all of your very real and consuming issues didn’t resolve themselves once you started smoking. The stress of losing your job and worrying about providing for your family were only exacerbated by the fact that you were now lying to them about smoking again.
It seems that what you need right now is some help. Can you work with a local career or unemployment agency that will help you source leads, apply for jobs, and practice for interviews? Are you willing to take a job below your pay grade or skill level to get by while you’re applying for more advanced positions?
Think about also working with a counselor. There’s a lot of pressure, stress, and anxiety on you right now. Having an unbiased person to listen as you process these changes and uncertainty can be life changing. You say you can’t mentally bear to quit smoking right now. Well, it’s time to unpack and unload some of that in therapy.
You say you can’t mentally bear to quit smoking right now. Well, it’s time to unpack and unload some of that in therapy.
Right now your wife is angry with you. She is right to be. Not only were you dishonest to her—let’s not quibble about whether it was a lie or not—she’s scared for you. Her father’s death created psychic scars that you’re now evoking. She doesn’t want to lose you to the same preventable outcome.
The first step, then, to quitting is to admit to both her and yourself that you were wrong. That, by smoking, you had broken your implicit contract with her. Because only when you do that, and offer an earnest apology, will your wife be able to properly support you as you quit smoking again. You did it 12 years ago, and you can do it again… but not without your wife’s support.
One last thought: recovery isn’t a linear slope, it’s a mountain range. Relapses happen for every addict. That doesn’t mean that all the work you’ve done on your recovery before the relapse suddenly goes away. It just makes it extra important that you try to move forward again as soon as you can.
Safely Dieting As An Eating Disorder Survivor
I previously had a very serious eating disorder, and consider myself a “survivor,” even though it’s something I face every single day. I still receive counseling and I feel confident that I’m in a really good headspace. It’s been years since I had any disordered eating or habits. However, I found that I’ve packed on quite a few pounds with all this self-isolated baking I’ve been doing, and would like to lose some weight. My husband is adamantly against it. We were dating when I finally broke free of my self-harm and eating addictions, and I know he’s afraid for me to go back to that place. What should I do?
From what you’ve shared in your letter, it sounds as if you’re in a good head space and taking all the proper steps to stay in recovery, such as continuing counseling and being honest with your husband about your interest in losing weight before putting in the effort to do so.
Before you make any decisions, I’d like you to self reflect. Here are some questions to journal about: Why is it important for you to lose the weight that you gained? How does weighing more affect you? How will weighing less make you feel? What triggers or concerns do you have about actively trying to decrease your weight? How will you know if your eating habits have become disordered? How can you make the people in your life aware of these changes and allow them to help?
If you do decide to lose some weight, consider phasing in how you approach “dieting.” First, audit your overall nutritional intake for a week. Are you eating healthy foods and drinks? Are you consuming enough calories? Then, take very small steps, such as stopping baking temporarily, but continuing along with your normal diet, making no adjustments to anything else you’d normally eat. Small changes may be enough to tip the scale to a number you’re more comfortable with. If the scale doesn’t budge, I highly recommend working with a nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders to plan a healthy approach and to monitor care.
I highly recommend working with a nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders to plan a healthy approach and to monitor care.
And, you’re going to have to talk more with your husband about your wishes. Ultimately, it’s your body, and you’re the only person who can decide what happens with it, but he’s afraid. He remembers the control your eating disorder had over you, and because he loves you, he wants to protect you from experiencing that again. He may never be completely onboard with your plans, but the more you communicate with him, the more chance he’ll understand where you’re coming from.
Asking for help before you even begin shows that you have good intentions, but also that you understand that you may have some limitations. My last piece of advice is to prepare in advance by building a support system with your counselor, husband, and anyone else who loves and trusts you and you know will be honest with you if they see any red flags.
Are you facing a problem that is being complicated by a health condition or disability? Folks’ advice columnist Erin Ollila wants to help. Email email@example.com and tell us your problem.