Smoking cigarettes often goes hand in hand with addictive use of alcohol and other substances. While quitting smoking is rarely the focus in drug rehab, one thing is clear: Smoking can be as deadly as use of illicit substances. From heart disease to blood clots to stroke to different types of cancers, tobacco is can be just as deadly as heroin or crystal meth. For those who have put in the hard work to free themselves from the risks of use of other substances, the natural next step in recovery is to quit smoking and continue to create a healthy and balanced life.
If you are a smoker in recovery, there’s no time like the present to kick the habit. As we head into the new year, it is a great time to make positive changes – big changes that will have a huge, positive impact on our lives and health.
Here are 10 ways to boost your ability to not only stop smoking cigarettes but to also stop using all tobacco and nicotine products in recovery:
1. Tell everyone. If you let everyone know that you are working on quitting smoking, then everyone in your life will be enlisted to hold you accountable. Post it on Facebook, tweet about it, or take a picture of your last cigarette and post it on Instagram. Tell your family, friends, and coworkers, and allow them to give you encouragement and support.
2. Set a date. If you are not ready to quit this minute, pick the date that will be your first day without nicotine or tobacco in any form, and share this information with your support system as well.
3. Know why you are quitting. Make a list of all the things you have to gain by quitting smoking. Think along the lines of improved health, increased energy, more balanced mood, an easier time sleeping, and more money in your pocket. Feel free to consider the favor you are doing for your romantic partner and the increased health benefits to children who may be exposed to secondhand smoke that lingers on your clothes even if you try to smoke away from them. Refer to your list frequently whenever you are feeling cravings.
4. Know what triggers your cravings. For some people, drinking coffee is a big trigger. For others, eating a big meal, watching someone light up on TV or in a movie, or being in certain restaurants can make them want to smoke. Additionally, feelings can be a big trigger – from anger or frustration to boredom and everything in between.
5. Connect with others who are quitting smoking. Connecting with support groups or even just a friend who is also working to stop smoking can be motivating and help you to stick to your principles even when things get hard. Meet up regularly in person if you can to talk about how you are doing. You may find some great tips on avoiding smoking and get the encouragement you need to keep going.
6. Find your inspiration. Read self-help inspiration books. Sign up for SmokefreeTXT, an app that sends you texts of encouragement throughout the day. Take time to yourself to meditate, sleep in, get a massage, and enjoy life as you continue making progress on your goal.
7. Overcome your relapses. Many people relapse when they try to stop smoking. The key is to stick with it and not give up. Making sure that relapses are as brief as possible is the goal. To simply throw in the towel and return to a heavy smoking habit is not an option – not this year!
8. Keep your mouth busy. Eat carrot sticks, suck on a lollipop, chew gum, or use toothpicks – anything to keep your mouth busy as you avoid smoking. Similarly, you may want to keep your hands busy as well. Learn how to knit, clean, do pushups or sit-ups, garden, or take pictures – anything to keep from picking up a cigarette.
9. Talk to your doctor. Your doctor is not only going to encourage you to quit smoking but they may also have a number of great ideas to help you stabilize more quickly as a nonsmoker. They may have some ideas about good books to read, support groups to connect with locally, and maybe even a medication or nicotine replacement option that will increase your ability to get through the first weeks without cigarettes.
10. Celebrate your successes. When you get through a full 24-hour period without smoking a cigarette, celebrate! When you hit a week, a month, or get through a tough time when you really wanted to smoke but didn’t, celebrate again and again. Every day that you go without smoking a cigarette improves your health and empowers you to reap the benefits so reward yourself by doing things that you enjoy, spending time with friends, or giving yourself a little extra “me” time.