3 Easy Ways to Quit Nicotine, Caffeine, and Alcohol



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

IF YOU TRUST when vaping to feel calm, drinking coffee or energy drinks to cheer up, or drinking your favorite alcoholic drink to relax a little, all these three common vices can wreak havoc on your health and life, especially because they are so addictive. The good news: we’ve got the roadmap to leaving each one for good. This may take some work, but it will make you feel better.

Escape the vapor

Vaping is designed to keep you addicted, despite the risk of lung damage and even cancer. That’s because vaping “juice,” aka liquid nicotine, is converted into a vapor that is absorbed directly by your lungs and delivered directly into the bloodstream, explains Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., a clinical psychotherapist and addiction expert. This puts your nervous system into a state of hyperarousal that initially feels great. “Unfortunately, this state of euphoria quickly fades, leaving us feeling so exhausted that we’re forced to chase that first high,” says Hokemeyer. Do you want to stop? Try this:

Step 1: Try cold turkey.

“Most people who quit smoking, despite all the different methods of quitting, just throw it out and one day go cold turkey,” says Edwin Salsitz, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai. The same is probably true for vaping. Just be ready. You may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and cravings for a few days, says Dr. Salsitz. Tip: Tylenol helps.

Step 2: Fill the void in a healthy way.

If Tylenol and trying to tolerate withdrawal symptoms just won’t do enough and you’re being driven back to the vape, consider using additional coping tools. Try mental health, yoga, or ask your doctor for anti-craving drugs, says Dr. Hokemeyer. Early evidence shows that CBD may also be helpful, according to a 2017 study on rats in the journal Addiction Biology.

Step 3: Remember it all takes time.

“Quitting vaping is difficult. You can take two steps forward, one step back and another sideways,” says Dr. Hokemeyer. “The goal is getting better, not perfection. If you find yourself reverting to old behavior, try again.” Don’t forget the power of regular exercise, which can provide mood-boosting endorphins, to keep your spirits up.

Remove caffeine

You may think you crave the taste of coffee, soda, or energy drinks, but each sip comes with a nice dose of caffeine for adrenaline and dopamine stimulation. That makes it hard to quit altogether, Dr. Hokemeyer says, especially since caffeine can mask exhaustion, reaching for another cup when the previous one wears off. If you don’t feel alert without your cup or can of choice, find you have trouble sleeping at night, or often feel agitated or anxious, it may be time for intervention, says MH counselor Drew Ramsey, MD, a clinical psychiatrist and addiction specialist. Try this to break that cycle:

Step 1: Improve your sleep.

“If you’re really sluggish in the morning and dependent on caffeine, you have to work really hard to get great quality sleep,” says Drew Ramsey. Make an extra hour (or two!) a priority every night to reduce your dependence on the stimulant. Remember that caffeine has a long half-life, so you should also avoid drinking too much in the afternoon.

Step 2: Set a realistic quit date.

“Set a three- to six-month goal to completely rid yourself of caffeine,” says Dr. Hokemeyer. The idea is to taper off slowly to avoid headaches, irritability and severe fatigue. “The longer and kinder the time frame you give yourself, the better your chances of success.”

Step 3: Get up and turn on otherwise.

The best way to re-energize without an energy drink may be an early workout, Dr. Ramsey says. “Make a very structured and intentional morning for how you’re going to replicate what coffee did for you: wake you up and motivate you.” Extra points if you have a friend, trainer, or group class to hold you accountable.

break up with booze

When drinking is ingrained as a way to socialize, relax, or cope, it makes it even harder to stop, especially if not all of your non-sober friends have the idea. “Only 20 percent of Americans don’t drink alcohol; it is part of the social fabric of the country,” says Dr Salsitz. But while you may drink to change your mood, the downside can be immediate if you do something you later regret. And the next day, a hangover can make you feel worse over time. After all, alcohol is a depressant. Try this to reset in a new way:

Step 1: Be honest about your drinking habits.

The CDC defines risky drinking for men as more than 15 drinks per week. That is the point where you may be creating unintended stress and anxiety for yourself as you begin to suppress your central nervous system. For some, it can make you feel like you need a drink more often. If you’re way above that number, quitting alcohol cold turkey can be difficult or even dangerous, as you’ll experience shakiness, sweating, intense anxiety, and perhaps even worse withdrawal symptoms. If you think you are high on the alcohol use disorder continuum and want to quit, see a doctor or other counseling organization.

Step 2: Reset your worldview.

“’People, places, and things’” is a key phrase in AA,” explains Dr. Salsitz out. If you can’t find a healthy way to limit consumption, think about the people, places, and things around you that encourage you to drink. Then physically remove yourself from those triggers. It may mean finding a running group instead of having a happy hour, or moving meetings with friends from bars to cafes. It can be smart to eliminate alcohol from your home, especially if you find something healthy to drink instead (see Step 3).

Step 3: Give yourself a ‘liquid reward’.

There are non-alcoholic versions of your favorite drinks that will keep you from feeling like an outsider in social settings. If that doesn’t appeal, or feels too stinging, try another liquid refreshment at the end of the day, such as kombucha or seltzer water, to calm your mind. “Kombucha gives me a little sugar and sparkly fizz, a liquid reward to replace that ritualistic aspect without alcohol,” says Dr. Ramsey. “This may be helpful for some people, depending on where they are located.”

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