Once someone gets sober, all his or her issues related to addiction do not just magically disappear. If fact, now begins a journey on uncharted territory for this individual. Part of that journey is learning how to handle drug cravings.
Someone who is addicted to drugs can experience cravings, however, he or she will turn to his or her drug of choice and use to fulfill that craving. Some people do not let enough time go by in between hits to have any cravings. Either way, when the substance abuse stops, the cravings continue.
Studies show that when an addict is shown a picture of something related to drugs, his or her brain becomes activated. On top of that, simply having memories of drug use can be enough to trigger the onset of cravings. Think of when you hear a song on the radio, or smell a scent that reminds you of a certain place or time in your life. You know you can’t go back to those moments even if you wanted to. However, when someone who used to be addicted to drugs relives moments like these in relation to their drug use, they know that they can go back if they use again. Or, think of the types of things that you do when you are faced with stressful times, such as overeating, go shopping, or simply just become impulsive. When an addict is experiencing troublesome times, his or her old way of handling those times included using drugs, however once sober, that option is no longer viable for them. But, when the cravings kick in and they are not equipped with the right coping skills to get through the cravings, he or she can go right back to using within the blink of an eye.
It is easy to give in to cravings. It is easy to say, “I’ll just do it this one time, I swear!” It is easy to relapse alone without anyone knowing, and finding yourself right back in the thick of your addiction. However, what is also easy is identifying the things that trigger your cravings and finding ways to manage them so that your sobriety can go as smooth as possible.
Drug Craving Cycles
A craving cycle is a process in which an individual finds him or herself trapped in a pattern of thinking that leads them right up to drug cravings. The cycle goes in order like this:
- Trigger response – Something occurs when you are triggered to use. This could be reliving drug use through one of the five senses, such as seeing someone use drugs on TV or hearing people talk about drug use. Once the trigger has been hit, the cycle gets rolling.
- Obsessive thinking – Now that you have been triggered, your mind begins racing. In fact, your brain is beginning to recognize these thoughts and responses that your body is having to be triggered. And, the longer your ruminate on whether or not it’s a good or bad idea to use again, the more likely it becomes that you will relapse.
- Craving – Once you have been triggered and have been obsessively thinking about what it would be like to use again, you can become very emotional and psychologically impacted in ways that convince you that you have to use. You might even experience a physical response to your cravings, such as developing increased heart rate or sweating. At this moment, depending on the tools you have in your arsenal in terms of coping, you can go either way and quickly.
While the drug craving cycle is something that continues in those who are recovering from drug addiction, it can become much easier to manage so that the effects are not as intense.
5 Easy Ways To Deal With Drug Cravings
While everyone is different, there are a number of common coping skills that can be utilized when struggling with drug cravings. Consider the following:
It might sound crazy, but if you are battling a drug craving, remove yourself from your environment and go somewhere else. Do something else. For example, you might be sitting at home watching TV and get triggered by something that comes on the screen. Rather than sitting there and ruminating on your craving, take a walk outside. Go pull weeds. Wash your car. By doing this, you are working to take your brain’s focus off of the craving and putting on to something positive.
When cravings get too tough, or even when they are just mildly bothersome, reach out to someone. If you are in a support group or program like Narcotics Anonymous, call up someone in one of those groups and ask to talk it out. Ask for help. That is exactly what these groups are for. You can also reach out to your spouse, parents, friends, or other loved ones.
Spend time learning how and why cravings occur. Understanding how they originate and how they pass can be extremely helpful in allowing you to take back control over your cravings. After all, you have all the power you need to prevent yourself from picking up drugs ever again. Seeing cravings for what they are, which is the body and mind’s response to a trigger, can help you separate feeling like you need to use and understanding that you will be alright without using. Always remember, cravings will pass.
In your recovery, it is important to practice good self-care on a regular basis. This can include activities as simple as exercising and eating healthy. However, when a craving strikes, it can be more important than ever to do something that promotes your self-care. You know that using again is not the way to care for yourself, so have a handful of self-care activities that you can do when cravings get tough to manage. This might include going and getting a pedicure, taking yourself out to lunch, taking a nap outside, or even participating in an activity that you enjoy, such as drawing or playing cards.
Through mindfulness techniques, you can get in touch with your body and mind in ways that allow you to calm down chaotic thoughts regarding using again. You can exercise mindfulness anywhere you are and at any time. In fact, there are several mindfulness apps available to download right to your phone. Take that moment to step away from what you are doing and meditate your way through the craving.
Get Help Today
While these coping skills are easy to do in the literal sense, they are not always easy to apply to your life. Learning how to manage cravings in a different manner is often very difficult. However, the more that you practice coping skills, the better you will be.
If you are addicted to drugs, do not let another day go by. Contact us right now so we can help guide you towards the light at the end of the tunnel. We can help.