Cravings in Recovery from Addiction
Those coping with addiction know the power of cravings. That incredible desire that yearns to be satisfied by going back to your addiction. If these cravings are given into, it is known as relapse. By becoming aware of your cravings and learning how to manage them, you can avoid relapse and stay on track with your recovery.
What are cravings in addiction?
Cravings are physical compulsions or urges caused when dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, is released. Dopamine is a chemical that is associated with emotional responses such as pleasure or pain, and plays an important role in reward motivated-behavior. Cravings can be incredibly difficult to manage until the techniques to manage or avoid them as much as possible are learned.
First, understand that cravings are normal. Cravings are not a sign of relapse. A relapse is when you return to using drugs or alcohol. Feeling a strong desire to return back to your old life from time to time is normal. The goal is not to eliminate cravings all together, but to learn how to recognize them and intervene before it pulls you into a downward spiral.
The type of craving and their intensity differs from person to person, but there is a familiar pattern that is common among most people. Typical craving cycles progress as follows:
- Trigger response – An event, person, or sensory experience can trigger a thought or emotion that puts you in touch with old, addictive behavior.
- Obsessive thinking – Once you’ve gotten in touch with the old addictive behavior, your mind will have the tendency to lock onto those familiar ways. It will likely become difficult to let go of these thoughts. The more you think about these thoughts, the stronger the urge to act will become.
- Full-blown craving – A craving is both physical and emotional. The emotional part is a compulsive need to get your “fix.” It will become difficult to think of anything else. The physical part of a craving activates the stress response where you may experience an increase in heart rate, shortness of breath and perspiration.
While cravings are powerful, they aren’t beyond your control. The key to coping with cravings is to learn to intervene in the trigger response stage. By learning to do this, you’ll be able to avoid relapse and as a result feel more in control of your life while continuing to grow and heal in your recovery.
How to resist your cravings:
- Learn how to distract yourself in a healthy way. Distraction can be both good and bad. It can either be a tool of avoidance or can be used to redirect your attention in a positive way.
- Use creative imagery to replace thoughts of your previous life with addiction with thoughts that support your recovery.
- Become physically active. When you are physically active, your body produces a natural feel-good chemical to help improve your mood. This helps to reduce stress and anxiety and combat depression.
- Practice relaxation and meditation. Anxiety, anger and stress are the largest emotional triggers for cravings. By learning some relaxation techniques, you can provide yourself with preventative measures when cravings strike.
The addiction specialists at A New Start, Inc. are here to help you learn the techniques necessary to recognize and manage your cravings while on your journey to recovery. Our intensive outpatient program team will work with you throughout the addiction recovery process to provide the tools needed for success in living a sober life. Contact us today at 844.TALK.ANS.