How to Cope with and manage your cravings for drugs or alcohol:
When an addict finds himself in early recovery, coping with cravings causes difficulty focussing. People deal with craving’s Even people who only use occasionally crave. Sometimes a craving might be so heavy it feels like you are teetering on the edge of an active volcano. The world might as well end if you don’t use. Other times a craving might flow through the mind like the thought of having a slice of pizza. In other words, it’s no big deal.
There are two types of cravings a person will experience while in recovery.
- Overt: when you know that you are experiencing a craving.
- Covert: is when the craving is hidden to you; the addict doesn’t even know that they want alcohol or other drugs. For example; you have been in a meeting for the last 6 hours straight. You have not had a cigarette in 6 hours and you become irritable, edgy, judgmental, obnoxious, and critical of the people you are with and everything just seems to be a little off. Once you are in your car you reach in and grab your cigarettes. You light up and a take that first drag. INHALE…EXHALE… a calm feeling washes over you and you understand just how big a role nicotine plays in your life.
Now let’s examine how cravings are manufactured in our mind.
There are two types of factors that trigger cravings:
- Internal factors which include feelings, thoughts, or physical sensations or emotions
- External factors such as people, places, events and objects which trigger memories of experiences.
It is important to understand that the disease of addiction is enough to cause a craving without first being triggered. Therefore, it is vital for a person in early recovery to take the time and evaluate personal triggers that cause these cravings and then you can develop a strategy that helps you cope with the cravings to use alcohol and drugs.
DANGEROUS FEELINGS occur when our thoughts can build in our minds without taking notice. A thought comes into the mind. The thought persists and nags at our conscious mind. It turns into a dangerous feeling, which develops into a craving. Then the inevitable is manifested; in the form of substance use.
Let me break down the process with this example: A recovering addict has lost his mother and it is the Saturday before Mother’s Day. The addict starts to reminisce about his mother and the thoughts which should be of happiness turn to sadness. He feels he should have lived a better life and made his mom proud of him.
The thoughts have now turned to dangerous feelings of depression and low self-esteem. He begins to crave because he feels the need to alleviate this pain. Therefore it is so important for a person in early recovery to do the work and understand the triggers and dangerous feelings that cause the addict to crave and eventually use.
11 useful ways (broken into 3 categories) an addict can manage Cravings:
- Knowledge: Understanding ways to gain more insight about cravings, such as what cravings are and their triggers, and how they cause the addict to want to use.
- Recognize the signs of your cravings and triggers and label them specifically
- Keep a 3×5 card of cravings in your wallet or purse with a list of positive strategies to offset each craving
- Make yourself aware of high-risk; persons, places, things and situations that should be avoided at all costs. One cannot always avoid a high-risk situation so once determined that a situation could potentially be a high-risk situation have a detailed plan of action ready to follow if a craving ensues.
- Read and re-read literature about recovery, positive change, affirmations, AA, NA texts, or personal experience recovery stories.
- Self: Learning ways in which you, the addict, can reduce cravings and manage them.
- A great action to take is to remove all of the alcohol and drugs as well as drug paraphernalia from the home.
- Learn to accept the fact that the craving will pass with time. Find something to do to occupy your mind exercise, run, read, work on a hobby, etc. Do something active!!!
- Journaling is always a great way to pass the time and the craving. Plus, it gives you a guide of triggers and cravings which might aid in the future.
- Support: Build a sober, network of positive peers to help you throughout your days in early as well as long-term recovery.
- A sober social support network is vital to a successful recovery. A support network is vital to any success.
- Find self-help meetings such as AA; NA; CA, SMART Recovery, Outpatient group meetings, etc.
- Talk about your craving with family, friends, counselor, sponsor, or self-help hotline. (Doing this can provide enough time for the craving to pass and leave your thoughts. Being at a meeting allows a person to hear other people’s strategies to manage cravings.
- If all else fails “white-knuckle it” and PRAY or MEDITATE and ask for the craving to be lifted from your body and mind. Some use the Serenity Prayer at those times: GRANT ME THE SERENITY TO ACCEPT THE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE, THE COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CAN, AND THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE (This can be viewed as an affirmation for those who are not religiously aligned.)
(Disclaimer) NA or AA does not work for everybody because of many different self-interests.
AA and AA are not necessarily affiliated with any religious sect or sects, but sometimes meetings tend to understand “higher power” in their own sense of the term. Basically, Higher Power means a god, and the concept of God can be hard for some people to get behind.
Unfortunately, this perceived affiliation can turn people off and eventually lead to someone’s relapse or overdose. I am not saying that AA or NA meetings are essential to recovery, but it doesn’t hurt to check them out. Take only what works for you and leave the rest. This is a self-focused program and someone else’s opinion should not be a barrier to your recovery.
If AAor NA is not your cup of tea, check out SMART Recovery Groups.
“The SMART Recovery 4-Point Program® has tools and techniques which focus on four areas:
- Building and maintaining motivation
- Coping with urges
- Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
- Living a balanced life
Do whatever it takes. You will be happy in the long run.
How to manage cravings and cope with urges – further reading: