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10 Tips for Dealing with Addiction Cravings


quit addictionIt is believed that addiction cravings occur because your brain has been trained to associate using alcohol or drugs with reward. Even after you accept the negative consequences of this behaviour, those connections in your brain are still going to be there. It means that when memories of engaging in substance abuse arise, you could experience a deep yearning to repeat the behaviour.

Cravings are something that most people who break free of addiction will experience from time to time. The good news is that, usually, these cravings become less frequent over time. Those who have reached long-term sobriety can go months without any type of craving arising, although even those who have been sober for decades can occasionally have a craving. These intrusive thoughts do not usually last for long, and there is action you can take to cause them to disappear even faster.

1. Eliminate Addiction Triggers

Cravings often occur due to an addiction trigger. The most well known of these triggers are hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness (easily remembered using the acronym HALT). If you are experiencing any of these states, it is vital that you rectify the situation as soon as possible. Not only do these triggers cause you to experience cravings, but also it is easy to mistake something such as hunger as a desire to drink or use drugs. This is why it is always important to check your current situation for any triggers and eliminate them right way – for example, if you are tired, you should take a nap.

2. Go Do Something Else

Distraction is one of the easiest things to do when you are experiencing a craving, and it is likely to work most of the time. It works because the change in what you are doing is likely to generate new thoughts that replace the cravings. Even something as simple as going for a walk can alleviate the desire to drink, as long as your route does not involve new craving triggers (for example, walking past your favourite pub).

3. Practice Some Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of the most effective tools there is for dealing with cravings. In order to get the best benefit from this technique though, you do need to be regularly practicing it so that it becomes a habit. Mindfulness works because it allows you to see the craving in a far more objective way. You understand that it is just a thought passing through your brain and that it has no power over you as long as you do not react to it. You will get to see that cravings do not last long as long as you do not resist them or obsess over them. The other benefit of mindfulness is that it enables you to think more clearly, so you are less likely to react impulsively in response to a craving.

4. Challenge the Cravings Using Logic

Cravings only have as much power as you give them, so you can use your rational mind to challenge them. By learning more about why these thoughts arise, it gives you the ability to see through them. You are able to weigh up the pros and cons of giving into this thought, and you can make the rational decision not to just give in. Cravings are not based on any type of logic, but you can use logic to defeat them.

5. Avoid Romancing the Drink or Drug

One of the worst things you can do in response to cravings is to start ‘romancing the drink or drug’. This describes a situation in which you begin to dwell on memories of the ‘good days’ when it felt as if using these substances was making you happy. Maybe you remember parties where you felt on top of the world because you were high or sunny afternoons sitting in a beer garden. Memory is a very fickle type of phenomenon, and people have a tendency to glamorise the past; they do not remember things exactly as they happened. It is vital that you are able to challenge these memories by bringing up other memories of the times when the substance abuse caused you great pain and suffering. Romancing the drink weakens your sobriety, intensifying cravings. You will not be able to stop such memories appearing in your mind, but you do have the option to not dwell on them.

6. Use Tools from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

You can use cognitive behavioural therapy to better understand and identify cravings and use tools such as self-talk to overcome them. What normally happens with a craving is that it can generate many thoughts that encourage you to relapse. Rather than allowing this to happen, you can identify these dangerous thoughts supporting the addictive behaviour and replacing them with positive or encouraging self-talk (for example – I can do this). If you are attending therapy sessions, you will also get help from the therapist to deal with cravings.

7. Focus on Your Reasons for Choosing Recovery

It can sometimes feel as if there is a battle in your brain between pro-recovery thoughts and pro-addiction thoughts. Cravings are the strongest weapon the pro-addiction thoughts have in their armoury, but you can defeat them. The key is to focus more on the pro-recovery thoughts. This would include remembering why you have decided to give up addiction. It might be a good idea to get out a pen and paper and start jotting some of these reasons down.

8. Go to a Fellowship Meeting

One of the great advantages of belonging to a recovery fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous is that you will have somewhere to go to get support when you are experiencing cravings. No matter how bad you are feeling when you arrive at one of these meetings, you will usually be feeling better by the time you leave. These individuals understand what it is to experience cravings, so the advice you are going to get will be more than just platitudes. Going to these meetings will also remind you of why you have chosen sobriety, so it will strengthen your resolve.

9. Tell Somebody Else How You Are Feeling

If it will not be possible for you to get to a meeting then you would still be able to tell somebody else how you are feeling, which is going to help. The cravings want to isolate you because it is easier to overwhelm you when you are alone. There is no shame in admitting that you have cravings, as this is something most people in recovery are going to have experienced. It is better if you can share your concerns with somebody in recovery because they will be better able to understand where you are coming from.

10. Remember the Negative Consequences of Relapse

The consequences of giving in to cravings can be severe, and it could mean losing your last chance of a good life away from alcohol or drugs. What usually happens when you experience cravings is your thoughts will become muddled, but you can regain your control by remembering why you have committed to recovery. It is a great help if you have some type of letter to yourself, so you can be reminded of the dangers or relapse – you should take this letter with you wherever you go because you never know when you are going to need it.

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