Cravings for alcohol or drugs are common among people who struggle with addiction. They are both physical and psychological. They are intense during the acute withdrawal phase following use but may occur some months or even years down the road.
There are theories about where cravings come from, but people who are addicted will experience cravings at some point in their lives. Some key points to understand if cravings occur may include:
- Cravings are normal. People who experience addiction have changes in their brains that make cravings likely
- Cravings are not forever. They come in waves. Knowing how to handle this makes it easier to deal with
- Cravings are not a sign of anything wrong. Cravings do not mean weakness or inability to manage desires
- People are vulnerable to cravings shortly after becoming abstinent from drugs. Knowing this can help plan for recovery
Why and When Cravings Occur
Addictions cause changes in brain chemistry that make cravings likely. There are triggers that may happen in someone’s life. What is likely to occur with triggers are the following:
- When people are exposed to food or drugs or alcohol
- When people see others enjoying whatever substance they are using
- Interactions with people who used to use drugs or drink with the individual
- Feeling emotions that are associated with addictive substances or activities
- Experiencing physical sensations associated with substances
Every person has to navigate a different response to cravings. If one of the following does not work, try another until things are working better:
- Plan to be ahead of the game so when running into people, places, or things it helps stay focused
- Know the triggers. Take note of cravings and keep a journal
- Keep busy to distract from cravings and stay focused
- Talk about cravings in a way to enlist support of friends and move through and past the need to indulge
- Keep up positive self-talk to help through cravings
- Music therapy is helpful in reducing cravings. Just listening to music is enough to distract from cravings and calm physical symptoms
- Exercise is an easy way of reducing cravings due to endorphins and changes to bodily sensations that make it easier to distract attention away from physical cues to take more drugs or alcohol
Don’t give in to triggers without first preparing yourself. The challenge is making sure you are focused on what is important, which is recovery. Even if you fall down, you can still get back up with support and the right tools. There is no harm in getting back up once you fall down.
A Step in the Right Direction provides quality care for clients seeking support for addiction recovery. We teach people how to live a sober life through programs, therapeutic support, and evidence-based therapies. Our recovery program is staffed by people who understand the power of addiction. For more information sober living programs for men and women as well as recovery programs, call (877) 377-3702.