Individuals who are smokers know the drill. They finish a meal and have the urge to smoke. They leave their desk to take a break and the urge to smoke returns. Certain times of the day, certain places and even specific foods can spark the urge to smoke. These are known as triggers. Different people have different triggers.
Mostly, triggers fall into one of 4 categories: emotional, pattern, social and withdrawal. Once an individual is able to identify their triggers and understand them, they will be better equipped to deal with them.
Many individuals smoke when they are experiencing intense emotions. It could be that they are reminded of how they felt when they smoked to enhance a good mood, or to escape from a stressful one. Emotions that might be triggers are anxiety, excitement, boredom, happiness, depression, loneliness, satisfaction or cooling off after a fight.
Emotional triggers can be dealt with in a number of ways. The individual can try talking to their family members and friends. Deep breathing is a good way to calm and center oneself and slow down the body, which in turn can reduce cravings. And of course, exercise is a great way to handle emotions, especially with the release of endorphins which makes the individual happy.
Pattern triggers are activities that the individual connects with smoking. These could be things like talking on the phone or watching tv, drinking alcohol or finishing a meal, drinking coffee or taking a work break.
The way to break a pattern trigger is to break the association with the trigger. If the individual is able to transfer the feeling associated with smoking to another activity then they can successfully break the trigger. Some examples of replacement activities could be chewing gum or eating sugar free candy. Changing one’s routine might help too. If an individual is used to having a cigarette after drinking coffee, then perhaps they could start brushing their teeth after drinking coffee instead. Or try drinking coffee at a different time than usual.
This can be one of the harder triggers to break, since they include other people who smoke, who the individual is used to socialising with. Some examples of social triggers can be going to a bar, or a party or any kind of social event. Seeing other people smoke or being around friends who do can also be triggers.
The best way to break a social trigger is to not go to those places where people smoke. Avoiding one’s friends who smoke is more difficult to do. The individual should have open conversations with their friends and family to inform them about quitting smoking and request them not to smoke around the individual.
Long time smokers are used to getting regular doses of nicotine. When a long time smoker quits, they experience withdrawal symptoms that produce nicotine cravings. Withdrawal triggers can include craving the taste of cigarettes, smelling cigarette smoke, handling cigarettes and lighters or just needing to do something with one’s hands.
In this case the individual needs a distraction. They need to find something to take their mind off the craving. Nicotine replacement medication is a great way of easing cravings.
Sustain Recovery specializes in long term treatment programs for adolescents. To learn more about the elements of transitioning to sober living, contact us about our programs and how we can help you.