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Drinking While Quitting Smoking – A Guide

Every day more and more people try their best to quit smoking, but not everybody is successful. Chances are if you are reading this article, you have tried to quit smoking before but, for one reason or another, you were not able to do it. One of the biggest problems people face when they decide to quit smoking is drinking. In fact, many people who have successfully quit smoking find themselves picking up the habit again the minute they pick up a drink. Luckily, you don’t have to fight a losing battle. There are a myriad of ways tackle the issue of drinking while you are trying to quit smoking.

If you are not a drinker or you don’t ever plan on drinking, you obviously won’t have any problems. You are one of the lucky few who will never know how hard it is to say no to a cigarette after having a drink or two with friends. You won’t be tempted by the smell of cigarette smoke as you walk into a bar. If you are not a drinker and never plan to be a drinker, congratatulations! You have one of the easiest roads ahead when compared to the rest.

Now, if you have drank before and are trying to quit smoking, you are going to fall into one of four categories: a social drinker, a problem drinker, an active alcoholic, or a recovering alcoholic. No matter what group you fall into, quitting smoking around the lure of alcohol is going to present a problem. However, there is hope if you truly want to quit. Read the section below that describes your current relationship with alcohol, each section gives tips to how you can proceed given your situation.


Social Drinkers


You are a social drinker if you are the type of person who enjoys going out and having a few drinks here and there with friends. One of the best things about being a social drinker who is trying to quit smoking is once you have quit you have the lowest risk of relapsing, even if you pick up a drink at a future gathering. However, you don’t want to just jump in and hope for the best, you are going to want to mentally prepare yourself for what is coming.

To mentally prepare yourself as an ex-smoker in any drinking situation, all you have to do is give yourself a little talking-to before you even step foot out of the house. You can also repeat it to yourself as you are driving to your destination and right before you step foot inside the door. However, it doesn’t matter how many times you give yourself a talking to if you are not telling yourself what you need to hear. As an ex-smoker or, as some like to be called, a recovering nicotine addict, you have to constantly tell yourself that you are essentially a recovering addict.

While being a recovering nicotine addict might not sound very glamorous, just think of what would happen if you were still smoking. If you think of what happens to your body with every cigarette, being a recovering nicotine addict is far more glamorous. One thing that ex-smokers freak out about in the beginning is that they are going to have to alter their current lifestyle in order to successfully quit smoking. While it is true that you will have to make some slight changes, you can still do everything you did as a smoker. However, you are going to have to teach yourself how to do all of those same things as a non-smoker.

As an ex-smoker whether you are getting ready to go to the local bar to hang out with a group of friends or are going to your best friend’s wedding, you are going to have to teach yourself how to handle the situation without a smoke. This shouldn’t be too hard because you taught yourself how to live without cigarettes when you first started smoking. For example, if you smoked first thing in the morning while sipping on a cup of coffee you had to somehow alter that routine in order to successfully quit. Going into a setting where you know you will drink is no different.

One of the biggest mistakes ex-smokers make is waiting to confront the “problem". In this case, it would be putting off going out for a drink and missing out on a social life. In fact, the longer you wait to go out and socialize with your friends the harder it is going to be. Ex-smokers that put off doing the things that they enjoy often end up doing so because they are intimidated. However, the sooner you teach yourself how to enjoy a drink or two without a cigarette, the sooner you'll be back to feeling normal again.

While you shouldn’t be afraid of going out and having a few drinks with friends, you do want to take a few precautions in order to ensure your success. The first time out drinking you should probably limit to yourself to only one drink. Doing this allows you to prove to yourself that you can drink without smoking, not to mention one drink won’t totally test your limits. Who you go out and socialize with is just as important as limiting yourself to one drink. The last thing you want to do is go hang out with a bunch of smokers, especially your first time out. Choose friends who are non-smokers and ones who support you quitting. Hanging out with friends who smoke is a bad idea as they may try to wheedle you into smoking saying things along the lines of, "just one won't hurt".

How long you want to limit yourself on drinks and how long you wish to hang out with non-smokers is going to depend on your willpower. As soon as you feel strong enough to say no to the temptation of smoking, you can resume your life as you used to live it (minus the smoking of course). However, you are always going to have to keep your guard up as you never know when temptation will strike.


Problem Drinkers

A problem drinker is somebody who considers themselves to be a social drinker, but they actually have what most people would consider a drinking problem. An easy way to tell if you are a problem drinker, since most do not recognize that they are, is if your drinking has gotten you into trouble. Problem drinkers often drink uncontrollably, and their drinking also often leads to personal, legal, economic, or professional issues. For example, problem drinkers often have a hard time holding on to a job due to calling in sick from hangovers.

