You’ve quit smoking and you’re glad you did. You’re happier and healthier for it! So why does the thought of facing society again without cigarettes strike fear into your heart? Why is it that all you really want to do is to crawl under a rock somewhere and hide?
Let’s face it: having a social life after cigarettes can be daunting. For many ex-smokers, that sense of “self” was wrapped up in cigarettes. Every work break, holiday party, after work drink, pool party, camping trip, and other social gathering involved cigarettes. Many people around you might still smoke—your friends, co-workers, family, and perhaps even your spouse. When you quit smoking, not only does your lifestyle change, but so might your relationships with people. But change is not necessarily a bad thing!
First recognize that there was always more to you than your smoking. Quitting smoking is an opportunity to re-discover yourself! Many people find that quitting unleashes a torrent of emotions. Consciously or not, you may have used cigarettes in the past to deal (or not deal) with emotions. Now you have to find new, healthier ways of coping with stress, anger, boredom, anxiety, happiness, etc. These new emotions may feel more intense and you may not feel like yourself. In time you will be feeling more like yourself. Perhaps even “new and improved”!
You can and will re-learn how to enjoy social activities without lighting up. If you are newly quit, you may find that you have to avoid social situations, at least until you are feeling more solid in your quit. Social gatherings, where alcohol and other smokers mix, can be a huge trigger. But social situations cannot be avoided forever. Eventually you will have to face the world! Here are a few suggestions:
- Avoid alcohol. Not only is there a strong association between alcohol and cigarettes, but alcohol lowers inhibition and judgment. Order a non-alcoholic drink when going out or eating at a restaurant. If you must drink, give yourself a limit. Plan ahead by creating an "exit plan," connect with other ex-smokers when you first get to the club, etc.
- Practice effective coping strategies. If you find yourself in a situation where you might light up, step out for a "fresh air break," bring your list of reasons for quitting and review them, chew some gum or suck on hard candies, have objects in your pocket you can fidget with--coins, dice, a stress ball, etc.
- Practice what you will say if someone offers you a cigarette: "No thanks, I've quit!"
- Bring a buddy (preferably non-smoking) who can help keep you on track.
- Find a smoke-free social activity like a dance or exercise class, join a sport, pick up a hobby (how about photography?), go to the movies, etc.
Ultimately, with a little planning and a lot of practice, you can still enjoy many of your old social activities, but without smoking. Perhaps you may find you do them better!
As for you how your relationships with others may change, some of them might. But hopefully they change for the better. Consider this: friendships should not be based soley on smoking status. You can enjoy shared interests or find new ones without smoking. Good friends, co-workers, and family should support you in your quit. And if they don't, then maybe it's time to hang out with a new crowd. Make new friends and connect with other quitters at QuitNet or in the real world.
You've quit smoking because you want to have better health, more time, more money, a better quality of life and freedom. Quitting smoking is truly something to be proud of! So come out from hiding and enjoy your newfound social life!