The Curse of Cravings
If you have gone through treatment and regained your sobriety, you may be hoping for clear sailing ahead. And why not? The drugs or alcohol are out of your system, and you have strategies and resources for maintaining your sobriety. Stick to the plan, and all will be well, right?
Oh, if only it were always that simple. But unfortunately, it often is not.
And the reason it isn’t always simple comes down to a single word: cravings.
It is essential to remember that a substance use disorder is a treatable—but not curable—brain disease. That means that the potential for relapse is always present, and the threat of it often manifests as strong cravings—your body and brain’s way of telling you that it would be a great idea to give up your sobriety and return to drug or alcohol use.
Of course, it decidedly would not be a great idea to give up your sobriety. You already know that.
But sometimes the cravings make a mighty convincing case. It might sometimes seem impossible to resist them. But it isn’t.
Here are some key strategies for keeping the cravings at bay—and for riding them out when they do arise.
Go to Meetings, Call Your Sponsor, Go to Therapy
Have you ever heard a sports announcer suggest that the team has returned to “focusing on the fundamentals”? It means that a team that has been struggling has decided to get back to basics so they can build a firmer foundation for future success.
Something similar applies to staying on top of cravings when you are in recovery. The foundational practices—going to 12-Step (or other recovery program) meetings, calling your sponsor when you are struggling, and sticking with therapy to help address co-occurring mental health disorders—are so important.
And when it comes to these sorts of things, remember that you can always add more to your schedule when you are having a difficult time. Do you normally go to meetings on Tuesday but find yourself struggling with cravings on a Thursday? Find a Thursday meeting and go. Have a plan to have coffee with your sponsor in a few days but you could really use a friendly voice of encouragement right now? Reach out right away. Not scheduled to see your therapist for another couple of weeks, but you are struggling this week? Make a call to see if you can get an appointment sooner.
Make Up Your Mind to Employ Mindfulness
There is a specific kind of mindfulness meditation known as “urge surfing” that can be particularly helpful when cravings arise. Mindfulness practice involves focusing on the present moment as a way to lessen your tendency to replay past mistakes or worry about the future. When practicing mindfulness, you are encouraged to be curious—but not judgmental—about your thoughts and feelings.
The technique known as urge surfing encourages you to be aware of how your body experiences cravings. By focusing your attention and describing to yourself how cravings make the body feel, you can find yourself feeling more in control of the situation—and less likely to give into the craving.
Don’t Mistake Temptation for Failure
We started this conversation by acknowledging that it would be nice if going through treatment resulted in clear sailing once your recovery is underway. But again, that is seldom what those who suffer from a substance use disorder experience.
Understanding that cravings are a common experience is important. It can sometimes feel as though the cravings themselves are a failure, but that is not the case at all. Remembering that many people experience cravings—and manage them effectively—is a helpful way to give yourself some grace when you find yourself in that situation.
The cravings might be strong. You can be stronger.
If You Are Craving Help, We Are Here For You
At The Aviary Recovery Center, we are prepared to provide care grounded in compassion and expertise. We will help you regain your sobriety via medically supervised detoxification and a rehabilitation program that includes group and individual therapy and addresses any co-occurring mental health disorders that may be in play. We are also wholly committed to a continuum of care, which means you can count on our ongoing support as you begin your recovery journey.
If what you are craving is sobriety, we are here to help you satisfy that need.