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Quitting Cigarettes in Addiction Recovery

By Keith W Tree House Staff

I had been sober for two months and still felt awful. I woke up hungover and sick every morning. I was constantly tired, with a sore throat and an alarming cough. I was eating well, working out daily, and getting enough sleep, but these symptoms didn’t seem to be improving. I knew what I had to do – quit smoking. I had smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day for the previous 16 years. Although the idea of quitting was daunting, I wanted nothing more than to feel better. I decided to quit, and had my last cigarette two months into my recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. That was over three years ago, and I’ve never felt better.

The advantages of quitting cigarettes in drug addiction recovery go far beyond the obvious health benefits. Ditching tobacco in early recovery can actually help you stay away from other substances. There are plenty of overlaps between cigarettes and drug addiction. According the National Institute of Health, “research shows that smoking cessation does not disrupt alcohol abstinence and may actually enhance the likelihood of longer-term sobriety.” (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). In other words, quitting cigarettes in early sobriety can actually help you stay sober. This is likely because:

  • Nicotine actives similar brain mechanisms to other drugs of abuse – reinforcing the brain’s addicted state.
  • Reaching for a smoke to cope with difficult emotions reinforces addicted behavior, making it harder to recover from addiction.
  • Quitting smoking is an esteemable act that can provide additional motivation and empowerment to remain in recovery – these types of actions build on themselves.

Data aside, quitting cigarettes in drug addiction recovery is easier said than done. Smoking is a staple of many sober communities, and some misguided traditional recovery wisdom advises against quitting. Below are some tools I used to remain tobacco free.

  • Consider nicotine cessation devices such as the patch or nicotine gum. I used nicotine lozenges. Don’t stress about getting off these too quickly. As long as you’re not smoking, you’re doing well.
  • Combat cravings with exercise and healthy eating. Studies show that the endorphins released during exercise reduce cravings for nicotine. A healthy lifestyle also reduces stress, a major culprit of tobacco relapses.
  • Use mindfulness-based practices. This is another great way to minimize stress and manage anxiety. For some tips on how to get started, check out Dan Delabre’s post here.
  • Use your support. We need the support of our friends and mentors to stay away from drugs and alcohol. The same goes for quitting cigarettes.

Quitting cigarettes played a huge role in my recovery from drug addiction. It has made me feel mentally and physically stronger. I wake up feeling healthy and energetic rather than congested and tired. Quitting smoking cigarettes in early recovery helped me stay sober. It’s been three and half years since my last smoke and I haven’t looked back. If you’re considering giving tobacco up, you can do it!

At Tree House Recovery, we’re helping men find freedom from addiction. Our treatment programs create sustainable change for sustainable recovery by helping men find their strength in body, mind, and spirit. For information on our Orange County programs, call us today: (855) 202-2138

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