3 Simple Ways to Quit Nicotine, Caffeine, and Alcohol

Image credit: GETTY IMAGES; Chloe Caramel / Men’s Health Illustration

You’ve heard about the great quitting, but quitting your job is just one way that throwing in the towel can be a great way to move forward. This story is part of men’s health A series on how real-life quitters became winners – and how you can join them.

whether you depend When vaping to feel calm, drinking coffee or energy drinks for rejuvenation, or ditching your favorite alcoholic beverage to relax a bit, all three of these very common vices can ruin your health and your life—especially because they are addictive. The good news: We have a step-by-step plan for getting rid of all of them for good. This may take some work, but you will feel better.

Escape from the vape

Vaping is designed to keep you hooked despite the risk of lung damage and even cancer. That’s because vape “juice,” also known as liquid nicotine, is converted into a vapor that is directly absorbed by your lungs and delivered directly into your bloodstream, explains Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, a clinical psychotherapist and addiction expert. This puts your nervous system into an overactive state that feels good at first. “Unfortunately, this euphoric state fades away so quickly that we feel so drained that we have to keep pursuing that initial high,” Hokemeyer says. Want to stop? try this:

Step 1: Try cold turkey.

“Most people who end up quitting smoking tobacco, despite all the different ways to quit, simply quit and quit smoking one day,” says Edwin Salsitz, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai. The same probably applies to vaping. Just be prepared. You may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and cravings for a few days, says Dr. Salsitz. Hint: Tylenol helps.

Step 2: Fill in the blank the healthy way.

If Tylenol and trying to tolerate withdrawal symptoms aren’t doing enough and you’re back to vape, consider bringing additional conditioning tools. Try a mental health counseling, yoga, or ask your doctor an anti-craving medication, says Dr. Hochmeyer. Early evidence suggests that CBD may also be beneficial, according to a 2017 study in mice published in the journal The biology of addiction.

Step 3: Remember that it all takes time.

“Quitting vaping is hard. You can take two steps forward, one step back, and one sideways,” says Dr. Hochmeyer. “The goal is to maximize the best, not perfection. If you find yourself drifting into old behaviors, try again.” To keep your spirits high, don’t forget the power of regular exercise, which can provide mood-boosting endorphins.

Abstain from caffeine

You might think you’re craving coffee, soda, or energy drinks, but every sip comes with a nice dose of caffeine to kick up your adrenaline and dopamine. This makes it difficult to quit smoking completely, Dr. Hokemeyer says, especially since caffeine can mask fatigue, and you reach for another cup when the previous one wears off. If you don’t feel alert without a cup or can of your choice, find yourself struggling to sleep at night, or often feel jittery or anxious, it may be time to step in, he says. MH Counselor Drew Ramsey, psychiatrist and addiction specialist. To break this loop, try this:

Step 1: Improve your sleep.

“If you’re really slow in the morning and rely on caffeine, you really need to work hard on excellent sleep quality,” says Drew Ramsey. Make getting an extra hour (or two!) every night a priority to reduce your dependence on stimulant. Just remember that caffeine has a long half-life, so you should also avoid drinking it excessively in the afternoon.

Step 2: Set a realistic date to quit smoking.

“Set a goal of three to six months to completely eliminate caffeine,” Dr. Hochmeyer says. The idea is to go down slowly to avoid headaches, irritability, and extreme fatigue. “The longer and gentler the time frame you give yourself, the better your chances of success.”

Step 3: Climb up and rotate differently.

The best way to revitalize the body without an energy drink may be early exercise, says Dr. Ramsey. “Create a highly structured, intentional morning of how you repeat what coffee used to do for you: wake you up and motivate you.” Bonus points if you have a friend, coach, or group exercise class to hold you accountable.

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When drinking is ingrained as a means of socializing, relaxing, or coping, quitting becomes more difficult—especially if not all of your non-sober friends are on the idea. Only 20 percent of Americans do not drink alcohol. “It’s part of the country’s social fabric,” says Dr. Salsitz. But while you may drink to change your mood, the downside can be immediate if you do something you’ll regret later. And drinking too much alcohol the next day can make you feel worse over time. Alcohol, after all, causes depression. To reset in a new way, try this:

Step 1: Be honest about your drinking habits.

The CDC defines risky drinking for men as having more than 15 drinks per week. This is the point at which you may create unintended tension and anxiety on yourself because you have started to depress your central nervous system. For some, this can lead to the feeling of needing a drink more often. If you’re much higher than that number, quitting cold alcohol can be difficult or even dangerous because you’ll deal with shakiness, sweating, intense anxiety, and possibly even worse withdrawal symptoms. Consult a doctor or other counseling organization if you think you have a high level of alcohol use disorder and want to quit smoking.

Step 2: Reset your view of the world.

Dr. Salsitz explains that the phrase “people, places, and things” is a key phrase in American English. If you can’t find a healthy way to reduce consumption, think about the people, places, and things near you that make you drink. Then physically remove yourself from those triggers. That could mean finding a jogging group instead of having a happy hour, or moving get-togethers with friends from bars to coffee shops. It can be smart to remove the alcohol from your place, especially if you find something healthy to settle on instead (see step 3).

Step 3: Give yourself a “liquid reward.”

There are non-alcoholic versions of your favorite drink, which can help you not feel like an outsider in social settings. If that’s not appealing, or too exciting, try new liquid moisturizers at the end of the day—like kombucha or soda—to trick your brain into backing out. “Kombucha gives me a bit of sugar and a sparkling fizz, a liquid bonus to replace that ritual aspect without alcohol,” says Dr. Ramsay. “This can be beneficial for some people depending on where they are.”

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