Absolutely, yes. Without a doubt, yes. You have worked so hard and come so far in your recovery to get off all addictive substances. Why would nicotine be any different?
Once upon a time, the accepted belief was that to try to quit smoking – or to try to do anything difficult in terms of making or breaking habits – while working to get and stay sober would undermine attempts at recovery. The thought was that it would just be “too hard,” causing people to give up on all of it unnecessarily.
It turns out, that logic is all wrong. In fact, a study released a few years ago suggests that quitting smoking during rehab does nothing whatsoever to interfere with recovery from substance use disorders – and it may even help. Researchers found that quitting smoking was linked to sustained sobriety and to continued positive management of mood and anxiety disorders. Why? Likely because, for many people, nicotine use in any form is a behavioral trigger.
Do you smoke a cigarette and feel like you need to have a beer in hand? Do you vape and wish you were vaping more than nicotine? Many say that this was what they faced in early recovery and felt triggered as a result, no matter what the context or situation, and if they were in an already triggering situation (e.g., at a bar, around people who were drinking or getting high, gambling, etc.), it was even harder to stay sober.
Here’s what you need to know to kick the habit and boost your recovery at the same time.
There Are Zero Benefits to Smoking
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there is no shortage of horrific effects caused by smoking.
- Cigarette smoking causes about 480,000 American deaths every year, or about 20 percent of all deaths. This is more than the number of deaths caused by drug and alcohol use, HIV, car accidents, and firearms combined.
- Smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a stroke.
- Male smokers are 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer, and female smokers are 25.7 times more likely compared to nonsmoking peers in both gender groups.
- Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body. If everyone stopped smoking, the rate of deaths caused by cancer would drop by a third.
- Smoking can also increase the risk of developing cataracts, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, gum and tooth problems, problems with bone health, fertility issues and more.
Vaping Is Not Good Either
Though many believe that vaping is a good alternative to cigarettes because there is no smoke exposure, nicotine itself is not a healthy substance. It can have a harmful effect on a developing fetus, may contribute to heart problems, harm the arteries, and disrupt healthy brain development in kids, among other problems.
Additionally, there are a number of chemicals ingested during vaping—chemicals that vary depending on the brand. For example, some brands contain propylene glycol that can degrade into formaldehyde as well as acetaldehyde when heated and vaporized, both of which are carcinogens known to contribute to the development of certain cancers. The long-term effects, both of vaping and of exposure to propylene glycol, are as yet unknown; there are no indications that exposure of the various body systems and organs to these chemicals is in any way positive or even harmless.
How to Quit
Set yourself up for success when you quit smoking or quit vaping when you:
- Have a plan before you start. Talk to your doctor about how best to make it happen, buddy up with some people who have similar goals, locate support groups, and figure out how you will handle it if you experience triggers for relapse.
- Exercise. Keeping moving will help to increase your endorphin levels, “feel-good” chemicals that will help to limit the irritability that comes with withdrawal from nicotine.
- Remember the benefits. Within a day of quitting smoking, your carbon monoxide levels should be back in the safe zone, and in about a month, your odds of having a heart attack will be lower. With months and years of smoking cessation behind you, you lower your chances of getting lung and other cancers as well. Every day free of nicotine use matters.
- Don’t give up. If you “relapse,” do exactly as you would if you were to relapse on the use of any addictive substance: Stop immediately, talk to a therapeutic professional or sponsor to figure out what drove the relapse, and make a plan to stop it from happening again.
Is this the year you quit smoking and take your recovery to the next level?