Recovery from substance dependency is a demanding journey, and one of the most daunting obstacles to overcome is the powerful urge known as cravings. These intense desires can seemingly appear out of thin air, exerting a magnetic pull that can be difficult to resist.
However, it’s essential to understand that cravings are not invincible; they can be managed with the right strategies. In this article, we will explore practical ways to deal with cravings when they arise.
- Acknowledge and Accept
When confronted with a craving, the first step is to acknowledge that experiencing cravings is entirely typical and expected during recovery. Even those who have achieved considerable success in their recovery journey encounter cravings from time to time.
Remember, a craving does not indicate failure or weakness; it is a natural part of the process. Suppressing or fighting the urge will only amplify its intensity. Instead, embrace that you are facing a craving without shame or guilt and focus on finding constructive ways to manage it.
- Engage in Mindful Distraction
Cravings, by nature, are transient and usually last no more than 10 or 15 minutes. To avoid giving them more attention than necessary, it is vital to distract yourself during this period. Engage in activities that require your total concentration, such as work, reading, playing video games, going for a walk, or enjoying a conversation with friends.
The idea is to redirect your attention away from the craving, as the mind cannot focus on two things simultaneously. By immersing yourself in other tasks or interests, you can effectively ride out the wave of craving until it subsides.
- Identify and Avoid Triggers
If a craving lingers beyond the usual duration, you can analyse it. Was it triggered by a specific situation or environment? Whether it’s a place that serves alcohol, a company of people you used to drink with, or a person who induces stress, recognising these triggers is vital.
In such cases, removing yourself from the triggering setting is advisable. Understanding your triggers enables you to both avoid and confront them effectively.
- Challenge Cognitive Distortions
Often, our thoughts can exacerbate cravings, making them more intense than necessary. Instead of succumbing to catastrophic thoughts, challenge them with rational and realistic perspectives.
Remind yourself that cravings are temporary and that they will pass. Moreover, sometimes cravings may arise as a response to unrelated stress or emotional turmoil. Identify any cognitive distortions, such as magnifying negatives or catastrophising situations, and counter them with a more balanced, realistic outlook. By doing so, you can reduce stress and diminish the power of cravings.
- Harness the Power of Exercise
Physical activity can be a double-edged sword in curbing cravings. Engaging in activities that demand skill or involve social interactions, such as team sports, not only serves as a distraction but also fosters a sense of fulfilment.
Additionally, exercise reduces anxiety, uplifts mood, enhances emotional regulation and strengthens willpower – all invaluable tools for managing cravings. A simple walk around your neighbourhood can be enough to dissipate a craving, leaving you feeling refreshed and in control.
- Embrace Mindfulness
Mindfulness practices offer an effective means of neutralising cravings. Instead of reacting impulsively to cravings, take a mindful approach to examine them. Observe how the craving feels in your body, where it manifests – whether in the chest or stomach – and practice non-judgmental awareness.
By distancing yourself from the craving and understanding its impermanence, you can allow it to subside naturally. Regular mindfulness meditation can be beneficial in honing this skill, enabling you to navigate intense feelings like cravings with greater ease.
- Play the Tape Forward
Cravings often trigger nostalgic memories of past substance use, tempting you to believe that “just one time” won’t hurt. To counter this deceptive mindset, play the tape forward in your mind. Visualise the consequences beyond that initial indulgence: the feelings of disappointment, the impact on your loved ones, and the potential spiral back into addiction. Remember why you embarked on the path of sobriety in the first place. This vivid mental imagery can effectively counter the allure of relapse and reinforce your commitment to recovery.
Dealing With Cravings in Recovery
Grappling with cravings is a significant aspect of the recovery process. By accepting the normalcy of cravings, distracting ourselves, avoiding triggers, challenging distorted thoughts, embracing exercise and mindfulness, and envisioning the consequences of giving in to desires, we equip ourselves with potent tools for success. Over time, as we cultivate these strategies, the grip of cravings can loosen, granting us a newfound sense of strength and control on our journey to sustained recovery.
You’re Not Alone
If you or a loved one are suffering from a substance dependency, support and help are available.
Our team at White River Manor is able to diagnose and treat various addictions and co-occurring disorders.
Substance dependency is an isolating disease, but you are not alone. Our friendly, compassionate and dedicated team is always available for support.
Call or send us an email and begin your journey to recovery today.