Crafting a non smoker
May 29, 2014 4:50 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I want to quit smoking together. In the evening we like to sit on the back deck and shoot the breeze for hours whilst mindlessly smoking and drinking crappy beer and crappy wine. We love this ritual, but know it's unhealthy. My idea was to switch to quality over quantity. I thought we could make a go of sampling really good craft beers instead of the piss water we currently drink, thus giving us the ritual of sharing a drink and getting an oral fix trying by savoring new flavor profiles. I figure from the money we would save not buying smokes and quantities of cheap beer/wine we could get smaller quantities of really good stuff. If we keep with the junk we drink I know we will have too much association with the smoking, so I thought maybe a different flavor would help disassociate, hence buying the really good stuff. We love the ritual of having an adult beverage, but do not do it for the sake of getting buzzed or drunk. It's how we unwind together after a long day. Two part question: Is this a bad idea? If not, we know nothing about craft beers, so we wouldn't even know what to try or where to begin. What are some good resources for learning more about really tasty beer? Any recommendations?
posted by MayNicholas to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you change the location, even if temporarily? Perhaps just shift stuff around on the deck, or move the chairs to some other part of your property? More change will be better, to avoid the trigger effect.

As to learning more about craft beers: knowing your location will help the answers immeasurably.
posted by pompomtom at 4:58 AM on May 29, 2014

I don't think it will make any difference: alcohol will make you want to smoke, period. If you want to drink better beer, go ahead and do so, but I don't think you will get any relief from so doing.
posted by thelonius at 5:02 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Location: South Eastern US.
posted by MayNicholas at 5:05 AM on May 29, 2014

Is this a bad idea?

I don't know. Sure sounds like fun. You'll find out if you can't drink without dying for a cigarette but I think the idea to disconnect from the ritual on a sensory level is a good one.

I'd try here and either aim to go through the top 250, or pick the best of a certain style (hefewiezens are nice in the summer, as are pilsners) and learn about that category, then move on. Heads up that some craft beers can be crazy expensive on occasion so if you find one that's just ridiculous, you could just skip that one and go on to the next, slightly cheaper one.

Cocktails might also be worth trying. Looking at other sensory cues about the space you sit in, adding flowers or plants or something, or dressing up (ridiculously or otherwise) might be fun and might help to further disconnect the whole thing from 'smoking time'. OR you could wear clothes that you'd only wear in a place you couldn't smoke.

Good luck!
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:10 AM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

As to knowing nothing about craft beers, that's where everyone usually starts out. Just start trying new stuff. Find out what local microbreweries are near you, and go do tastings to figure out what kind of beer you like other than generic "beer." Breweries and Brewpubs seems like a good link for finding stuff near you, but you could google your location and "breweries" or "microbreweries" and come up with good hits, too.

I also used to listen to the Beer School podcast for beer knowledge and opinions, but I think it might be done/defunct.
posted by pepper bird at 5:10 AM on May 29, 2014

If you're in a reasonably sized city there will be some sort of bottle shop around that stocks local craft beers. This is a huge trend right now with a rabidly devoted fanbase. Do some googling to find out where beer is sold in your town and go in there and talk to them. They will absolutely love the opportunity to indoctrinate you into the craft beer scene.
posted by something something at 5:11 AM on May 29, 2014

Changing habits to help quit smoking is a great idea. A buddy of mine quit after almost 40 years of heavy smoking, so don't lose heart! He definitely changed his drinking habits -- he used to always have vodka, and now it's bourbon and beer. He also picked up eating fruit, and now eats a lot of fruit in stressful situations where previously he would smoke.

I don't know a ton about craft beer, but maybe there is a big beer/liquor store in your area that you could go to (perhaps near a college?) and you could just pick something even at random -- just whatever catches your eye. Over time as you keep doing that you will find out what you like.
posted by rollin at 5:15 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

More change will be better, to avoid the trigger effect.

Yeah, absolutely this. While I think this is a good plan, you need something on top of switching to a better beer to keep yourself from getting trigger-y cravings. If a change of venue is out of the question then definitely change the furniture around and sit in a different spot like pompomtom suggests. The closer the circumstances are to when you smoked, the more likely you'll crave a cigarette, the harder it will be to give it up.

Also, on top of better beer, add something else to the ritual: some fancy cheese and charcuterie and a bit of fruit. Nothing super-fancy or expensive. Just something nice and satisfying to stick in your hand/mouth when you instinctively go to light a cigarette after a sip of beer or whatever.
posted by griphus at 5:30 AM on May 29, 2014 [9 favorites]

If you're near Atlanta, memail me, and I can give you some beer store recommendations. :)

We like going to the growler stores here, because many of them will give you small tastes before you buy, so you can try a couple different ones before you find one you like. Also, some of the growler stores sell individual craft beers, so you can buy one or two instead of 4 or 6, and try them.

What type of beer are you currently drinking? Are you looking for something completely different?

I'm currently reading "The Naked Pint : An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer" which talks about the different kinds of beer and their general taste profiles. I thought I only liked stouts and porters before I started in on this, and now I've tried some lighter beers that are really good (turns out I was just trying the wrong light beers!)

and yes to what Griphus says - maybe add some cheese & crackers. There are so many awesome cheeses out there...
posted by needlegrrl at 5:32 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a clueless university student who liked beer for the taste but not for the drunkenness, I just grabbed a 6 pack of something new and crafty every week. Sometimes I liked it, sometimes I hated it, but it was always something I could share with people and we could discover stuff. I never felt the need to buy cheap crap because well...that's not why I was drinking.

