The recovery journey will affect each individual in unique ways. However, that doesn’t mean that those in recovery will not share experiences. Urges and cravings, for example, are one of the most profound and difficult shared experiences in recovery, bringing intense stress and necessitating the need for effective personalized treatment. Understanding what urges and cravings are and how they impact a person’s continued recovery efforts is crucial for navigating them while maintaining a healthy perspective of oneself and the journey thus far.
What Are Urges and Cravings?
Simply put, urges and cravings are intense feelings or impulses to reengage with addictive substances, If left unaddressed, they can compromise recovery efforts and even inform slips or relapses. Meanwhile, urges and cravings are informed by a person’s past use as well as current stresses, and an individual may recognize that thoughts of reengaging with addictive substances can overpower other ideas or sober practices until they pass. Moreover, it is possible that an individual may lose focus on their dedication to sobriety, established coping strategies, or progress thus far in their journey while romanticizing past use as a result of urges and cravings.
Some of those in recovery may also recognize the onset of intense urges or cravings as they are tied to particular stresses in daily life. Common stresses that may inform urges and cravings may include:
- Professional stresses
- Interpersonal stress or miscommunication
- Being around addictive substances or discussions that may normalize or celebrate substance use
- Attending places that were once closely related to the use of addictive substances or falling back into previous daily routines
- Lack of self-care
Each individual will have their own collection of personal stresses to overcome throughout their journey to a sustainable and healthy sober life. Working with peers and professionals at Hawaii Island Recovery to develop strategies and identify how urges and cravings manifest for each person is paramount.
However, some urges or cravings may seem to manifest without such kinds of stress and can be just as intense. Discovering particular stresses that may impact the propensity of urges and cravings as well as learning how to address such stresses are crucial to creating a plan to navigate urges and cravings in sobriety.
What Do Urges and Cravings Mean?
Urges and cravings are incredibly common experiences throughout any stage of recovery. From a person’s first step into detox to celebrating their graduation from a residential alcohol treatment program and beginning their life as an alumnus, urges and cravings may manifest at any time. That said, simply experiencing an urge or craving is completely normal. Feeling an impulse to reengage with addictive substances does not mean that an individual has somehow “failed” in their journey to a healthy and sober future, but rather that each individual should have plans ready for coping with such feelings to effectively process them.
Likewise, cravings do not necessarily mean that an individual is beyond recovery in the first place. However, for some, noticing an increase in not just the frequency of urges or cravings but also their intensity can indicate that there needs to be some sort of change in daily life, or that an individual has recently encountered new and stressful changes, challenges, or concerns about their recovery.
While experiencing an urge or craving can be an opportunity to express practiced sober coping skills, acting on an urge or craving can be a cause for change as well. Working with the professionals at Hawaii Island Recovery can help those in recovery explore new strategies for identifying and navigating urges and cravings as well as help each individual decide the best course for their continued sobriety. This may involve finding a local continued outpatient care community or returning to a higher level of care to develop additional skills and strategies, depending on each person’s unique situation.
Preparing for Urges in Recovery
Urges and cravings are an inevitable part of the recovery journey, but they are not the end of it. Preparing strategies for navigating them early in recovery is paramount. For some, this means practicing effective mindfulness strategies to identify changes in oneself or to help process stresses. Others may benefit from creating a robust set of self-care outlets to address stresses when they manifest and to keep themselves busy even when urges or cravings manifest.
Establishing oneself as a part of an effective community of peers is also a great way to help process urges and cravings. Not only can working with peers help to add new perspectives and introduce an individual to proven strategies, but these communities can also hold each person accountable for their actions and successes in navigating urges. Normalizing and expecting urges and cravings can be a proactive way to address their impact while maintaining each person’s hard-earned sobriety.
Urges and cravings can impact anyone at any stage of addiction recovery, and there is no one that is “immune” to them. However, experiencing an urge or craving does not mark the end or futility of professional treatment either, and we at Hawaii Island Recovery are prepared to help you find the most effective ways of navigating urges and cravings through a varied approach to your needs, as well as backing each step of your journey with the education necessary for a sustainable sober life. Understanding what urges and cravings are is just the first step. For information on our residential alcohol treatment or drug treatment programs in Hawaii, call to speak to us today at (866) 390-5070.