If you consider yourself a social smoker, quitting smoking can bring another problem to contend with — how do you keep going to your usual social gatherings without caving to a craving to smoke?
It’s a genuine concern, as old habits are often ingrained in our environment. So, how do you go about quitting smoking without quitting your social life?
Ties between smoking and alcohol
Did you know that alcohol and smoking are closely linked? At the extreme, government data has found that up to 90 per cent of people who are addicted to alcohol will also smoke. Furthermore, smokers have been found to be more likely to drink and have a 2.7 times greater risk of becoming dependent on alcohol than non-smokers do.
It’s important to understand how alcohol and nicotine stimulate the brains. For nicotine, the chemical compound will enter the bloodstream as soon as you smoke a cigarette and rapidly get transported to your brain. Once there, the nicotine will stimulate the brain by creating receptors which release chemicals that give a feeling of pleasure. These receptors will increase in number as smoking becomes prolonged and your brain will become reliant on nicotine in order to release these feel-good chemicals.
Within 72 hours of your decision to stop smoking, the nicotine levels in your blood drop dramatically. Those receptors won’t disappear that quickly though, so your brain’s chemistry will react to cause powerful cravings and strong emotional reactions. Persistence is key, as nicotine receptors will go away with time and your brain chemistry should be back to normal within three months of a quit.
For alcohol, there is research to suggest that it causes a feeling of pleasure. If true, this reinforces the effects of nicotine on the brain. There are suggestions that nicotine and alcohol will moderate each other’s effects on the brain due to the fact that nicotine stimulates while alcohol sedates.
Quitting smoking without snubbing out your social life
You’ve decided to quit smoking, so let us help with balancing your social life. Here’s how to stick to your goals and still have a good time:
Don’t avoid going out!
Don’t hole up inside instead of going out. Everything you did as a smoker, you can do as a former smoker. Holding off too long from social drinking after quitting can create a sense of intimidation. Plus, socialising with friends is an important part of your life. The sooner you teach yourself how to enjoy a drink or two without a cigarette, the sooner you’ll feel like your life is back to normal.
Have a pep talk
Your usual ‘local’ may very well trigger a craving to smoke. Before leaving the house or in the car, be mentally prepared by saying aloud, “I’m a former smoker.” Or try, “I don’t smoke. I’m healthier and happier without cigarettes.” The main point is to remind yourself that you’re a former smoker and that you don’t need to light up anymore.
A no-smoking get-together
To start with, inviting friends to your house instead of going out might be easier. You can celebrate your smoke-free success with them. You’ll be able to control what is served which can help stop those triggers and completely avoid cigarettes in your smoke-free home.
Make friends with non-smokers
Having friends who don’t smoke can be a huge support on your quitting journey. Who you choose to hang out with can help support your ex-smoking status. Slip-ups can occur when quitters are in the company of other smokers who may not be aware of how to support their quit attempt.
Enlist, and invite along, a quit buddy
Invite a friend or family member along to the social gathering as your designated quit buddy. A quit buddy is someone who supports your quit. Should you encounter old smoking friends who ask you to join them, make sure they are aware of your situation, so they can be respectful. Not only that, you’ll also have your quit buddy to hang out with.