Part of what makes cravings seem so terrifying is that they remind us of the all-too-simple infrastructure that our worlds are built upon.
One decision can make or break the new life you’ve built for yourself.
There is something time-stopping about those moments when you feel yourself considering using the drug that you have tried so hard to cut out of your life.
This strong desire to fall back into old habits can last anywhere from a moment of consideration to 15 minutes of agony that feels like 3 hours. Cravings are challenging experiences that will be unique to each individual.
Addiction is a disease. It is therefore a natural part of addiction recovery to experience an intense hunger for drugs or alcohol. You can take care to avoid triggering situations, but cravings can take place even when treatment plans are followed closely.
With that in mind, check out the following tips to help you cope when unexpected urges take over. Additionally, consider the skills you learned when in treatment and what it took to get you through detoxification. What worked well for you? What didn’t? If any of the following tips feel promising, write them down and gather any necessary supplies so that you’ll be ready when a craving hits or if you get put into a triggering situation.
Build a Support System
Beating your cravings is a difficult obstacle, but keeping your struggles to yourself will only make them worse. When you bring others into the arena, you are much more likely to win.
- Be sure to talk to your post-treatment therapist and recovery team to develop a plan that helps you feel confident.
- Talk to your loved ones. People who want to help your recovery will be eager to keep you on the right track.
- Find a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Having a balance between loved ones and people with more objectivity can be useful when navigating unexpected triggers.
Each type of support offers different benefits. Being vulnerable and honest with your loved ones can lead to improved relationships and better communication. On the other hand, it can be extremely helpful to talk to people who can relate to what you are going through. Interacting with people who are at different stages of the recovery process can also be a way to motivate and encourage you to stay accountable.
Cravings Will Pass Sooner Than You Think
When you are experiencing a craving, it might feel like this desire and pain will last forever. In reality, the amount of time that you will feel this intense urge will only last between 5 to 10 minutes. If you can distract yourself, the tempting moments can be sped through.
- Get exercise: Physical activity can boost your energy and provide you with a natural adrenaline rush that can counteract cravings.
- Begin a demanding yet rewarding task that you have been putting off for a while. It can be anything from organizing that overflowing junk drawer to starting a new project for work.
- Watch a movie, listen to music, play a video game, or read a book. Absorb yourself in a world that is separate from your desire to go back to old habits.
Look at the Big Picture
While distracting yourself from your current mental state can be helpful, the opposite can also be beneficial (or find a mix of both!). Mindfulness, reflection, and meditation can be powerful tools.
- Practice meditation and deep breathing. These calming and grounding techniques can help you detach from the strong, irrational emotions that can be overwhelming.
- Keep a journal of your recovery process. When you are hit with a craving, go back to your records and look back at how many times you resisted successfully.
Think over all of the good moments and blessings that have passed between now and the last time you were tempted. If you had given in then, you would have never experienced all of the irreplaceable memories that have followed.
Recall how hard you worked during treatment and detoxification. Imagine yourself going through all of it again just because of this one craving.
Remember what first began your addiction and how quickly and easily a “one-time” or harmless urge became something much more out of your control.
And lastly, if you do give into your craving, remember that recovery is still possible. Talk to your sponsor or therapist. Get yourself back into treatment. Take the relapse as an opportunity to fine-tune your recovery skills. We are here to help.