I've got a few beers I gravitate to now, but it was a lot of fun and has made me a lot more confident in picking something I like when we go to a brewery/pub.

Also, try going on brewery tours! They're fun, and smoking isn't allowed. You usually get to taste test too.
posted by aggyface at 5:33 AM on May 29, 2014

Thank you for the suggestions so far! I love the idea of switching up the venue a bit too. Now I have the bug in my ear to get some highly fragrant flowers for the deck that we could enjoy as well! Easy, pleasant and another sense we can focus on enjoying!
posted by MayNicholas at 5:41 AM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Can you try playing cards, or Jenga, or a jigsaw puzzle, or take turns churning ice cream for dessert, or knitting/sewing/crafting something together while you have your beer?

Even if only for a few weeks, just to give your hands something to do while you socialize and have your beer. Learning to impressively shuffle a deck of cards could be a three-week goal, for instance.
posted by Ollie at 5:58 AM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

If beer has an association with smoking for the two of you, I'm not so sure that upping the quality of your beers will do anything positive -- you'll still associate drinking with smoking. Note that we're talking about two highly addictive substances -- nicotine and alcohol.

If you want to get into craft beers, I'd suggest you don't do so on your deck. Go to brewery tastings or little local restaurants that brew their own beer. In most states you can't smoke in restaurants anymore, and it will change your environment so that you don't have your deck as a trigger. I'm not sure where in the southeastern US you are, but during a recent visit to my in-laws in the Raleigh/Durham area, I was very surprised to have been invited to a beer "tasting" at a liquor store (you had to buy a full pint; to me this is not a "tasting," to me a "tasting" is where you get a bunch of shot glasses of different beers and maybe THEN order a pint of the one you liked best -- but I'm getting off-topic).

If you want to stay on the deck, maybe ditch the beer for a time and try some other activities on your deck time as previously suggested -- board or card games, reading (the same or different books for each of you), bird watching/observing local wildlife, fruit and cheese and crackers... Once you've been successful at kicking the smoking habit, maybe then add back some craft beers (or wines) and hope it doesn't bring back the cravings.

Best of luck.
posted by tckma at 6:15 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about stepping away from beers entirely, to really break the connection? If you enjoy hard liquor, a nice small glass of something like bourbon or scotch can be savored for quite a while. Or if that's too intense, perhaps port or sherry or cider?
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:28 AM on May 29, 2014

This is kind of orthogonal to your question, but I found that heavy-weight wooden toothpicks were useful to address my oral stimulation fix while I was quitting smoking. Health food stores often have them laced with cinnamon oil or mint oil or tea tree oil, but you probably don't want those flavors if you're enjoying tasty beers or other drinks.

But yeah, I'm with others in thinking you may want to break more cleanly from the ancillary habits around this ritual, at least for a while, and then slowly return to the ritual in a different way. I like changing the furniture around, and would suggest maybe finding a different ritual entirely, perhaps around an entirely different beverage. You might make tea, for example, and get into the ceremony around that. Or explore making some really fussy cocktails.

Good luck to you. I've been quit for about five years (with occasional lapses) and I still want a cigarette just about every time I drink beer with friends, or drive in my car. Breaking the ancillary habits is key.
posted by gauche at 6:45 AM on May 29, 2014

A craft beer, on the back porch, near some sweet-smelling flowers, while you eat some nice cheese and learn how to fancy-shuffle...

Can I come over and be friends with you?
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:52 AM on May 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think it sounds nice. You could substitue ciggies for celery and dip, or an appetizer for dinner, or cheese, etc.

It's getting nice out, perhaps you can dine Al Fresco entirely. Perhaps put a grill out there, and do all your dinners on it. So you have things to do while you're outside, enjoying the evenign.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:55 AM on May 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd also add some fancy and/or healthy snacks to the ritual to help divert the oral fixation when it hits. If you can afford it go a fancy new outdoor setting, or even just new cushions a coat of paint or something on the ones you have and rearrange them you want to shake up the cues you have for sitting on the porch as a signal to smoke. Make sure you remove all ashtrays. matches etc as well, so if you want to smoke it's a pain as you'll have to get up and go inside and find them go "bugger that" and have a nice snack instead.
posted by wwax at 7:28 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you can buy craft beer outside of a sixpack-- that might let you sample a few different ones more easily. I'd say for switching up from cheap beer, try an Amber or an IPA (but avoid anything listed as "aggressively" hoppy). Also frozen grapes or berries to help the oral fixation.

This sounds fun. Good luck!
posted by travertina at 7:43 AM on May 29, 2014

Thank you for the game idea! We have a scrabble board, actually a zillion board games, just collecting dust!

We'll pass on the hard liquor. Neither of us has a tolerance or stomach for it, thanks to our 20's.
We also have no desire to go out to a bar or restaurant because we have a beautiful mountain view and love it!
posted by MayNicholas at 9:14 AM on May 29, 2014

Just a thought, but have you considered e-cigs? I've been cutting down on my smoking a lot lately, and I find them to be a really useful substite for smoking, especially for 'ritualistic' cigarettes (in the pub, with a coffee at the weekend etc). Obviously, the down side is that you remain addicted to nicotine, but I found the biggest stumbling block to quitting was the 'oh, a cigarette would be so nice now and I always have one with my coffee' feeling.
posted by Ned G at 5:55 AM on May 30, 2014

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