If you used to smoke daily or drink or use other drugs regularly and lockdown has made you cut down or stop - you might experience cravings. Cravings can range from a weak desire for something to a very strong urge. Below you will find tips for dealing with three types of triggers that set off cravings.
If you are experiencing very strong cravings that are causing you unbearable discomfort, please contact your Doctor.
If you drank a lot of alcohol every day, it is especially important not to stop abruptly – called going ‘cold turkey’. Going cold turkey can be life threatening for heavy drinkers. If you have been cut off from alcohol and you get sweats or shakes contact a medical Doctor immediately.
When your body doesn’t get its usual dose of caffiene, alcohol, nicotine, cannabis or other drug it has come to expect, it signals its need by giving us a headache, a restless nervous feeling, maybe sweating, a tightness in our belly, the shivers... it’s like feeling hungry but not for food.
Withdrawals can make you feel agitated, jittery, physically uncomfortable. If you can - go for a walk, do some weight lifting, go online or call someone to get more ideas.
Drinking alcohol is a common trigger to smoke. If you're trying to cut down on smoking or you have quit, you might find it easier to avoid drinking alcohol as well to start with. Everyone is different.
Before reaching for the smoke, beer, wine or vodka, have a glass of water and something to eat. Sometimes a craving is caused by dehydration or hunger, rather than stress.
If you stop smoking, or an every day drinking habit, you might experience a range of withdrawal symptoms: feeling irritable, anxious, annoyed, jittery, headaches, constipation, wanting to eat all the time. If you know what to expect you can think about how to deal with the withdrawals.
The first 2 weeks after stopping smoking are the hardest. It depends how much you smoked: the more cigarettes per day you smoked, the more withdrawal symptoms you'll have. You don't have to put yourself through the hell of nicotine withdrawals - slap on a patch, suck a lozenge. Talk to your doctor, free phone helpline or local stop smoking service.
When you stop smoking your body starts healing. If you've smoked for many years your immune system may be operating under par. As a reaction to not smoking any more your immune system can go into hyperdrive as it adjusts. For a while asthma, acne and allergic responses can get worse. You may get a cold or flu it might feel worse than you're used to. Your body will find a new normal - keep going. Keep up your vitamin C, try to eat 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit a day. Help your body heal.
If you were a daily smoker for several years and stoppin smoking is hard for you, look at the alternative products. There is no reason to feel embarassed about using a nicotine patch, the gum or lozenges. Getting the nicotine from one of these replacements gives you time to break habits without going through the intense withdrawals.
Smoking suppresses your immune system. If you've recently stopped smoking, your immune system could kick into overdrive. That means more gunk to cough up, higher fevers, and rivers of sweat. Your system will adjust and settle with time.
If you've smoked for a long time, it can become linked with many things: activities, people, times of the day, work, feelings and experiences. It can feel like nearly everything triggers a craving. Every time you don't smoke when your brain was expecting you to, the link gets weaker. Eventually, the link will break.
Keeping busy might help distract you from cravings. Pick one room, or even one small corner of your house to clean. Clean the oven. Garden if you have one. Sort photos. Clean up your files on your computer. Find something active to immerse yourself in.
There are a wide range of stop smoking products and some very effective less harmful substitutes. See our website section on Alternatives to Smoking Tobacco. There is no need to suffer nicotine withdrawals. If you try a product and it doesn't work. Keep trying until you find one that does work for you.
Take note of how strong your cravings are, and how frequent. The more times a day you feel strongly drive to smoke, or drink, or use pills or cannabis, the more likely you are to need help. If you have strong cravings many times a day, consider asking your doctor for help or a referral to a stop smoking, or drug and alcohol counselling service.
Cravings affect people in different ways but the one thing we do know is that over time they do become less frequent and not as strong. One day at a time. Learn the serenity prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." There are many AA and other support groups online - whenever you need help it's there.
Most negative emotions can trigger us to turn to whatever we usually use to help us calm down, feel better, lift our mood. Boredom is a strong trigger to smoke. Having the blues, or feeling nothing, can trigger cravings to drink to have some laughs. Extreme ups and downs in feelings can be very unsettling. This can cause people to turn to either a calming drug or a stimulating drug – anything to get back to feeling normal.
