There is no doubt that tobacco addiction is extremely destructive in its own passive way, supposedly killing more than all other addictive substances combined. But most of us in recovery do not put it on the same level as these other substances (such as alcohol or prescription painkillers), and in reality, we really should not. This is a big part of what makes addiction to tobacco so subtle and deadly.
The reason we should not put it at the same level as other drugs is because it does not affect us in the same way. Cigarettes are not mood altering in the same way as alcohol is. They are also not mood altering in the way that other addictive drugs are.
For example, smoking marijuana has the power to change your mood instantly. It is a dramatic effect that you cannot even come close to getting with tobacco. The same is true of alcohol, opiates, or cocaine. These drugs can alter your mood very quickly, making them much more powerful from an addictive perspective than tobacco products.
Now we all know that tobacco is addictive. In fact, it is much more addictive than these other drugs. But it does not send an addict off to the races. For example, take a recovering alcoholic. Have him smoke a fat joint and pop a couple of pain pills. Guess what? Within a week that person will be drunk. The addictive drugs always drive us back to our drug of choice, and quickly. If a drug does not do this, then it is not what we call “mood altering.”
So, because tobacco does not elicit this relapse response in recovering addicts and alcoholics, it is a very dangerous drug. We all know it is OK to keep smoking cigarettes in recovery, just as long as you do not use drugs or alcohol. This is the general mindset that hovers over the recovery community. You can even see it in treatment centers and drug rehabs, most of which continue to let clients smoke cigarettes.
If you are trying to live a healthy life in recovery, then it is this subtle mindset that you must overcome. It is no longer OK to light up a cigarette and justify it with “well at least I am not drinking or using hard drugs.” This type of excuse and rationalization will end up killing you. If you are in recovery, you owe it to yourself to live a healthier and longer life.
Sure, you could continue to smoke. And your recovery will not suffer much. But your life will.