To quit now or wait to quit: Debunking Recovery Myths


When Alcoholic’s Anonymous began in the 1930s the goal was to get people to stop drinking and live a healthy life.  Unfortunately back then the dangers of cigarettes had yet to be fully revealed.  Thus a culture developed in recovery circles that sanctioned smoking.  We know better today.

At leapt 84% of people in recovery from alcohol and/or drugs continue to smoke.  Whereas emphasis is always placed on the drug that led the individual to homeless, jail, emotional and financial ruin, it is cigarettes that will most likely kill.   More people die each year from all drugs (legal and illegal) + gun violence + HIV/AIDS + motor vehicle accidents combined than from cigarettes.   And then there’s the deaths and illness from second and third hand smoking.   Don’t even get me started on the financial burden to communities and the country because of cigarette smoking.

But for people in recovery there are still too many myths about whether and when to stop smoking.  Many believe that quitting everything at once will lead to a greater chance of relapse, when in fact, according to several studies, the opposite is true.  Individuals who participated in smoking cessation interventions at the same time as alcohol/drug intervention had a 25% greater likelihood of long term abstinence.

Furthermore, individuals who smoke, or who begin smoking during substance use treatment have a significantly higher risk of relapsing to their “drug of choice.”

It’s time for the science to overtake the myths.   For years I’ve heard clients tell me, “I’ll do anything to stop using.”  Treatment providers must continue to present the scientific evidence to debunk the myths and ingrained culture surrounding smoking.

One reason for increased risk of relapse is the association of smoking with alcohol or other drugs.   When not using their “drug of choice”, people in recovery often turn to smoking as a way of releasing stress.  The problem however is that 1) people smoke more when they are stressed, and 2) the brain sends a message “hey that’s nice but not as good as what you used to give me.”   Both of these scenarios can lead to relapse.

This is why Mindfulness Training for Smoking or MTS is such an important tool for people in recovery.  MTS uses mindfulness skills along with cognitive behavioral training to achieve significantly higher quit rates than standard methods.  If you’re willing to do “anything” for your recovery, do yourself a favor and Learn More Now.