When you’re in recovery, alcohol and drug cravings happen.
Stress, tiredness, boredom, depression, anxiety, or even happiness can trigger the urge to have a drink or imbibe in your former drug of choice. So what should you do when you know that they absolutely will happen?
Habits and The Brain
When behaviors are repeated over and over again (habit), they create a neurological pathway in the brain. The pathway can be shut down, but it’s still there and easy to reactivate. You’re not starting from scratch.
The good news is, the longer you live a recovery lifestyle, those new habits become ingrained, too, so if relapse happens, you know how to live a life without drugs or alcohol, so you find that neural pathway again, too.
But We Can’t Ignore the Risk that Relapse Brings
Relapse is often a part of addiction. Few people ever enter recovery and never slip up. But addiction is dangerous. Your body doesn’t detox and then start over fresh. When you allow yourself to fall back into abusing a substance, your body often starts at the point you left off…and sickness and overdose is a huge risk.
Relapse happens when you let down your guard:
- You think you can handle hanging out with an old drinking buddy.
- You don’t anticipate that when the wife goes on a business trip, all of a sudden you have a lot of time on your hands and no supervision/support.
- You start telling yourself you can be like everyone else, you can control your substance use.
- You fail to plan for times when you’re sad or angry.
You’re most in danger when you forget what’s at stake: your relationships, your well-being, and even your life.
So How Can You Deal With Alcohol or Drug Cravings?
Cravings can absorb our attention. In the midst of them, you can forget that they will go away. The mind doesn’t have the ability to maintain that kind of intensity for an indefinite period of time.
The way to fight cravings is with an arsenal. When you’re going through treatment at our treatment center in Tampa, Florida, we work with you to develop a myriad of weapons to fight cravings, and as time goes by, you’ll get better and better at evaluating what works best for you, but here’s a few that are particularly useful.
6 Ways to Fight an Alcohol or Drug Craving
1. Plan Ahead
Recognizing that certain situations can cause cravings is smart. Anticipate them and plan how you’ll handle them.
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2. Talk to Others
If you’ve gone through a recovery program, you have a support group. If your inner voice says you should be able to handle this yourself, ignore it. It’s wrong. Get in touch with your support network:
- Your NA or AA Group sponsor or friends
- Your Spring Gardens Recovery alumni group. There’s a reason we keep in touch. We’ve been through the trenches together.
- Your counselor or one of our Spring Gardens Recovery staff. We’re family. We’ll be there.
- A helpful friend or family member.
When you talk about your cravings, they go away.
3. Go Exercise
Whether it’s going for a walk, lifting weights, or whatever you like to do (or can make yourself do), exercise can help in 3 ways.
- Exercise releases endorphins, which are “feel good chemicals.” Those curb cravings and counter bad moods.. Bonus points if it’s outside, because the sun creates endorphins and Vitamin D, too.
- Exercise is an investment in yourself. It’s hard to do something good for yourself and then turn around and do something that abuses you.
- It distracts you. With cravings it’s all about replacing the harmful thing with a good thing.
4. Practice mindfulness techniques
At Spring Gardens Recovery, we’re proponents of mindfulness–specific techniques that make you aware of what you’re thinking, feeling and sensing at the moment. There are a lot of different ways to practice mindfulness: meditation, journaling, praying, or simply taking a moment to be aware of yourself.
5. Practice Self-Care
This is a big lesson you’ll learn if you choose Spring Gardens Recovery in Tampa as your safe place for detox and treatment. Do something good for yourself:
- Get a massage.
- Take a bath.
- Treat yourself to something not alcohol or drug-related.
- Eat a delicious, nourishing meal.
- Binge-watch your favorite show.
Low mood, emptiness, or tiredness can trigger those cravings. Whatever refills your bucket, go do it.
6. Counter your “stinking thinking”
When a craving hits, it’s easy for negative thinking to start flowing. All or nothing thinking, abusive thoughts, and cognitive distortions all feed the issue. Grab your journal or talk with a friend; focus on the thoughts going through your head and argue against them.
The truth is, cravings happen. Drugs at least somewhat met a need in your life for a while. So besides the physiological addiction, your mind is going to want what it knows works.
The craving doesn’t solve the real problems
Your substance use disorder jeopardized your life and your relationships. It might have cost you your job and your self-respect. Drugs or alcohol made you forget your depression or your pain for a little while, but that pain and depression was still there when you were sober. The only things that have helped are things that are truly good for you: talking, connections, forgiveness, and working hard on your recovery.
Spring Gardens Recovery is Here to Help
If you’re trying to fight those cravings on your own and are trying to get drugs or alcohol out of your life, we’re ready and waiting to walk with you through that process at our treatment center in sunny South Florida. We’re ready to help you through all stages of your treatment, including strategies for when you re-enter your life again back home.
Lora Horn is a writer covering key issues in psychology and addictions. When she’s not writing, she’s usually enjoying a nice cup of tea with her cat cuddled by her side.