How To Cope with Alcohol and Drug Craving During Recovery
Anyone who has experienced addiction will also encounter cravings and urges. These can be very powerful but normal feelings, and fortunately, they abate over time. drug craving
When cravings onset, especially in early recovery, they can be quite intense. However, each craving and urge you experience will subside if you wait it out and employ coping skills for relapse prevention. Also, over time, these feeling will decrease in intensity and frequency.
For most addicts, cravings and urges to use substances invoke automatic reactions. These responses play out in the subconscious, where the brain decides that it wants to use, and therefore, it MUST use. Learning to subdue and overcome these innate desires are among the most difficult challenges that recovering addicts face. The good news is this – you can gain an understanding of these urges and learn how to find ways to defeat them.
The Cycle of Cravings
While craving severity and intensity will vary from person to person, there is a common pattern that most people in recovery experience:
Response to a trigger or cue(s). Triggers may include a person, situation, event or sensory experience (i.e., sound or smell.) Basically, cues arise from exposure to any stimuli that is a reminder of addictive behavior, including bars, clubs, or anywhere using substances used to be commonplace. It is the trigger that sets the cycle of craving in motion.
Obsessive thoughts. When cravings arise, the person reestablishes a connection to substances and the memories of using and past addictive behaviors. The most thoughts that manifest, the more difficult it comes to subdue them and not act upon them.
The craving. A craving, or urge to use, is physical, emotional, and mental. The mental/emotional aspect of a craving initiates a stress response, which results in which the person feels a compulsion to get drunk or high – namely, the desired effects of their substance of choice.
The physical aspect of craving induces a different stress response that may include increased heart rate, sweating, and shortness of breath.
This is when the urge to use becomes very intense and it becomes very difficult to avoid acting on the cravings.
But as intense as a craving cycle may be, you do not have to lose control. You can’t completely avoid triggers, but you can learn how to intervene during the urge response. By learning how to avoid reacting adversely to the trigger, you will avoid relapse, feel more in control, and confident as you continue throughout the recovery process.
Techniques to Avoid Relapse Due to Cravings
Using the following strategies, you can employ the coping skills necessary to resist urges and cravings as they manifest, and eventually regain control of your reactions and quell addictive feelings and behaviors altogether.
Accept that you must deal with adverse symptoms during recovery, such as unpleasant urges and cravings. Realize that these feeling are normal and that you will have to live with some discomfort during this process – it’s inevitable. Furthermore, know you will survive it.
Delay your reaction. Cravings and urges rapidly come and go over time unless you entertain them. Most will be have disappeared within about 15 minutes, and if they are not, you may be allowing yourself to remain exposed to the trigger that is invoking cravings.
If you refuse to give in, however, the cravings will subside. Once you have defeated an urge by acting upon it, you know that you can do it again. Therefore, over time, cravings and urges will reduce in quantity and intensity. Simply put, wait for them to pass.
Escape from the environment contributing to the urges. For example, avoid the wine aisle in supermarkets and politely bid adieu to a backyard cookout with a keg. Sometimes this could be as simple as turning the channel temporarily when a commercial is featuring beer or liquor.
Use techniques to adopt new, more rational, beliefs. A new belief, or counter statement, is necessary to help you battle your “irrational” cravings and urges. These exercises can help you identify past situations that fed your addiction and develop effective methods for defeating them when they reoccur.
Substitute a troubling thought or urge with positive thoughts and distraction. Namely, spend your time on something more productive, such as listening to music or engaging in exercise. To prepare, write down a list of options that will be available for reference if you need it on the fly. Pick one to act upon until the craving has subsided.
Get Help Today
If you or someone you love is abusing substances, please seek treatment as soon as possible. There are many resources available to help you or your loved one.
Please call us today at 888-380-0342 for a free consultation.
~ Nathalee G. Serrels, M.A., Psychology,