Deciding to get sober is a significant accomplishment. While your newfound sobriety can bring happiness, relief, and new adventures, it can also have its challenges.
Leaving a drug and alcohol inpatient treatment center means facing the “real world” again. With that often comes triggers. While you can work to identify and overcome triggers, you cannot completely avoid them. Unfortunately, triggers can lead to cravings, even when you have years sober. Learning to handle your cravings in recovery is crucial to your long-lasting sobriety.
What Are Cravings?
A craving is a strong desire for something. In recovery, this means you may have a strong desire to use drugs or alcohol again. Cravings can appear different for every person and may look like:
- Being in a state where you are focused on acquiring drugs or alcohol
- A desire to drink or use given the opportunity
- A psychological want for the positive effects of drugs or alcohol
What Causes Cravings?
A trigger is a stimulus that sparks a craving. Triggers are the people, places, and things that make you want to use drugs or alcohol. Triggers vary from person to person but typically fall into four categories:
#1. Pattern: These are the places and things that incite the desire for drugs and alcohol. Pattern triggers can include certain times of the day, the season, or significant events.
#2. Social: Social triggers can be a single person or a larger group of people that have become associated with drug use. When you encounter these individuals, you may have cravings to use.
#3. Emotional: Drug and alcohol use often has emotional roots; they are usually used to self-medicate for mental health issues. Emotional triggers are feelings that have become related to drug use. When these feelings are present, cravings tend to emerge.
#4. Withdrawal: While most triggers are psychologically conditioned, withdrawal triggers are biological responses to a lack of the substance in your body. Withdrawal triggers will usually occur in the days and weeks that follow substance use as the body works to return to its balance.
Dealing with drug or alcohol cravings years into sobriety still requires self-awareness and patience. Call Hawaii Island Recovery today at (866) 390-5070.More info
Overcoming Your Cravings
While cravings will happen in recovery, there are ways to overcome them, including:
#1. Accept the Craving
One of the most important things you can do when a craving arises is to accept the craving and remind yourself that cravings are normal. Everyone in recovery has experienced cravings at some point or another. Having a craving does not mean that you have failed or that you are going to fail.
When you have used an addictive substance for a substantial amount of time, it’s normal to feel the urge to use again. Unfortunately, those feelings do not go away overnight. Trying to suppress those cravings can make them stronger. Instead, you can learn to accept them and find healthy ways to deal with them.
#2. Distract Yourself
Cravings don’t last forever. They can come and go in as quick as 10 to 15 minutes. However, devoting attention to the thoughts can make them last longer. Instead of sitting and continuously thinking about a craving, find a way to distract yourself.
To distract yourself, you can work, read, play a video game, go for a walk, talk to friends, or do anything else that requires a significant amount of concentration and focus. You can’t think about two things at once, and you can’t force yourself to not think about your cravings without thinking about them. The solution is to find something else to absorb your attention.
#3. Examine Your Thinking
Our own thoughts can make cravings worse at times. When you find yourself feeling the urge to use, your first thought may be, “Cravings are awful. I’ll never be able to hold out.” Thinking this way only adds to the stress of the craving and makes it more powerful.
Instead, accept the cravings and notice what thoughts come up when cravings arise. Remind yourself that cravings happen, and they will go away.
#4. Get Some Exercise
Exercise can be a highly effective way to handle cravings. Exercise is not only a great distraction, but it can reduce anxiety and boost your mood. It can also improve emotional regulation and strengthen your willpower. The amazing benefits of exercise can help you when a craving strikes, even if you just take a 20-minute walk around your neighborhood.
#5. Play the Tape Through
You may hear the term “play the tape through” in various recovery settings. Playing the tape through means thinking beyond the initial satisfaction of that first drink or that first hit and delving into what happens when you use drugs or alcohol. Where did your addiction take you? Did you lose your job? Did you hurt your family? Were you suffering from a mental health disorder?
When you have cravings, your mind can play tricks on you. You may start to reminisce about the good times surrounding your using. Unfortunately, addiction isn’t only fun; this is where playing the tape through can help you overcome cravings. Remember why you got sober in the first place. This strong image can help you counter your thoughts of using again.
In recovery, cravings are normal. They happen to everybody at any point in their sobriety. While cravings can feel challenging to overcome at times, it is possible. If you are struggling in recovery post-treatment, Hawaii Island Recovery is here to help. Our treatment center in Hawaii offers continuing care programs to those who have completed residential treatment and are looking for extra support. We know how much your addiction took from you and how long it consumed your life. Recovery takes time, too, which is why we are here to support you every step of the way. Our continuing care program can offer you individualized support services, family support, life skills education, and more. For more information on how Hawaii Island Recovery can assist you in your recovery journey, call us at (866) 390-5070. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Don’t hesitate to reach out today.