Cravings are a normal part of early recovery, and even with years clean some people still experience them from time to time. They can feel overwhelming, but the good news is that they will not last forever, and it is possible to get through them without using. It is important to get educated and equip yourself with methods to get to the other side.
Know What You Are Dealing With
Merriam Webster defines a craving as, “An intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing”. Sound familiar? People commonly describe a craving as an obsession to use. Some people also feel the physical sensations associated with using when they are having an episode.
Cravings are most intense for the first 3 to 5 days after getting clean. They decrease gradually and are usually gone after two to three weeks. However, although the body has adjusted to life without substances, thoughts and memories can bring back feelings to use. This is why it is so important to put safety measures in place.
Identify Your Triggers
There is a saying that recovering addicts should “change people, places, and things”. Using partners, regular hang-outs, and activities associated with using can easily set you up for relapse. Other common triggers are sounds, smells, images, and stress.
Knowing your triggers will help you mentally prepare and aid in your decision of what coping methods to use.
Practice Coping Skills
Part of being prepared is developing a set of techniques to calm yourself down when you become distressed. These coping skills are tools that you can have on hand, no matter where you are.
Try different activities to find what works best for you, and then practice them while you are calm. Practicing coping skills while you are grounded will help you prepare for when cravings hit.
Developing a support network of friends, family, and other recovering addicts should be one of the first steps in recovery. That way, when triggers appear or cravings hit, there are people whom you can call upon for help. Sometimes just putting the feelings into words can take the power away.
Play the Tape Through
There is a saying, “Play the tape through to the end”, that is commonly used in recovery and pertains to relapse prevention. When a mental urge to use arises, think about where your addiction has led you so far. Run the “tape” through all of the consequences that come along with using, and remember that having one can easily end up as another run, right back into the cycle of active addiction.
Celebrate and Remember the Successes
Every time you make it through a craving without relapsing is another success. Celebrate that success and recall it next time an urge arises. Remember that cravings will not last forever and will get easier to deal with over time. With willingness, patience, and effort, the journey of recovery can be a lasting one.