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Should I try to quit drinking and smoking at the same time?

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answered 11:20 AM EST, Mon September 05, 2011
I am supposed to go for addiction treatment next week at a facility that doesn’t allow smoking at all on the grounds. I think I am more afraid of the idea of living without smokes than living without drinking. I have at least given up drinking for short periods in the past but I have never been able to give up smoking.

They say that there is evidence that quitting smoking at the same time as you quit drinking improves your chances of not relapsing. Is there any truth to this? I have never heard this anywhere else.

William Anderson Says...

Do you want to stop drinking? You say you have given up drinking for short periods in the past, so it sounds like it's something you'd like to succeed with if you could. Why would you have tried to give it up if you didn't want to stop, even if it was only a part of you? You must have had some sincere motivation. People who don't want to quit drinking usually just keep drinking.

How about smoking? Do you want to quit? It sounds like you've tried to quit smoking too. So, it seems you'd like to quit smoking too, even if the idea scares you. Otherwise, why would you have tried to give it up in the past?

If you want to quit both, this place is for you. Many professionals are reporting that your solid abstinence is stronger if you quit both at the same time. More and more studies and opinions are pointing to this position, even though it was ridiculed years ago.

The theory with cross addictions is that one reinforces the other. If you have an alcohol and cocaine problem, you stop both. You don't try to quit one and keep the other. It doesn't work. Using leads to drinking and drinking leads to using. And while we all know many recovering alcoholics who smoke and smoke-filled AA meetings, the theory of quitting both to strengthen the abstinence with both makes sense to me.

However, if it is your intention to quit smoking for a while, while you go to this smoke free rehab, and start again when you're out, I would think this place is not for you. It seems to me that you'd be setting yourself up for relapse if you did that, like having a ready excuse to drink again. We don't need to hand our addictions any more power than they already have.

You need to think about what's important in your life. You are in the grips of lethal addictions that would have you think that you have the option to continue drinking and smoking without too much trouble. It's a lie. They will ruin your quality of life and kill you if you let them continue. You say "I'm supposed to go for addiction treatment next week", which sounds like you aren't sure about who is in charge. Even if you have cravings and feel the need for these things, you need to want to be free of them. You will only succeed in recovery and abstinence from these killers if you decide you want it. If you are undecided, it will be harder. You need to decide you want life and abstinence, even if the idea scares you.

My opinion is that if you want to quit both, you stand a better chance at successful recovery if you quit both now, in line with the cross additions theory. But if you want to keep smoking, look for a rehab where you can smoke, and get abstinent of the alcohol. I don't believe that quitting smoking down the road would cause relapse to alcohol. In my experience, the stress of trying to quit smoking causes people to relapse to smoking, not drinking. (Unless they were looking for an excuse to drink again. In that case, as excuses go, it will work as good as any.) 

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Page last updated Sep 05, 2011

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