Quitting while still having a social life

If you’re a smoker, lighting up is probably part of any social occasion.

You might be used to joining a smokers’ huddle at a backyard barbecue, or having a smoke and a drink in the beer garden at your local pub.

Most people wanting to quit smoking find their friends are supportive.

If your friends smoke too, they might want to join you in going smoke free.

Either way, it’s a good idea to tell your friends about your intention to quit and have them back you up – even if this is as simple as asking smoking friends not to offer you cigarettes or smoke around you.

To help you through the transition to becoming a non-smoker, try to stay focused on your reasons for quitting – whether it’s shaking off that persistent cough or saving many thousands of dollars each year. It’s also important to figure out how you’ll handle social situations as a non-smoker.

For the first couple of weeks, until your body gets used to being smoke free, it might be a good idea to limit the amount of time you spend with smokers. This could mean steering clear of Friday or Saturday night drinks, or catching up with smoking friends over the phone rather than in person.

Once you’re ready, here are some steps you can take to deal with cravings in social situations:

Practice what you’ll say if someone offers you a smoke, perhaps something such as, ‘no thank you, I don’t smoke anymore’.

Take something to keep your hands and mouth busy – playing with a necklace, watch or phone, or having some mints on hand can help.

Stick to one or two drinks, since too much alcohol can weaken your resolve to stay quit and make you more likely to slip up.

Be ready to remove yourself from the situation if the going gets tough, maybe by going to the bathroom to splash some water on your face and take some deep breaths.

Be wary of the temptation to have “just one” cigarette – it usually leads to full-time smoking again.

Remember that each time you resist a craving, you are helping to retrain your brain so that it no longer associates smoking with other activities, such as drinking or socialising.

You’re teaching yourself to be a non-smoker, one day and one habit at a time.

Quit Specialists can provide more practical tips and strategies to help you resist cravings and stay smoke free. Phone the Quitline on 13 78 48 or visit www.quit.org.au

Sam Upton is a Quit specialist.