Smoking, alcohol, prescription drugs, marijuana, and other illicit drugs are sometimes thought of simply as vices, and vices are no one's business but your own. I want to argue that they are more than that to you. I want to suggest that this period of homelessness puts you in a position where you need to be the very best you can be as much of the time as possible. Addictions send us down a bleak road.
Leaving aside the legitimate and important concerns about health, tobacco addiction costs you money, lately as much as some illegal drug habits might cost. In some states a pack of cigarettes costs ten dollars. Most smokers smoke a pack a day. That is as much as $300 per month. That cost is the same as all your other expenses combined except food and gasoline. That is cell phone, gym membership, storage, mailbox, car insurance, and entertainment. You can have all that or cigarettes, or you can work twice as hard to support both.
There's another problem with smoking. You have to do it twenty times a day. It distracts you from other tasks. All other activities get structured around it. That's unacceptable. You simply have too much to do to assure that you are comfortable to have any habits that interfere with your goals. You must resent losses of time. Ferret them out and ban them from your life.
Once you are under your cover for the night, getting out to smoke makes you vulnerable to being observed, and lighting up in the car will make the vehicle glow like a lantern. Airflow in the car is almost nonexistent while it is covered, even if you roll the windows down, so you will soon find yourself choking on your own secondhand smoke.
Cigarettes will make you a social pariah these days. One of the primary goals I've been encouraging you to pursue is a level of invisibility. You don't want negative attention for a habit. It gets people looking at you. It is a reason to deny you employment or deny you services.
Cigarette smoking is painful. It is painful every time it has been too long since your last cigarette. It is painful during cold season when you pick up any virus that is going around, and keep the illnesses long after a nonsmoker would have recovered. Believe me, there are enough sources of pain, with trying to keep warm, stay cool, avoid fights, and get enough money for food. This is a stark lifestyle. Small things can really make a difference in how happy you are. Cigarettes are not a small discomfort. They are a major discomfort.
You really should consider not drinking at all. There are few drugs that impair you the way alcohol does. Inhibitions are suspended. Judgment and motor skills are impaired. Aggressive tendencies are enhanced to violence. Depression can be caused or deepened by drinking. This is not a drug to play with while homeless. This is a drug that promises misery. If you really want to drink, drink moderately. Don't get drunk.
Prescription sedatives, narcotics, and tranquilizers
My main objections to the use of these drugs, even if obtained legally, are the risk of addiction and the dulling of responses. You may need all of your faculties at any moment in this lifestyle. If you've popped 10mg of valium, how capable are you of assessing the tactical needs of the moment? How easily can you put those tactics into practice? Use prescriptions for medical reasons only.
Much safer than alcohol, marijuana still has its share of significant problems. On the positive side, stoners don't go looking for a fight. On the negative side, you are likely to have more contacts with police than the average citizen because of your homelessness. If you have pot, you have more to fear from the cops. An irritating rousting can become a significant legal problem.
Marijuana costs a lot of money, and you have to deal with criminals to get it. Pot dealers are often armed, and often deal other drugs as well, so while stoners may be non-violent you may be coming into contact with methamphetamine users. Meth users are frequently irrational, enter rages unpredictably, and can easily become violent. The potential for problems, violence or arrest, involved in scoring make marijuana use an unacceptable risk.
And there is always the lantern factor as you light up at nighttime in your covered car. Once stoned your ability to deal with cops and thieves is impaired. You wake up less easily, and react more slowly. Marijuana takes away your edge in a conflict.
Violence, dull senses, impaired judgment, risk of arrest, loss of time and energy, monetary expense, if this list of disadvantages does not persuade you that staying clean is necessary for success in homelessness, then I don't know what will.
I know how hard it is to beat an addiction. Quitting smoking was the hardest thing I've ever done. This lifestyle is an opportunity for you, though. Homelessness demands careful self-examination, intense self-knowledge, because it is through that knowledge that you will win in conflicts, and keep yourself happy and healthy. This same self-knowledge is the key to defeating addiction.