Problem drinkers are at very high risk to relapse when it comes to smoking. The reason for this is that problem drinkers struggle with trying to determine if they are alcoholics or just problem drinkers. Problem drinkers often believe that the minute they pick up a drink they are going to end up smoking again, so quitting is going to be a lot harder for them compared to a social drinker. If you are what we call a problem drinker, there is still hope for you if you want to quit smoking, but you either have to quit drinking and smoking at the same time or get your drinking under control first.


Active Alcoholic


An active alcoholic is basically just a step up from a problem drinker. Like problem drinkers, active alcoholics cannot control their drinking and have seen their life and/or health negatively impacted by their drinking at least once. However, that doesn’t mean that an active alcoholic cannot quit smoking; just like with problem drinkers it is going to take a bit more work.

If you are an alcoholic and you wish to quit smoking, quitting is actually quite straight forward. You simply need to stop providing your body with nicotine. Many alcoholics will scream in outrage at this thought saying it is not that simple. However, no matter how you look at it is that simple. The hard part is quitting the addictive behavior because, let's face it, if you are an alcoholic you are simply an addict and nicotine is just another addiction.

If you plan on seeking helping for your drinking, it is highly recommended that you wait to quit smoking. The chance of relapsing on both drugs is shown to be quite high if you try to quit both at the same time. Several people have quit smoking before they joined an alcohol treatment program only to find themselves smoking again due to sponsor encouragement. You will even hear people telling you that you cannot quit drinking and smoking at the same time. However, quitting at the same time can and has been done. You just have to make the decision to quit and then stick by that decision. To help ensure your success find a treatment program that doesn’t encourage smoking while quitting drinking. If you join a group like AA, ask for a sponsor that doesn’t smoke. We at Quit Smoking Community would like to encourage you to deal with your alcohol addiction first and foremost, as that can be more dangerous than smoking in the short term. Once you are in recovery for alcohol, quitting smoking is the next logical step (and if you can kick the bottle, you can crush the pack!).


Recovering Alcoholics

Recovering alcoholics are simply alcoholics that have sought treatment for their drinking and are currently sober and in recovery. Like social drinkers, recovering alcoholics are going to have an easier time quitting cigarettes than active alcoholics and problem drinkers. The reason for this is their understanding of addiction. Recovering addicts understand the danger of relapse; they know just how dangerous "just one more time" can be, so are less likely to make a slip once they have committed to quitting.

Although recovering addicts have an in depth understanding of addiction and recovery that doesn’t mean quitting is going to be easy. In fact, many recovering addicts find quitting smoking harder than quitting previous addictions. One reason is because they may have used it as a crutch when they were treating their other addictions. Many times people will replace their alcohol addiction with their nicotine addiction, which makes quitting smoking harder than necessary. Recovering addicts often find giving up cigarettes scary, which makes sense, as they have to give up the crutch that got them through the rest of their addictions. However, when it comes to quitting, recovering addicts have the highest success rates.

These high success rates are often due to a recovering addicts understanding of addiction. They look at their smoking as an addiction, which it by all means is, so they treat it like an addiction. Treating an addiction like an addiction is the only way to conquer it. If you treat an addiction like a bad habit, nothing good will come of it because you're not confronting the problem head on. To be successful in treating nicotine addiction, simply change the focus of your recovery program to nicotine rather than alcohol. You have beat addiction before; you can easily do it again!

Hopefully this post can help you quit smoking without being tripped up by your current drinking situation. Good luck and remember to be very careful around alcohol during the first month of quitting smoking!

3 Responses to "Drinking While Quitting Smoking – A Guide"

  • Chauncey
    June 4, 2015 - 4:06 pm Reply

    when I quit smoking, I drank until I passed out for 2 weeks and never picked up a cigarette again. I don’t drink that much either on a normal basis.

  • Maxi
    June 13, 2015 - 8:23 pm Reply

    I fall into a different category, an antisocial drinker, not quite a problem drinker like i used to be but also not very social anymore either. I like to get drunk on a saturday night after a long weeks work, usually ill smoke 3 packs a week and 1 on that saturday while im drunk..now its just a little harder not to smoke while havin my usual 6-12 pack…but not as hard if i was with friends..but i do feel a lot better not smoking cigarettes

    • Marisa
      October 16, 2015 - 4:33 am Reply

      I always feel amazing the morning after drinking when I realize that I didn’t smoke at all! However, that doesn’t happen often. I only smoke when I drink, which is usually once a week on a Friday or Saturday night. I smoke a lot, too. And when that happens, I hate myself the next day. And I feel terrible not only from guilt, but from feeling stale inside. It’s actually quite gross. Halloween is coming up, and that means so are all of the awesome Halloween parties…I really want to stay strong and not give in to cigs! But I know I will inevitably be surrounded by smokers, and I know that I’ll want to ask someone for one. I need advice! I have no will power after two drinks, and I crave cigs intensely. Help! What can I do to avoid smoking? I have chewed gum, but I found myself spitting it out for a few puffs…it’s terrible. help

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