Alcohol column: drinking and smoking belong together

I would have to stop drinking to stop smoking

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There is one thing I would like to kick the habit of: smoking. It makes me anxious and when I smell my fingers or clothes afterwards, I feel terribly disgusted with myself. Anyway, I regularly get sick from it and when I do sports (well, climbing stairs) I puff as if I were carrying an extra portion of body weight directly on my chest.

There are phases when it even looks like I could make it. For example, if I was sick in bed for a long time and then realized that I could still do without the daily cigarette. I then think, "Not so hard the whole quitting thing" and resolve to stick with it.

The project usually ends a few days later, at night, usually in company. Because of one thing I just don’t want to break the habit of: drinking alcohol.

Because if you drink, you want to smoke. The phenomenon is known even to people who actually call themselves convinced non-smokers. How many acquaintances do I have who bum cigarettes while drunk, even though they detest them when sober?? A lot. Even my brother took a few drags on my burning cigarette the other day when he drank beer for a change. He’s a physical education teacher, and he’s given me PowerPoint presentations on the benefits of not smoking. It is not for nothing that we know three categories of cigarette consumers: "smokers", "non-smokers" – "party smokers".

People who drink while partying smoke more – and vice versa

The fact that I do not imagine the increased desire when drinking, explains me then also dr. Google. First indication: All forums like gutefrage.net are full of posts in which people complain that they can’t stop smoking when they are drinking.

Second indication: Science has also already dealt with the mixed consumption of the two drugs alcohol and nicotine. Result: As is often the case, hormones are to blame for the fact that people find it so difficult to separate drinking from smoking.

Nicotine and alcohol have the same "advantage" for the user: While ingesting the substances, the release of the happiness hormone dopamine is stimulated in the brain. And because our brains are gifted with memory, our subconscious keeps thinking, "Hey, there’s this other drug that also makes you feel good," when you take one of these two substances."So if you drink, you get a little happier, you want more of the emotion, and then you have a smoke. By the way, this also works the other way around: if you smoke while partying, you drink more.

This results in a real vicious circle, because: The two substances alcohol and nicotine in combination trigger exactly the opposite, namely produce stress hormones – which in turn apparently does not go into our skulls. At least not for me.

Smoking wakes you up and gets you going. And drinking? Makes tired

How also? I end up smoking while drinking for other reasons. At least I perceive these other reasons more consciously than the hormone release in my brain. One of them: Smoking wakes you up and turns you on. And drink? Makes tired. As soon as my eyelids get heavy from the wine in a bar, club or communal kitchen, I want to light one up. I often get jittery from a cigarette during the day, too. I can use that little bit of extra energy right now. I don’t always want to be the one who has to go home well before midnight because she’s "kind of beat today".

A positive side effect is also that the smoking usually takes place outside. "We’ll just go and get some fresh air", people say goodbye with a wink to the non-smokers who remain seated. A tired laugh from their side, because: Hoho, one pollutes the fresh air with the smoke yes only. In fact, you do get some air – even if it’s just the cold – and a bit of exercise.

"Going for a smoke" divides the night into stages

This not only wakes you up, but also has the advantage that you can divide the evening into stages. "Going for a smoke" is like taking a break. One changes the place and often also the constellation of the persons with whom one then stands in front of the house entrance. Conversations change more often as a result, the whole evening flies by faster, it feels like.

So the phenomenon "drinking and smoking go together" is of course not only due to what our bodies demand. But above all what our psyche wants. And that’s what it’s mostly about: belonging, taking part in what all the other drinkers around you are doing. "You’re only doing it out of peer pressure," you heard when you started puffing in your younger years. And, of course. It is true. Especially when people are trying to have uninhibited fun with each other, like when they are partying. You just don’t feel like explaining why you have to stick to this self-imposed rule of abstinence and can’t do what everyone else does. Not to others, and not even to oneself.

After all, what worked last night must also work today

So with wine and vodka soda I keep washing my resolutions out of my mind. And there they stay. What worked last night must also work today. Lo and behold, suddenly I’m a full-time smoker again. Arrivederci, fragrant clothes! Buongiorno, lung cancer!

It’s clear, I shouldn’t line up like this. It should eventually be possible for me to abstain from drinking. The problem: I just don’t want it. Because I have the feeling that I have this actually dangerous folk drug quite well under control. I do not drink disproportionately often and when I do, I usually do it in moderation. To let it be a few weeks or months, that would already work and often enough I don’t even notice it. But I enjoy this social ritual too much to give it up forever. I like to philosophize over a bottle of wine with friends and to suck a sip of disinhibition through the straw into my body in the club. Drinking is fun for me and I just don’t like having to let it go.

My emergency solution would be the following: I only smoke when I drink. But quitting smoking lives from the same elixir as ending a relationship and then staying apart: from consistency. If I write to the expartner again and again, when I am drunk, the problem just comes up again and again. So I am afraid to have to decide. For everything – or better nothing. Otherwise I would probably be doomed forever to remain a miserable smoker.

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