Smoke Free for Sobriety
Quitting Smoking in Recovery
Popular wisdom about getting sober is, “you don’t have to change much. Just everything.” You may need to let go of people, places and things that were a part of your using. You will adopt new habits, behaviors and ways of thinking. A life in recovery is a journey of discarding old ways of being and learning new things about yourself.
However, when it comes to the topic of quitting smoking/vaping/chewing in recovery — the opinions are mixed. Especially kicking the nicotine habit in early sobriety. For starters, let’s look at the FAQs on this topic:
Is nicotine a drug?
Nicotine does stimulate many of the same pleasure centers in the brain that other substances target. Nicotine is a stimulant, and studies show that while highly addictive in its own right, it is frequently paired with other substances, like alcohol and marijuana.
Will smoking make you relapse?
A National Institute of Drug Abuse study found that cigarette smoking increased the likelihood of relapse among people in recovery from a substance use disorder. The study concluded that smoking cessation might improve an individual’s chances of staying sober.
Do I have to go cold turkey all at once?
There is a great saying in the recovery community: Easy Does it but Do it. If smoking is helping you cope with stress in early recovery — it might be something you hold on to until you have a little more time under your belt. Or, you may find that smoking is a trigger and actually prompts more craving for other substances in early recovery.
If you are lucky enough to go to treatment, ask if they offer smoking cessation support. Many do — which can include free nicotine replacement lozenges, patches and some counseling.
What about vaping?
Nicotine is nicotine is nicotine. That means vaping is no better than lighting up a cigarette. Worse, there are a number of chemicals ingested during vaping that range from being known carcinogens to possible carcinogens. Some examples: propylene glycol that can degrade into formaldehyde as well as acetaldehyde. The list of known and possible carcinogens consumed while vaping is as long if not longer than a cigarette. And the same association of behavior that can lead to cravings is the same.
I’m sober and everything is stressful. How do I quit?
- Have a plan. Consult with your doctor and check with your insurance to see what smoking cessation tools might be covered. Nicotine replacement products can be very helpful but also expensive. If you can get some help with the cost it’ll make it easier to stock up and see which products work best.
- Time takes Time: Don’t set conditions or aim for perfection on this one. Just keep at it. If you use nicotine replacement products, set some timeframes for weaning yourself off. If you slip up, just start right back up again. The longer you keep at it, the better your chances of success
- Exercise: Movement releases endorphins and helps the brain produce and regulate serotonin. This will help you manage stress, feel better emotionally, sleep better and reduce cravings.