Fear is a major trigger to smoke, drink or to use another calming substance. Fear triggers alarm bells in your brain that yell for you to get somewhere safe. If you don't have someone to talk to, write down what you're afraid of. The helpful book "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway" is online.
When emotions run high and you feel like breaking down, this can trigger the crave! Which emotion is it? Anger? Hurt? Grief? If it helps go somewhere private and give yourself just a few minutes to cry. Make it a short hard sobbing. Then cut it off, wash your face and make yourself have a cup of tea. Don't go down the gurgler with your tears.
Money worries can be a powerful stressor and stress is a powerful trigger of cravings. They say knowledge is power. Taking action channels stressful energy outward. Perhaps there's an online course or YouTube videos that can help you learn about how to save or earn more money? Check out what help the Government is offering.
Staying stopped that's the hardest part about quitting. Learning how to safely react when you get angry, or better yet, not getting angry in the first place will help. There are some self-help therapy courses online that might be useful - check out getselfhelp.co.uk
Anger is a strong trigger. If you haven't already got one in your house, start a swear jar: every time anyone swears they have to put money in the jar towards a family or household reward. The kids will love this and it gives you practice controlling your reactions.
Natural disasters and pandemics can be frightening and, depending on the damage, traumatic. They are a major cause of relapse in smoking. Fear, high levels of anxiety, jumpiness and worry for self and others are all emotions we can deal with in small doses. Get on the phone or online and get together for comfort rather than turning to smoke.
You can head off some of the cravings by starting to act as if you are a non-smoker, or a person who doesn't drink or use drugs. When your mind says "I want a smoke" or "I'd like a wine" answer back! Tell your mind "No thanks! I don't _____ anymore."
To get your mind off smoking or drinking, cannabis or drugs, or whatever withdrawal symptoms you may be experiencing, find someone else to help. This will shift your focus off what is happening in your body onto what is happening for another person. Helping others can help to keep you busy and it can be very rewarding.
When things are not going right it can be very worrying, and worry triggers cravings. If you've been using smoking or drinking or cannabis or other drugs to help you calm down, you may now need to find new ways to cope. Ask people who don't smoke, or drink, or use other drugs how they deal with stress.
When someone close passes away we experience a roller-coaster of emotions: sadness, anger, disbelief and sometimes shock. It's an especially triggering time for people with a history of smoking, drinking or other drug use. During this time of lockdown many family and friends are being prevented from mourning. They are also creating many new ways to grieve together and to celebrate their loved one online. Take time to grieve and plan how you all can get together later for a memorial and proper farewell.
Arguments, yelling and fighting are extremely stressful and a powerful trigger to smoke, drink and use drugs. It can be hard to stay calm during a conflict. Listen but set limits - you don't have to listen to abuse. Call for timeout. Apologise if you're in the wrong. Don't fight in front of children. Violence is not okay!
Stress can make life difficult. Signs of stress can include trouble sleeping, frequent headaches, stomach problems and being angry a lot. Sometimes you just need a break from thinking - something mind-numbing to do. If you have a garage of tools, you could sort them, sharpen them, oil or clean them. Wash the car and pay extra attention to detailing the inside of it. Pulls weeds. cut the edge, mow the lawns, trim trees. Wash the house, the windows, the bathroom. Waterblast the deck.
If you're having trouble dealing with stress, talk to a trusted family member or friends. Some people find that staying in touch with their faith community is helpful in times of stress too. Some churches are having online services.
If you're fighting the blues, try focusing on something outside of you - is there someone you can help? There are always others worse off than you who are lonely, alone, struggling. Sometimes when you need a friend, the best thing you can do is be a friend to someone else.
Stress is like a volcano starting deep inside you: everything starts to be too loud, too much, and you start thinking of ways to escape. Then the cravings start. You need something good to counteract the bad - hug a kid, listen to music, tickle your cat, have a soothing hot bath.
If you've been trying not to smoke or drink and you give in, don't beat up on yourself. Take it a day at a time. For that day, switch strategies from trying for zero, to trying to limit how much you smoke or drink. Feeling angry with yourself will only make it harder to stop.
If you are preparing to quit write down your reasons for stopping and put them up where you will see them every day. If you get cravings, look at this list and remember your goal.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, seek help from a professional therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. There is no shame in reaching out to a professional about how you're feeling and what you're going through. If you need someone to talk to, contact your free support helpline.
