In a perfect world, a person would go through detoxification and treatment for a substance use disorder and never again feel the urge to return to drugs or alcohol. But of course, this isn’t a perfect world, and cravings happen.
Have a Plan
In reality, nearly every single person in recovery for a substance use disorder will experience cravings. There’s not much you can do about that. What you can do, however, is have a plan for how you will respond when you feel those cravings. Will you give in and risk a relapse? Or will you be able to fend off the temptation and keep your sobriety intact?
If you have a plan for dealing with cravings when they arise, you are much more likely to overcome them. Here are some strategies that might help.
Call Your Sponsor or Get to a Meeting – or Both
When you start to crave drugs or alcohol, reach out for support quickly. If you participate in a 12-Step program (like Alcoholics Anonymous) or another type of recovery program, you may have a sponsor or another trusted individual you can call to help you ride out the craving. In the early days of your recovery, you might feel embarrassed about reaching out for support, but you shouldn’t. The success of recovery programs is, in large part, built upon the idea of mutual support. Your sponsor is there to provide that support when you need it.
And of course, getting to a recovery group meeting is an excellent idea, too. Depending on what’s available in your community, you may find that attending a meeting everyday—or even more than once a day—is an effective way for you to face down the urge to drink or use drugs.
Quite a number of recovery programs have connections to various faith communities as well. If faith is an important part of your life, attending services, talking with your priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, or other religious leader, or spending time in prayer may help you overcome your cravings.
Sometimes You Have to Sit With Your Feelings
Even if you have a strong and varied support system, there may be times when you need the tools to stare down your cravings on your own. There are a number of tools and techniques that may make this easier.
For example, the concept of “urge surfing” can be an effective approach to cravings. You can learn more about urge surfing here, but in broad outline the practice involves sitting quietly and bringing your full attention to the physical sensations in your body that accompany your cravings. By describing those sensations to yourself, you might find that you are able to lessen their intensity.
Urge surfing is a type of mindfulness practice, which is all about staying grounded in the present. You can practice mindfulness daily—which in its most basic form involves sitting comfortably and quietly while focusing on the natural rhythm of your breathing—and in doing so may find that this regular routine lessens your cravings over time. In this way, mindfulness becomes a part of your day-to-day life rather than an emergency technique you use only when cravings are strong.
Cravings Are Common and You Have the Tools to Resist
Remember that cravings are, for most people in recovery, unavoidable. Keeping that in mind may help you control feelings of panic or loss of control when those cravings arise. If you’ve been expecting cravings, you can deal with them with confidence.
And that confidence may stem from what you learn during detox and rehab. Your time in residential treatment will include learning coping strategies for handling cravings and avoiding relapse. Keeping those lessons and strategies fresh in your mind will serve you well when cravings come calling.
We Offer a Continuum of Care to Address Cravings
At Bel Aire Recovery Center we offer personalized care that includes providing you with the tools, resources, and strategies that will allow you to deal with the cravings that will inevitably arise as part of your recovery journey. We understand that the challenges are real—and often daunting. That is why we are dedicated to helping you find effective approaches for fending off cravings in the moment and for lessening their occurrence over time. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, let us help.