We've all been in stressful situations that will leave a permanent imprint. I was never so convinced that I wouldn't smoke again until I saw how compulsively people go out for cigarettes at my Florida hurricane shelter. They couldn't stand fifty feet away from the building's entrance as they huddled together. They were thick as thieves but seemed disconnected from the rest of us. They wanted to smoke because they were tense about the storm and maybe a little bored, but, honestly, we were all just trying to survive severe weather conditions. I felt their discomfort when the shelter manager said the facility would be locked down at a certain time. I was relieved that I wouldn't have to squelch those cravings when we lost power. Although I quit smoking a few years ago, I decided to write about rituals for readers who love to smoke on the sly.
There are smokers in our reading audience who aren't honest about their habit. In fact, they will go to great lengths to hide their cigarette addictions from their family members, friends, significant others, co-workers, and healthcare providers. These types of smokers are generally positive that smoking is a "sometimes habit." We've all known them and shaken our collective heads at their familiar excuses. I've put together a few of them and debunked them, calling out readers to try and quit smoking by first acknowledging that they are addicted even when they don't smoke a pack a day.
"I Only Smoke When I Drink."
This is the social smoker who ensures that he or she goes out often enough to get that fix. While I am not saying that these individuals are out drinking every night, they have social engagements several times a week. They've been doing this habit for many years and feel used to having something in their hands and in their mouths. They can't just eat and drink out in public and not smoke. If someone else has a pack of cigarettes, they will casually ask for one and then light up. They will drag out their smoke until they have to go to the bar and buy a pack or bum a cigarette from another person.
"I Only Smoke After a Really Tough Day at Work."
It's common for smokers to justify the need to smoke because they are having a rough day at work. However, when people have jobs that are often stressful, such as first responders, teachers, and social workers, this is just an excuse. They can't use high-stress situations as a reason to light up every day without recognising their addiction. In truth, they aren't changing their working conditions enough, and they want an excuse to feed tobacco cravings.
"I Only Smoke When I Need to Lose Weight."
While some smokers are skinny or used to be skinny, they still associate the tobacco habit with reduced hunger pains. They can endure longer periods of time without eating by lighting up a cigarette. This gives them something to do with their hands and distracts their attention from hunger. In reality, though, they aren't getting adequate nutrition because their eating schedules are erratic and unbalanced.
"I Only Smoke When I Need to Stay Awake."
Some closet smokers look forward to having that cigarette at the end of a work shift or a particularly stressful home situation. They want to stay awake on the road after the night shift or "wake up" on the drive to work after a poor night's sleep. It's easy to create a habit for which a cigarette is a reward, but a smoker must also hide the evidence, such as using mouthwash before coming into the house after work.
"I Only Smoke When I Feel Stressed About My Relationship."
Just like there are emotional eaters, there are emotional smokers. They may be okay in social situations without cigarettes. When they feel tense or anxious, such as before having to talk to their boss or following an argument with a spouse, they need one. However, they deny that they use cigarettes at all and must find a way to do it away from their social network. It's common for people to make up trips to the grocery store and other urgent errands so they can escape and smoke. They must take their time coming back because they will have the telltale tobacco smell on their clothes and in their hair even if their breath smells fine.
Get Relief Today
Instead of denying that you're a smoker, try being honest about your smoking rituals. You know that using tobacco increases your heart rate and decreases your lung function. Smoking makes your lungs have to work harder to complete normal activities (i.e. taking a short run or lifting a heavy object). Your lungs experience a long-term buildup of tar and other chemicals. In fact, the smoking habit can shorten your lifespan due to greater risks for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. These are things that you want to take off your list of possible health problems as your body ages. Admit that you have cravings for cigarettes that you've repeatedly justified in different ways and find new habits that will help you avoid giving into them. Live a longer and healthier life without cigarettes after quitting with the right support.