Anticipating these and preparing for them as much as possible is one way of ensuring that you will stay quit. Getting a good coach like Quitline is proven to increase your chance of quitting, too.
If you like a drink, you’re likely to have a smoke at the same time - they often go hand in hand. Thinking about how you’ll deal with alcohol for the first few weeks of quitting is always a good idea. Try the following tips.
- Avoid alcohol for the first one or two weeks of quitting.
- Often with a week or two of not smoking under your belt you can reintroduce alcohol and be better able to manage the cravings until you get used to enjoying a drink as a nonsmoker.
- Reduce how many drinks you have in a session, or substitute every second drink with a non-alcoholic drink like water.
- The more you drink the more likely it is that you will give in to the urge to smoke.
- In the first week or two of quitting swap your typical drink for a different one that you don’t usually have.
- You’re changing aspects of the ritual (shape of the bottle or glass, taste, etc.) which can help lessen the urge to smoke. Later, when you’re more comfortable as a non-smoker, you can reintroduce your old favourite drink and get used to it when you’re stronger and less likely to slip-up.
Remember, the more you drink in one session the more likely you are to lose sight of your quitting goals. Use the drink-driving limits as a guideline: if you’re getting drunk enough so that you can’t drive, you’re moving into a high-risk situation for slip-up or relapse, so don’t have another drink for at least an hour.
One of the most challenging things about quitting can be attending social situations where you’re used to smoking.
For many smokers having a cigarette with smoking friends – especially at a party and perhaps with a drink – is a well-entrenched habit. But this is a situation you have the power to overcome. You might be surprised how much a bit of planning and a few changes in your routine can help.
- Avoid some or all of your smoking friends for the first few days or weeks.
- Take along something to reach for or fiddle with when you have a craving to keep your hands busy:
- e.g. gum, a watch, a necklace, bracelet, bottled water, phone, moisturiser, a stress ball or a pen.
- Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom.
- Wash your face or apply some hand cream. Removing yourself temporarily from the situation where the craving came up can be quite effective as you’re taking yourself out of a risky situation to somewhere safer and you’re giving yourself a few minutes for the urge to pass. Step outside, walk around the block.
- Find some good phrases:
- “Please don’t offer me cigs, I’m quitting”, or “No thanks, I don’t smoke”
- Think about who will be your “quitting buddy” or nonsmoking friend who will support you in your decision to stay smokefree.
- Give yourself permission to go home early if it’s getting too tough.
- Call a taxi – you can afford it with the money saved by not smoking
- Keep an eye on the nonsmokers
- Spend more time with them, notice what they do when they’re a bit socially nervous or bored and tell yourself you’re learning to be like them.
- Be wary of the “just one” thought
- It usually leads to full-time smoking again and nonsmokers don’t need “just one” anyway.
- Take small steps at first
- Try meeting friends at smokefree venues such as the movies or restaurants. And go home early if you’re feeling tempted to smoke
- Before you go out make a firm contract with yourself that you won't smoke no matter what.
Living with a smoker
Living with a smoker can be a challenge when you’re trying to quit. It’s not easy to get smoking thoughts out of your mind when someone else is smoking in front of you. Be honest with your smoking housemate or partner and negotiate how much they’re willing to support your quitting.
- Making the house smokefree is ideal.
- If this isn’t possible, if you can both agree to some rooms at least being smokefree you’ll feel safer. You could help make a comfortable space outside for them to smoke where they can also move their smoking accessories.
A part of what makes smoking a pleasure and what causes some urges to smoke once you’ve quit, is catching up with your partner or housemates over a cigarette:
- Talk to your partner or housemate about other ways to catch up without the cigarette.
- Take something outside with you that you can enjoy, to keep your hands or mouth busy.
- Try a drink, an apple, or some gum, so you have your treat to concentrate on while they have theirs.
- Choose not to catch up when the other person is smoking.
- Treat yourself – set up a time-out routine inside.
While having a smoker at home is initially a challenge, most people who end up quitting for good will say that it was a challenge for the first week or two but that it stopped being a temptation and they got used to it.
An added bonus of being the first in the household to quit is that it often inspires others to quit too.
Other difficult situations
Once you’ve been quit for a while, you begin to master day-to-day challenges and smaller stresses. After around two or three weeks, many people have whole days without cravings or smoking thoughts, which brings confidence. However there are still a few common traps waiting to trip you up:
“Just one won’t hurt”
“Just one won’t hurt”, “Just for tonight”, “I’ve gone long enough now as a nonsmoker”, “I’m in control and I won’t get addicted again”, are all warning signs. For most daily smokers there is no going back to being an occasional, social smoker. And even if you could, there’s no safe level of smoking anyway. Talk yourself down from acting on the thought.
- Tell yourself “I’m a nonsmoker now”.
- Remove yourself from the situation that’s making you feel tempted.
- Do whatever you have to do to avoid lighting up, or cigarettes will have their hooks into you again before you know it.
- Think about all the benefits of quitting to get smoking thoughts out of your head.
On holidays, memories of smoking can return.
Sometimes the relaxing atmosphere does it or the fact that you’re noticing other people smoking or that cigarettes are really cheap (e.g. on holiday in Europe or Asia). You tell yourself that you’re on holidays and the normal rules don’t apply. More often than not in this scenario, smoking will follow you home and you’ll be a full time smoker all over again.
Another trap is returning from a holiday (particularly if you took the opportunity to quit while you’re out of your normal routine). The benefit of not having normal triggers around is gone and the minute you get home and you’re reminded of smoking again.
See managing routines so that you don’t get caught off-guard.
Past smoking situations
Returning to past situations where you used to smoke e.g. a school reunion, an old workplace or somewhere you used to live, can evoke strong memories of being a smoker. These memories can in turn evoke sudden strong cravings. Expect these cravings to happen, acknowledge them for what they are – just memories of smoking – and let them pass.
A major stressful situation is the most common explanation people give when you ask what caused their relapse back to smoking. A funeral, sudden bad news, a major argument with someone or a relationship breakup, are all examples of scenarios that can bring on smoking thoughts. They can make you feel that the normal rules don’t apply.
Think of these smoking thoughts as memory flashes. Resist the temptation and the urges should pass.
Your mind is experiencing stress and is remembering that you used to have a cigarette to temporarily “manage” the situation. But that was on old (and flawed) coping mechanism, and going back to it ruins your goal of being a nonsmoker. Remind yourself of the smarter and healthier ways you’ve been managing stress in the short term (e.g. deep breathing, muscle relaxation, mindfulness).