How to Avoid Smoking at Holiday Parties

Learn to Navigate Holiday Celebrations Smoke-Free

Pouring white wine into glasses
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A reader asks:

I quit smoking a month ago. I'll be going to a couple of holiday parties this month where there will be alcohol and I'm scared to death that I'll smoke when I drink. Smoking and drinking go hand-in-hand for me. What can I do to make sure I don't have a smoking relapse at the parties I attend this year?

Alcohol and Smoking Cessation are Not a Good Mix

You're smart to be concerned. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, and that's not a good thing for a person who is working to quit smoking.

While under the influence of alcohol, it's easy to think that smoking just one or just for tonight is okay and that we can resume our quit programs tomorrow without a problem.

Such has been the ruin of many a good quit.

There is no such thing as "just one" cigarette when it comes to nicotine addiction.

Create a Strategy for Smoke-Free Holiday Parties

You're also smart to be thinking about this scenario in advance. Look ahead at what you may be faced with when attending holiday events this year and formulate a strategy to manage them smoke-free. Preparation fortifies resolve and will allow you to meet the challenges that come with confidence. Use the tips below to help you come up with a plan.

Don't Drink

The obvious first choice is simple: Avoid alcohol entirely. Drink cranberry juice with seltzer water or another non-alcoholic beverage of choice. No one but you and the bartender need to know the difference.

Know Your Limits

If you do drink alcohol, be careful. Limit the amount you consume. For instance, you could substitute every other drink with a glass of sparkling water with lemon. It will dilute the alcohol you've had, keep you hydrated, and will give you something to sip on while socializing. You'll have a much easier time maintaining control if you stay sober.

Plan an Escape Route

If people are smoking close by and it begins to bother you, be proactive. Perhaps you can explain that you've recently quit smoking and ask them to refrain. If that's not comfortable for you, excuse yourself for a few minutes and go to the bathroom or step outside for some fresh air.

When cravings to smoke hit, the key is to quickly change your focus. Interrupt your thoughts and you'll snap yourself out of junkie thinking.

Don't Go

If you're worried about keeping your quit program s at the holiday party this year, consider simply not going.

No, this doesn't mean you need to avoid living your life.  If just means that your top priority this holiday season should be smoking cessation.

Think of it this way...early on, quitting tobacco takes a lot of effort and focus for most people. In order to succeed, your quit program must be in the top slot of your priority list for as long as it takes.

If you fear the temptation to drink will be more than you can handle, don't push it. There will be more parties next year. Give yourself the time you need to heal from this addiction. Do the work now to change your relationship to smoking, and the day will come when drinking alcohol no longer triggers the urge to smoke.

A Word from Verywell

Alcohol and early smoking cessation are not a good mix. It's important to maintain control of our senses when we're learning how to live a smoke-free life, and alcohol puts all of that hard work at risk.  

Quitting smoking is not a sacrifice, it's a gift. You're moving toward a better life, one that is free of addiction and all of the strife that goes with it. You're building a healthier and happier you, and the benefits awaiting you go well beyond what you can probably imagine.

Provide yourself with the best possible environment for success that you can as you move through your first smoke-free holiday season and year.

Do this now, and by the time the holidays roll around next year, smoking will just be something you used to do, not something you miss or wish you could do.

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