Fighting cravings is perhaps the biggest challenge in recovery. A craving is no mere desire. It’s the feeling that you must have something. At first, cravings are triggered by the pain of withdrawal. During detox, you know you only need to use again and the pain will stop. Later on, cravings are triggered by anything you associate with drugs or alcohol. You may walk past a bar and even though you know you shouldn’t go in, the part of your brain that associates walking to the bar with drinking gets excited. Once you’ve triggered memories and anticipation of using, it can be hard to think of anything else. Here are some ways of dealing with cravings.
Know your triggers. The first thing is to know what causes your cravings. It’s different for everyone, but stress and anxiety are common triggers. Spending time with people who still drink or use is another one. A trigger can be anything that reminds you of using. Pay attention to when your cravings strike and see if you can figure out what caused them. The more you can avoid those triggers, the fewer cravings you will have.
Accept when you feel a craving. No matter how carefully you avoid triggers, you will still have some cravings. Instead of trying to push it away or ignore it, accept that you are experiencing a craving. Know that it’s not your fault. Something just reminded you of using and your brain automatically started craving. Trying to ignore it or push it away will only make the craving more insistent. Try to adopt an attitude that you’ve received and understood the message but you won’t be using. Try exploring where in your body you feel the craving–in your stomach? Your throat? Try relaxing those areas and see how you feel.
Play the tape. Remember that the anticipation and immediate relief are the only good parts. Think through what the next hours, days, and weeks will look like if you give in to a craving. Remember how it felt to desperately want to stop using, and use that feeling to fight the craving.
Call someone. You don’t have to go through a craving alone. Call someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, your sponsor, or your therapist and tell her how you’re feeling. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Remember that it’s temporary. No matter how intense a craving is, remember that it won’t last. It might feel like it will just keep getting worse, but it will usually get weaker and go away. It may come back later, but you will never have a craving that just keeps getting stronger for a long period of time.
Get some exercise. Cravings are often associated with stress and anxiety. Exercise is a great way to calm down quickly. It can also take your mind off your cravings. Once you’ve acknowledged what you’re feeling, there’s no reason to sit around feeling anxious. Go for a walk or run. If you can exercise in nature, that’s even better. Natural surroundings reduce stress and anxiety.
Smarmore Castle Private Clinic in County Louth, near Dublin was founded in 1988 as a residential rehabilitation hospital treating people suffering from drug and alcohol purposes. Smarmore Castle believes in helping patients lead a life of abstinence through 12 Step programmes, detox and medical treatment, psychotherapy, and complementary therapies. For more information, please call 041-214-5111. For those who live out of the country, the international number is 00353-41-214-5111.
Last updated & clinically assessed 30 March, 2022