Cravings are a common experience for individuals in addiction recovery, particularly in the early stages. Giving anything up or changing a routine or behaviour takes us from the realm of the known and familiar to the relative unknown and unfamiliar and so it’s as if we’ve gone from “auto-pilot” in our day to day living to moving forward in ‘manual”.
In early recovery in particular establishing new, more positive routines and habits (new “auto-pilots”) takes time and the old “auto-pilot” keeps wanting to kick-in. That’s how I see cravings. They can be triggered by various factors, including stress, emotions, and environmental cues.
Here are some tips for managing cravings:
1. Identify triggers:
Recognize the situations, people, or emotions that trigger cravings. Once identified, you can take steps to avoid or manage these triggers.
2. Develop coping strategies:
Develop coping strategies for managing cravings, such as practicing mindfulness, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. Distracting yourself with other activities, such as exercise or hobbies, can also be helpful.
3. Reach out for support:
Reach out to a support system, such as a sponsor, therapist, or recovery group, for help in managing cravings. Talking to someone who understands what it’s like to experience cravings can be a helpful reminder that you are not alone and that what’s happening to you is part of the process of initiating and sustaining your recovery and it does get easier and you will get there.
4. Focus on the long-term goal:
Keep in mind the reasons for wanting to maintain sobriety and focus on the long-term goal of recovery. Remembering the benefits of being in recovery can provide motivation to resist cravings.
5. Take care of yourself:
Taking care of yourself, including getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and practicing self-care, can help reduce stress and prevent cravings or reduce their intensity.
6. Avoid high-risk situations:
Avoid situations that may trigger cravings, such as parties or events where alcohol or drugs are present. I once went home for the weekend when I was in rehab, as part of the community re-integration process, and decided to look up some old friends while there. It wasn’t on my plan for the day and the day nearly went completely pear-shaped. I then had intermittent cravings for several days afterwards.
7. Use positive affirmations:
Using positive affirmations or self-talk can be helpful in managing cravings. Remind yourself of your strengths and the progress that you have made in recovery. Create a positive affirmation list and save the affirmations in a jar to look at from time to time (this can become an “auto-pilot” routine).
In conclusion, managing cravings is an important part of addiction recovery. By identifying triggers, developing coping strategies, reaching out for support, focusing on the long-term goal, taking care of yourself, avoiding high-risk situations, and using positive affirmations, you can successfully manage cravings and maintain your commitment to recovery.