Q&A: Is it harder for a smoker to give up smoking than for an alcoholic to give up drinking, and are the two comparable at all?

It is obvious to those of us who have worked in the addiction field, especially we who are in recovery ourselves, that the degree of desire is a key factor in recovery from any addiction. To put it simply, people who truly want to stop have an easier time of it than those who are not completely convinced that they need to do so (who, in fact, rarely do stop).

In the case of alcohol and most other drugs, their devastating effects create conditions that sometimes break through the denial of the addict and give him or her the moment of clarity needed to make a real commitment.

With cigarettes and other nicotine vehicles, there is the issue that it will probably not be the next cigar, cigarette or chaw that kills you. It is really easy to say, “I need to quit, but I’ll do it….” Most addicts of other kinds come to realize that death isn’t that far away, and know that if they have another go it will likely lead to their imminent demise.

Both alcohol and nicotine are highly addictive drugs. This writer, who is a recovering alcoholic and former smoker, found it easier to stop drinking and using drugs than to stop smoking. That, however, is because he was totally ready to stop drinking and drugging, and only three years later began to feel that way about nicotine.

My 12-step skills helped with the smoking, too, but I also highly recommend nicotine replacement as an aid to quitting. This allows us to overcome the physical habits — reaching for a smoke at particular times, for example — and not have to deal with the nicotine withdrawal at the same time.

I do not recommend the gum, as it replaces one oral habit with another, as do the “electronic cigarettes” (although both methods work for some).   I believe the patches provide relief while not prolonging the physical habits.  (I used the gum for three years one time, then want back to Winstons.) However, any replacement is better than tobacco, as they are not known to be harmful when used as directed.

Tobacco products, on the other hand, are the only products sold legally in the US and most other countries that have been proven to cause fatal diseases when used as directed.

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