Some cravings are triggered only when you are reminded by seeing others smoking or drinking. It can even happen when you see people in a movie smoking or drinking. Seeing advertising for alcohol drinks or cigarettes can be a trigger. Others encouraging you to join in with them is a trigger. Highly stressful events, like losing your job, having a loved one die, having an argument, facing the prospect of bankruptcy because your business had to be closed – happenings outside of your control that threaten your financial and emotional wellbeing can be strong triggers to drink, smoke, use pills or cannabis.
If you're in isolation with others and everyone is drinking, you can slow down how much you drink by having a glass of water or other non-alcoholic drink in between alcoholic drinks.
If others are drinking alcohol and you are trying to not drink at all, or not drink so much, ask the others to support you to not drink. You could say, "when you get yourself another drink, don't offer me one."
Avoiding peer pressure to smoke or drink can be challenging. Have your reasons for not taking part prepared ahead of time. For example, you can say you're too tired, or that you are trying to watch your weight, or that you're trying to boost your immune system!
If you're cutting down or trying to quit, or want to reduce triggers, remove reminders. If you're trying not to smoke, make your house smokefree and get rid of ashtrays. If you're trying not to drink, put the booze in the garage, basement or somewhere hard to get to. Same, if you're trying not to smoke cannabis, put all the papers, bongs, lighters or matches away.
Coffee and smoking might have been strongly linked for you. So even the smell of coffee can trigger a craving to smoke. Drinking alcohol and smoking often went together as well. It is a strong chemical bond to break. If you are going without one but still have the other be prepared for cravings.
Certain times of the day or events and habits may trigger a craving to drink. It might be pre-dinner drinkies, wine with dinner, an after-dinner whiskey or a nightcap. Maybe you have something to celebrate or some sorrows to drown? Make some new rules. Try not drinking until after you've eaten. Or, set a cut-off time, such as, no drinking after 8 pm. Have a non-alcoholic alternative ready instead.
The association between smoking and drinking can be a hard thing to break. The more you drink, the more likely you will forget that you don't smoke anymore. Try to limit your alcohol intake when you first quit smoking. Ask your friends to support you.
If lockdown is stressful for you, it's important to be kind to yourself too. But, if you let your drinking increase to every day, or more and more drinks a day - your body might come to expect it and after lockdown you might find it difficult to cut back. Keep track of how often and how much you are drinking in a diary. If you manage a day off - draw a star to mark the day as an alcohol free day. You can use the same process for cutting back on other drags too.
Everyone has different opinions about how the Governments are going about reducing the harm that this pandemic will do. That's okay! You're entitled to your opinion. Be careful about getting into arguments with people on Facebook or Twitter. People can be very abusive on social media because they think there will be no consequences for their behaviour. Being abused can be a trigger to drink or use drugs. Pick your battles and block people who are abusive. If the politicians and Government officials make you spit tacks, turn them off.
Things outside of your control that threaten your security in the future are triggers in your environment. Losing your job. Facing the loss of your business or bankruptcy. These can be extremely stressful. It is common for people to turn to pills, or some other psychoactive substance or stimulant to offset the shock and fear of income loss. Make sure you are getting all the financial help the Government is promising.
Having a plan set out at the beginning of the day should include your plan for how much you're going to drink or smoke and when. If you're running low you might need to plan so that you don't run out altogether. Strangely cravings can be worse when you know there's nowhere to get more smokes, or alcohol or other drugs. Depending on the type of lockdown you're in and where you are, you might not be able to simply go out to a shop for smokes or alcohol the next day.
There is a lot of information that can help you cope with lockdown online. There is also a lot of support on offer.
Existing support services, that used to deliver only face to face are adapting to delivering via phone and video calling.
If you have a question about anything, you just need to type it in to an internet search engine and look through what is returned.
There are different search engines and the most popular are: Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex and DuckDuckGo.
If you are using Google, you can simply type in your question as you would say it. For example, if you want to know why you are crying often for no reason, in the Google search box type in “why am I crying for no reason lockdown”. To get responses specific to lockdown just add the word “lockdown”.
If you want to find some more information or support services to help with cutting down on drinking, just type in “drinking too much lockdown”.
If there is some information you want that you can’t find, ask friends on social media if any of them can help. If it’s not something you want to share publicly, you can email us via the contact page. We will keep your request confidential and we will do our best to find the information you’re looking for.