What made a husband become so mean when he quit smoking?

How can a perfectly reasonable person become such a monster when they quit?

John C. Dicey
6 min readMay 11, 2021

For more than 35 years we’ve received requests for advice by letter, email, and postcard from all over the world. We’ve answered every single one of them, and continue to do so with pleasure. I’ve undertaken to publish as many replies as I can in the hope that it will help even more people to freedom. Real-life questions from struggling smokers.

Dear John,

My husband has become very mean since he quit smoking — why? He quit cold turkey, with no support and has become so spiteful. It’s been almost a year now. I didn’t react too much as I figured it was to do with the stress of it. I’m coming to the end of my patience & want to understand what his problem is. Did it change his brain? He’s never been hard on people until he stopped smoking but is now mean to everyone, even his grandchildren & our daughter”. Janice, Michigan, USA

I am so sorry Janice. I feel for you and your husband. It is hugely regrettable that he had not stumbled across Allen Carr’s Easyway before he quit as the method prevents smokers and their families going through the awful experience that you’re currently enduring. Allen’s method is called Easyway for a reason.

Given that your husband quit smoking with willpower, and assuming that his change in behaviour is the result of that (as opposed to other factors) there are two possible explanations for his demeanour.

First, perhaps he is using willpower to remain a non-smoker and feels that he’s sacrificed a tremendous pleasure and crutch. In other words, he feels like a smoker who isn’t allowed to smoke anymore.

It is a truly miserable feeling but if he’s remained a non-smoker for a year in those circumstances it is testimony to his determination and sincerity in wanting to stop. That is not to say that people who cannot stop smoking using willpower lack determination or sincerity — I was desperate to stop yet couldn’t do it for a day let alone a year using willpower alone (you can read how I eventually stopped smoking here).

Anyway — someone who quits smoking using willpower feels deprived and miserable — in most cases for every minute, of every day that they manage to abstain from smoking. It is the sense of missing out on something they believed made them happy, or helped them relax, handle stress, or simply that they believe they enjoyed it which creates a snippy, angry, emotional, and mean demeanour.

Allen Carr’s Easyway method explains to a smoker BEFORE they quit that they were fooled into thinking that smoking did that whole range of positive things, but that it worked like a con-trick, a hustle. Once the smoker understands how the hustle worked — they are immediately set free from their belief in the “magic qualities” of smoking. They realise that they’re fake and the smoker can turn their attention to making an exciting escape, rather than suffer a gloomy feeling that they have to “give up” something positive.

The second possible explanation for his behaviour is that he has perhaps become a secret smoker and smokes when he is able to, but resists when he is not. This is another form of torture altogether — the worst of all worlds. It delivers all the misery of the “willpower method” without the consolation of improved health. Not only that — it destroys your self-esteem. How? The lure of those secret cigarettes controls everything you do. You create excuses for unnecessary journeys, for time outside the home, for breaks from work or even from relaxing downtime.

A secret smoker will do almost anything to concoct a reason to “disappear” for a while so that they can have a crafty puff.

As a former chain-smoker I wasn’t a successful secret smoker. It’s impossible to smoke 80 a day secretly — but I have talked to enough committed secret smokers to have a great understanding of the torture and hell they endure. The great thing about helping those smokers to freedom was that they seemed to cherish the fact that life became so much simpler, more enjoyable, more relaxing, and less stressful as a non-smoker than perhaps even a heavy former smoker might.

Like someone who’s used willpower to stop smoking — being a secret smoker can make someone snippy, angry, emotional, and mean whenever they are “trapped” in a situation that doesn’t allow them to escape and smoke as often as they would like to.

Janice, it’s hard to give advice in this situation because so much of “what you do next” is dependent on the strength of your relationship together. If your husband is still smoking, albeit secretly, then perhaps you should sit down and have a frank (but gentle) discussion about it? Be sure to understand how fragile he must feel, how low he must feel about the situation he is in. Do try to give him some “wiggle room” in a non-judgemental way.

Be gentle. It’s not his fault, and no-one feels worse than he does about the deception. Believe me, addiction made liars of us all! Until we escaped. Accept with grace, the virtue of the eventual confession, rather than focus on the hurt of the deceit.

Feel free to let him know that you have found someone who will guarantee that he will not only stop smoking — but find it easy to stop! If he completes the Live Group Seminar programme and fails to stop, or even if he stops but doesn’t find it easy, his fee will be refunded in full. You can see the full terms of the money back guarantee here.

If your husband definitely has not smoked for a year but confirms that he has been fighting an ongoing battle, then be sure to express how proud you are that he’s fought that battle so determinedly — he’s done an amazing thing. Maybe suggest that he drops me a line for some advice on how to handle the negative feelings and emotions that he’s experiencing when he thinks about cigarettes and smoking and reassure him that I can explain what it is that is causing the discomfort, and how it can be avoided in the future. I’m happy to provide the advice free of charge.

He can contact me by selecting “SUPPORT” on this LINK. He will then get to fill out a short questionnaire about his experience of stopping smoking and based on that I’ll be able to provide him with bespoke, detailed, free of charge advice on how to get rid of those mood swings and anger. Please have him remember to mention my name and the fact that he didn’t use Allen Carr’s Easyway when he describes his experience.

Please do not do make contact for him — he must do it himself — but please do tread carefully, gently, and with sympathy and understanding.

The life of an addict is lonely and tortuous and there is nothing more lonely or tortuous than life as a secret smoker or a former smoker relying on willpower.

In closing, it would be wrong of me not to mention the possibility that his moods and meanness might be unconnected with having stopped smoking and that he is struggling with work or home relationships, unknown worries and stress, or just life in general — so please, please, please bear that in mind. If that is the case — he can only benefit from talking to you, and others, who might be able to help. If you can gently guide him towards doing that you can change his life, and the lives of everyone around him, forever.

My thoughts are with you Janice, your daughter, your grandkids, and very much with your husband and I hope you all find your way through this situation.

Best wishes

John at Allen Carr


The name on the “postcard” has been changed to protect the sender’s identity.

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John C. Dicey

Former 80-a-day smoker who was freed by Allen Carr. Now Global CEO & Senior Therapist at Allen Carr’s Easyway (since 1998) & co-author of Allen Carr books.