As anyone who has ever faced beating an addiction will tell you, one of the peskiest aspects of “withdrawal” would have to be the “cravings”. Cravings are an unavoidable hurdle on the road to Recovery. They can be extremely powerful and can be triggered by obvious or unrelated events, thoughts or experiences. In the early days of Recovery, cravings can be triggered by almost anything and hit with the emotionally compelling force of a powerful tsunami. Remember: your addiction does not want to release it’s hold on you and will use every emotional trick in the book to trick you into using again. But also remember that cravings frequency, power and duration tends to diminish over time so there is a very real light waiting at the end of the tunnel.
What Triggers a Craving?
Almost anything can trigger a craving to relapse back into addiction. The following list of potential triggers is by no means exhaustive but does demonstrate the range fairly well:
- Seeing someone “use” on film, tv, music
- Bumping into a friend who still uses
- Passing a pub, casino or pizza shack serving your fix of choice
- Arguing with just about anyone about anything at all
- Feeling particularly happy (believe it or not)
- Feeling particularly down/sad
- Apparently from nowhere and for no reason at all (yes it happens too)
- Feeling lonely, hungry or tired
Positive Steps To Counter Cravings
It is incredibly important to have a plan and coping strategies in place to combat cravings. Do not leave things to chance, especially in the early stages of withdrawal. Get as cunning as possible and be prepared to manipulate your cravings with the same zeal with which they attempt to manipulate you! The following list is suitable for the early stages of withdrawal and recovery:
- Avoid known triggers ie people, places, events – at least initially
- Keep your Sponsor close and speak with them as soon as your craving rears its head
- Change your activity – take a walk, wash the dishes, try press-ups
- Deconstruct the thought process that led to the craving
- Apply positive coping strategies learned in rehab
- Never ever just sit there allowing the full force of the craving to wash over you without taking some form of positive action
- Do not succumb to an impulsive “what the heck” reaction. You will only regret it later
- Use positive affirmations like post it notes. Scatter them about the house accordingly with messages to yourself to remember why you are in Recovery in the first place.
Long-Term Coping Strategies
Long term coping strategies for dealing with cravings incorporate the above tips with more measured and stable mechanisms and lifestyle changes. These strategies are generally taught during primary care rehab and reinforced more deeply during the secondary or half-way house stages of addiction rehab.
- New friends, pets, activities, interests or hobbies
- Physical fitness, nutrition
- Regular contact for group shares
- Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques