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.
Not to get depressing or philosophical, but there is something time-stopping about those unspeakable seconds that can take over as 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 feel like 3 hours. Cravings are challenging experiences that will be unique to each individual which is how most of the recovery process usually plays out.
Since addiction is a biological disease and not a response to a lack of self-control or will-power; it is okay to experience “an intense hunger for drugs or alcohol” because it is a natural part of addiction recovery. You should definitely take care to avoid triggering situations, but cravings can take place even when treatment plans are followed closely. This is an unfortunate effect of fully cleansing yourself from the hold that the substance used to have over your body.
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 or 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 it inside of yourself will only make it worse–it can be an unending and exhausting battle. 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 center team to develop a plan that you feel confident in.
- 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 about between 5 to 10 minutes. If you can distract yourself, the tempting moments can be sped through.
- Get exercise: “Physical activity, even in short bursts, can help boost your energy and beat a craving” (Smoke Free).
- 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 to some, the opposite can be beneficial for others (or find a mix of both!). Since the act of beating cravings can often manifest itself as a mental battle, 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 and out of your control.
Your possibly life-changing craving might last 20 minutes or maybe nothing more than a couple of heartbeats, but it could be that golden second that follows your decision to resist the drug that keeps you from giving in the next time that a craving hits.