When you take that first step into recovery, you have to develop awareness of your triggers. It’s no coincidence that every time you light up a cigarette, you are overwhelmed with the urge to drink. However, it’s also really important — really important — to not make big changes or big decisions while in recovery. So how can you make sure that ending tobacco use won’t negatively impact your chance for recovery?
It’s no secret that alcohol and tobacco are two of the leading causes of preventable death in the US. Over consumption of either can lead to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. That’s why these substances not only make a deadly combination, but sadly, are also often used together. Research shows that people who smoke have a higher chance of drinking alcohol, and people who drink alcohol are also much more likely to smoke.
Have you ever heard someone say, as they exhale cigarette smoke, that they are a social smoker? Essentially, they are saying that they only smoke when they are drinking alcohol or around other smokers. Even though they may not be addicted to or abusing either substance, it just goes to show you that the two are inextricably connected.
Research is clearly showing that alcohol and tobacco addiction often go hand-in-hand. People addicted to alcohol are three times more likely to be smokers, and those addicted to tobacco are four times more likely to develop a dependence on alcohol. Why does this correlation matter? For one, it’s important to be aware of this relationship because of its double impact on your health, but it’s also very important if you are on the road to recovering from alcohol addiction.
Know The Facts
The most important tool you have on the road to recovery is education. The more you know — about the addiction and yourself — the better prepared you will be to face challenges with confidence and commitment. Here are a few important facts to consider before you make a decision about whether or not recovery is the right time to quit smoking.
- Smoking is Deadly: Many people in recovery rely on smoking because they believe it’s less deadly than their addiction. Studies do show heavy alcohol consumption can be more harmful in the short-term and cause more immediate damage than smoking, but in the long run, smoking unarguably kills more people than drinking.
- Quitting and Relapse: Some people in recovery avoid quitting smoking because they are concerned about relapse. In fact, even experts feel that quitting smoking could make sobriety harder to achieve and sustain. However, recent studies also show that smoking cessation can actually help support sobriety, especially if you’ve already been sober for a while. A lot of this depends on where you are in your recovery when you make the choice to end your tobacco use.
- Strong Support System: Some people agree that it can be more difficult for addicts in recovery to quit smoking than a smoker not addicted to alcohol. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Most success stories involve people who have participated in a smoking cessation program while in rehab — a place where there is ample support and reduced temptation.
- Stress In Your Life: Early recovery can be the most stressful time in your life. Your mind and body are simultaneously going through untold changes. Not only do you have to focus on how you’re feeling now, but also looking forward, always with a watchful eye for triggers that could cause relapse. Getting your life back on track isn’t easy. Many people in recovery see these stressors as too overwhelming to quit smoking. Some people, though, find that devoting themselves to a healthy life across the board, including quitting smoking, can help reduce the stress.
- Healthy Body Weight: The average smoker might complain about putting on some pounds when quitting smoking, but the reality is a person in recovery’s body is in a different place. First off, not everyone gains weight when quitting, and your alcohol addiction might have resulted in your being underweight. So maybe that typical five-to-ten-pound gain associated with quitting tobacco could be good for you. On the other hand, excessive alcohol use has pushed some people beyond a healthy weight, which can also negatively impact blood pressure.
These considerations are different, because, simply put, people are different. No doubt quitting smoking is the right decision, but when you decide to quit smoking can make all the difference.
Are you or a loved one suffering from addiction?
Don't wait, get the best treatment options todayCall Now: (888) 352-0383
When To Quit Smoking
For many people, tackling one addiction is enough to handle, let alone trying to conquer two. It’s not uncommon for people, even professionals, to believe that trying to quit smoking alongside alcohol addiction could be a roadblock to recovery. However, many studies show that quitting smoking might actually improve your ability to sustain your recovery. This is because when you decide to quit tobacco or alcohol, you are addressing your behaviors associated with addiction. If you’re digging deep into the root cause of one, why not the other?
Day one of alcohol recovery might not be the best day to stop smoking, but it’s a good day to start thinking about it — and planning for it. If you’ve checked into a recovery center or are seeing a professional for therapy, talk to them about your decision to quit, and ask them to help you come up with a long-term strategy. Maybe it’s cutting back, maybe it’s using the patch, or maybe it’s quitting cold turkey. The important thing is that you approach quitting smoking like you have quitting drinking — one day at a time. What inspired you to stop drinking? What’s your strategy for doing so? That same plan, which can include deepening your spirituality, seeking out treatment, taking individual and group therapy, and reconnecting with loved ones, can also help you quit smoking.
Learning How To Cope
Knowing that cigarettes and alcohol can be triggers for each other can help you make the choice to quit both. If you aren’t drinking, you may smoke less, and cutting your smoking will counter the desire to drink alcohol. Use this powerful combination to your advantage. Here are some ways you can cope with quitting cigarettes, while working on a life that is alcohol-free.
- Eat healthy and exercise, so you’ll really commit yourself to creating a habit out of living a healthy lifestyle.
- Use a nicotine patch system so you can focus on this aspect of the addiction — the physical habit — by creating a step-by-step approach to gaining control over your addictions.
- Meditate, so you can try to let go of the unhealthy thoughts and stress that drive you to smoke.
- Keep track of when you do smoke, especially noting the way you feel, so you can better understand why you feel the need to smoke.
- Hang out at non-smoking establishments, so you won’t be around the sight and smell of smoking.
- Change up your routine, so you can add variety to times, places and situations you associate with smoking.
The right time to quit smoking during recovery is up to you, but the science shows that ending your relationship with tobacco will help sustain your recovery from alcohol. If you are really dedicated to a life without drinking — a better, healthier, sober life — then giving up cigarettes is a great way to lock in your commitment. Just remember to be compassionate, and most importantly, honest with yourself.