Cravings are normal and recovering addicts should expect to experience some discomfort from time to time. For most people, cravings are worst the early in addiction treatment, but they may occur weeks, months, or even longer. However, if you learn ways to to cope with the cravings ahead of time, you’ll be prepared when they occur.
Remember that cravings won’t last long. While they are unpleasant, they usually reach a peak in a few minutes or hours, and then diminish quickly – often much sooner than you expect at the outset. Knowing that the cravings won’t last makes them much easier to tolerate.
Talk to an understanding, friend or family member. If you are a member of a Twelve Step group, this is a good time to go to a meeting or call your sponsor. Don’t be embarrassed about the cravings. Talking can help you pinpoint the triggers and relieve the anxiety.
Challenge your thoughts. You may remember why you enjoyed the way alcohol or drugs made you feel, but it’s important to take time to remember the negative consequences and how much you have to lose by giving in to the cravings. It may help to write the benefits of abstinence and the negative consequences of giving in to cravings on an index card and keep it in your wallet or bag. Think about how you will feel later if you give in.
Distract yourself. Read a book. Go to a movie. Meditate or pray. Volunteer. Write in a journal. Get moving – go for a walk or a bike ride. Physical activity helps reduce cravings and relieve stress.
Avoid triggering situations. For example, avoid contact with people and situations that remind you of drinking or drugging.
Use positive self-talk whenever you feel cravings. For example, tell yourself, “I can do this,” or “Hang on, this will pass!”
If you have been in treatment, this is a good time to revisit the tools you have learned there, may it be meditation, Yoga, exercise, art-therapy, good food and good company, meaningful activity etc. It is also important to take nutritional supplements with calming (not numbing) effects such as Magnesium, B-Vitamins or even L-Tryptophan to help you find your balance again and to reduce stress. Stress is a powerful trigger for cravings, de-stressing is a great antidote against cravings.
Reflecting on how to deal with feelings of self-worth, success and good experiences can also be helpful during cravings, so can a gratitude list, doing someone good or a favour without the person knowing are powerful act which evoke a positive neurochemical reaction in your brain which can powerfully counteract cravings.
Last but not least let the cravings tell you that it is you who “craves” to feel good and that it is your birthright to achieve this.