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Managing Cravings is Key to Lasting Sobriety

Managing Cravings is Key to Lasting Sobriety, Manage cravings for drugs or alcohol

There are some things we can count on in our lives. The sun will come up in the morning (even if we would like to sleep in). Winter follows fall (whether we like the cold weather or not). The moon will move through its cycles (though we may disagree about how—or if—that impacts behavior).

Here is something people in recovery from a substance use disorder can—unfortunately—count on in their day-to-day lives: Cravings for drugs or alcohol are likely to arise from time to time (even when things seem to be going well).

The good news, however, is that while you can’t do much about the rising of the sun or the transition of the seasons or the cycles of the moon, you can do something about cravings. You might not be able to prevent them from popping up, but you can have a plan for managing them effectively.

We have some suggestions for ways you can be ready to address those inevitable cravings so that they do not undo your ongoing hard work in recovery.

Distract, Distract, Distract

When a craving suddenly arrives, it can be very helpful to quickly turn your attention to something other than your desire for drugs or alcohol. Often, cravings are intense but short-lived, so if you can occupy your mind and body, you can withstand those difficult moments.

Options for distraction include:

  • Getting Some Exercise: Physical activity can be a great way to counteract a craving. As your body fires up, you may well find that your craving recedes.
  • Engaging in Your Favorite Hobby: We have suggested the usefulness of engaging hobbies in recovery in this blog before. When a craving grabs hold of you, turning your attention to something you really enjoy—playing an instrument, working a puzzle, going antiquing—can help you reset your focus to something positive and relaxing.
  • Tackling a Task: Got something you have been putting off that will engage your hands and brain for a little while? Taking that task on might be enough to push your craving aside. 

Focus, Focus, Focus

Distractions can be helpful, but they are not the only option for dealing with cravings. You could instead turn to more inward practices that might help you manage those tough moments.

Options for focusing include:

  • Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation: Bringing your attention to your breath and sitting quietly can help you survive a craving. These calming techniques—including a technique known as urge surfing—can help reduce the intensity of what you are experiencing, making it easier to handle the craving.
  • Writing or Drawing in Your Journal: Journaling can be a powerful tool in recovery, and the moment a craving arises might be a good time to jot down—as words or images or both—your thoughts and feelings as you wait for the craving to subside. 
  • Giving Yoga a Try: It can be helpful to think of yoga as a kind of active mindfulness practice. It is easy to get started, and it can help you refocus your attention and get past the desire to use drugs or to drink alcohol.

Connect, Connect, Connect

Sometimes the best way to manage a craving is to rely on your support system.

Options for connection include:

  • Going to a Meeting: Sometimes it is helpful to drop everything and go to a 12-Step or other recovery program meeting. The support of others and the reminders of why you have worked so hard to stay sober can get you through difficult moments.
  • Talking to a Loved One: Whether friend or family member, a trusted loved one can be there to listen to you as you work your way through a challenging craving. Their physical presence can help ensure you don’t do something you would regret.
  • Getting Advice from a Sponsor or Therapist: These key members of your support team may not be available at a moment’s notice, but discussing your experience with cravings with them can help you develop an ongoing and effective plan for dealing with them in the future.

Are You Craving Treatment for a Substance Use Disorder?

Bel Aire Recovery Center—located near Wichita, Kansas—is dedicated to helping individuals regain and maintain their sobriety. We offer personalized treatment for substance use disorders and for a full range of potential co-occurring mental health disorders. Our philosophy of treatment is built entirely around you and your needs, and it is informed by our understanding of substance use disorders as a disease of the brain. We can help you reclaim your sobriety—and with it, your overall quality of life. If a significant change for the better is something you have been craving, we are here to help.

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