What To Do When You Get Cravings In Sobriety
Anyone who is currently engaged in addictive behavior will feel uncomfortable cravings and urges at some point, this is normal. Fortunately, they will pass with time. At the beginning of addiction treatment, these cravings and urges can be intense but will lessen if you have a relapse prevention plan and wait it out. Over time, cravings will decrease in frequency and severity so it is best to be patient, knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Luckily, several coping strategies can help, including:
For many recovering addicts in sobriety, cravings and urges to use substances trigger unconscious automatic responses. The key is to say no to these ingrained and intense desires, which is one of the greatest hurdles to overcome in sobriety. Luckily, you can understand these urges and learn how to resist them with proper coping strategies. The most effective approaches are summarized in the acronym DEADS, which includes:
D – Delay
Unless you are actively giving them your attention, the mental actions of cravings and urges will disappear with time. If you do not give in to your cravings, then they will run their course and eventually disappear. If they are persisting after 10-15 minutes, then you are likely exposed to the stimulus that initiated the urge in the first place. Regardless of how bad the craving is, it will pass, as every urge does. Once an urge has been denied, you know you can repeat it. Therefore, by delaying the urge, there will be fewer cravings with less intensity. Waiting out the craving is an excellent first step toward kicking an addiction.
E – Escape
If you are in a provoking situation, go in the opposite direction. Leave the bar so the beer taps are not in your face screaming, just have one sip. Leave the grocery store where all the beautiful bottles of wine are displayed. If there is an alcohol television ad, then change the channel. The act of distancing yourself from the trigger will allow your mind to focus elsewhere which will lessen the urge.
A – Accept
By putting your cravings and urges into perspective, you will learn to understand that they are normal and will eventually pass. Learning to accept discomfort is a crucial step in the recovery process. You will realize that the cravings and urges won’t kill you and will disappear quickly. In time, you will feel great about what you have accomplished and are learning about your self-control.
D – Dispute
Developing a counter statement to attack irrational cravings and urges will help you productively eliminate previous addictive situations and create useful tactics to dispute them when they rear their ugly heads. This time, you are equipped with disputing the cravings and they will pass quickly.
S – Substitute
When you start to feel a craving or urge, substitute the thought with something more fun or beneficial to your wellbeing. Any type of exercise will help you relax and clear your mind. Reading a new book, listening to the radio or a podcast, or watching television can substitute your cravings for something positive. The substitution possibilities are endless and will lessen the urges quickly. Sit down and write several substitution possibilities so you have a list available when an urge appears. Simply select one to implement and you will have a positive response.
In addition to the DEADS approach, there are several other ways to manage cravings and urges in sobriety. These include:
Eliminate Bad Memories
Therapists offer a technique known as memory reconsolidation which treats cravings by removing and consolidating memories that are associated with addiction. By eliminating these bad memories, you will experience fewer cravings triggered by specific environmental cues that are associated with the memories of substance abuse.
Find a Hobby
Hobbies build character and encourage positive thinking while providing an excellent distraction during addiction treatment. Cravings often arise from boredom since the mind is looking to fill a void. A hobby is a good SUBSTITUTE for substance abuse.
When you begin to feel a craving, talk yourself out of it with reason and logical thinking. Cravings and urges are often myopic and do not allow you to see the big picture past this immediate moment. Realizing your long-term goals is essential to beating addiction.
Surf the Urge
Surf the urge is a mindfulness technique based on the principle of accepting cravings at face value, rather than resisting and wanting it to go away. Although this counters the DEADS approach, it works well from some individuals. To practice urge surfing, stop and acknowledge cravings when you start to feel them. Take a seat, close your eyes, and verbally acknowledge your thoughts and the sensations your body is experiencing.
There are multiple techniques for you to pass your cravings in sobriety. By starting with these few concepts, you will be able to normally have cravings and realize that giving in is not worth all you have accomplished!