Caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes are very physically addictive. However, they are also very ‘socially’ addictive. This means that we often associate our social activities with the daily use of these substances. For example:
- You may always have a coffee and a cigarette at morning tea, or perhaps your friends go outside to have a ‘smoko’ and a chat. If you don’t join them, you will miss out on enjoyable social conversation (or the latest gossip).
- Perhaps you always meet others for drinks on a Friday night, or always come home and have a beer, or a glass of wine, to ‘wind down’.
- You and your partner always enjoy a cigarette after dinner (or even after sex!).
These types of social rituals can also apply to when people use marijuana and other recreational drugs, such as taking ectasy when going to a dance party.
The following are some self help strategies that may assist you in dealing with the ‘social’ part of your habit and/or addiction, whatever this may involve. These aim to be a starting point for you to work from, to help you and your new baby during the pre-conceptual, pregnancy and breastfeeding stages.
These can include:
- Trying to replace tea and coffee with decaffeinated brands, drinking herbal teas or green tea. (These have no or low caffeine levels)
- Replacing soft drinks with caffeine (such as colas and some energy drinks) with sparkling or flavoured mineral waters, soda water (with lemon or lime juice for taste) or fruit juices.
- Replacing the act of smoking with doing something else (for example, reading a magazine or a book) to distract you. This may be particularly helpful if you always have a ‘cuppa’ or a coffee with a cigarette.
- Associating something else with taking a break, resting, relaxing or trying to cope with stress. When these situations arise, try sitting quietly and doing a 3 – 5 minute relaxation exercise or a visualisation, to replace the cigarette, coffee or alcoholic drink. Other people find that keeping busy helps them, such as knitting, drawing, or going for a walk.
- Replacing alcohol with mineral or soda water and bitters or lime. You can drink this in a wine glass or try non-alcoholic wine or fruit juice. You may switch to low alcohol beer, or have a coke without the scotch or bourbon.
- Trying to plan outings to alternative venues rather than to bars, pubs or parties. These environments place you in direct contact with drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes (and perhaps other recreational drugs). You could try going to the movies, going out to dinner, or catching up with friends over breakfast or lunch in cafes (in the smoke free areas).
- Discussing with your partner the possibility of them stopping (or cutting down) on their own smoking, drinking etc. If they will support you in this way, it will help you to give up and reduce any potential relationship conflicts.
- Sharing your thoughts and concerns with someone you trust. Some women find trying to conceive and being pregnant stressful times in their lives. When you combine this with giving up a substance (especially when it is associated with reducing or releasing stress), it can be very difficult. Having a supportive network and/or seeking professional counselling may also help you during this time.