Smoking is traditionally tolerated in rehab and early recovery. The prevailing idea has been that if someone can give up drugs or alcohol, she should at least be allowed to smoke. That cigarette may be the only thing keeping her from relapsing, or so the story goes. The truth about smoking in recovery tells a different tale. If you are in recovery from addiction and smoke as a way to cope, now is the time to think about giving up that habit.
- Fact No. 1: Smoking Kills More Than Alcoholism – A myth about smoking in recovery is that it is less harmful than alcoholism and that if it keeps people from drinking again, it’s fine to smoke. While it’s true that short-term and immediate damage from heavy drinking can be more harmful than smoking, over the long term, smoking kills more people than drinking. We also know from research that smoking and drinking together exacerbates the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
- Fact No. 2: Quitting Does Not Threaten Sobriety – A common excuse for recovering addicts to avoid quitting smoking is that doing so will cause a relapse. Just a decade ago, it was thought by most people, experts included, that quitting smoking would make sobriety more difficult. Now we know that isn’t true, and in fact we also know that quitting can help support sobriety. This is especially true for recovering alcoholics, for whom drinking and smoking may be strongly associated.
- Fact No. 3: Recovering Addicts Can Quit Smoking – Another prevailing myth has been that it’s more difficult, if not impossible, for recovering addicts to quit smoking than the average smoker. This just isn’t true. Most addicts in rehab, and those in early recovery, too, want to quit smoking and can be successful when they try. Those who are most successful have experienced a smoking cessation program while in rehab.
- Fact No. 4: Your Life Is Not Too Stressful to Consider Quitting – Life in early recovery is certainly stressful. You have to contend with the scary specter of relapse, a lifestyle that has drastically changed, rebuilding relationships and generally getting your life back on track. You may have financial issues, difficulty finding a job and other real struggles. These stresses do not mean that you can’t quit smoking. In fact, quitting may actually help to reduce stress. Being healthy in body and mind is a positive strategy for overall stress relief.
- Fact No. 5: Quitting Smoking Does Not Lead to Significant Weight Gain – Another common complaint about quitting is weight gain, but the reality is not as drastic as the fear. Not everyone gains weight when quitting. For those who do, the average weight gain is no more than 5 to 10 pounds. This is a reasonable amount of weight gain to handle and does not represent a significant threat to health. When you combine quitting with healthy eating and exercise, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll battle that potential weight gain.
With no excuse not to, now is the time to quit smoking and to fully engage in good health. Talk to your doctor or your addiction counselor about a cessation plan. As with any addiction, going it alone makes the job of quitting more difficult. Get your friends and family on board with your plan and ask them to hold you accountable. You may stumble at first and experience some failures, but eventually you will be able to quit smoking and be better for it.