One of the things COVID-19 has indirectly brought into the spotlight again is the negative effects of smoking. It’s not that we did not know smoking causes lung cancer and other terminal illnesses. However, with the coronavirus attacking the lungs, the danger for smokers became that much more immediate.
But what does that mean for recovering addicts? For us, smoking occupies a somewhat ambiguous place. On the one hand, it is a dangerous and potentially deadly addiction. On the other hand, it does not stop you from functioning on a day-to-day basis and is often used as a crutch when quitting alcohol and substance use.
The image of people smoking in rehab is ingrained into all our minds. It is almost a pastime of its own. But now more than ever there is no getting away from the fact that it may very well kill you.
That said, quitting smoking right now might not be the best move for you. Here is what you need to consider.
Before going into the pros and cons of quitting smoking, we need to take a quick look at what’s at stake. Many smokers will tell you that we all die anyway and that they are willing to risk going a few years early.
If you’ve ever used this as justification, it is time to reconsider. The problem with this reasoning is that smoking does not simply kill people. Rather, it makes them very ill, potentially for years. The smoker and their loved ones suffer as they deteriorate and die a slow, painful death.
I know this sounds dire, but it is the reality for millions of smokers around the world. It happened to both my father and my grandmother. The point is that what’s at stake is not just an early death, but a high physical, emotional, and financial cost.
Nonetheless, quitting smoking is not an open-and-shut matter for recovering addicts.
The right time to quit
For smokers in rehab, quitting may not be a good idea. In rehab, you are still in the early stages of recovery from your more immediate and urgent addiction. Smoking provides a crutch, even if it may eventually be as painful and deadly as the addiction you are recovering from. Quitting at this time increases your chances of relapse and makes it more difficult to benefit from the rehab experience. After all, your focus is compromised by withdrawals and the effects it has on mood.
During the COVID-19 crisis, quitting smoking might also be a mistake. If you are stuck at home, there is plenty of potential for relapse. You are left with a lot of time with your thoughts and urges, and may not be able to see the members of your support system. Furthermore, many of us are experiencing high levels of anxiety due to the pandemic. The urge to drink or use substances to dull the anxiety may be particularly strong.
You should consider quitting smoking when you are in a stable place in terms of both your addiction and your day-to-day life. When everything is still uncertain, quitting smoking can make it more difficult to stay on track.
Another thing to consider in regards to smoking is whether you can do it in moderation. Unlike alcohol and drugs, you can live your life as normal when smoking. While going to work drunk or high leads to major problems, you can take smoke breaks at work.
If it is not the right time to quit smoking, or you are concerned that quitting will put your sobriety at risk, consider trying to moderate your smoking. Not everyone manages to do so successfully, but if you can, your health will improve and you will lower your risk of serious illness.
Moderation is made easier by supplemental treatments. Nicotine patches can help you smoke less. Vaping can also serve as a substitute, although the jury is still out on whether it is a healthy alternative.
To quit or not to quit
Ideally, quitting smoking should be on your agenda. Smoking leads to serious illness and death for millions of people worldwide. However, for recovering addicts, the stakes of quitting can be high.
Consider quitting smoking if you are in a good place in terms of your recovery and your mental health. It will do wonders for your physical health and can make you feel better about yourself as a whole.