Cravings are an unfortunate inevitability throughout the recovery process. They can be extremely intense in the early phases of recovery, such as during detox and residential care, but can persist throughout any stage of recovery. Those who have worked hard to maintain their sobriety for years can still experience cravings from time to time. Each individual needs to remain prepared to combat these intense feelings to avoid regressing to more destructive practices regardless of the length of their sobriety.
Cravings can manifest in many ways. While some may stem from identifiable sources or stressors, others may be unclear in their roots and need more focus and dedication to uncover their origins.
What Is a Craving?
Addiction is a disease that programs the brain to expect certain substances, like drugs or alcohol, to function, and it can retain this association for a long time. Cravings are intense manifestations of this programming, creating an overwhelming feeling of need to re-engage with an addictive substance, even amidst sober practices. An individual can feel the entire brain and body compelled to re-engage with substances. Thoughts of using drugs or alcohol again can invade one’s other thoughts, creating distractions or an overall lack of focus on anything except the desire to use.
Learning to cope with these cravings is difficult, and while they do typically pass after a time, even a few minutes can feel like a long, difficult time as the brain fights to employ its higher judgment. While some cravings will pass in a moment or two, other cravings have also been known to last longer, stretching to hours or even days. Being prepared with strategies that can keep the brain and body occupied until these cravings pass is crucial. However, because they can occur at any time or place, multiple strategies are needed to be prepared for various situations.
When Do Cravings Occur?
Cravings can surface at any time and can be tied closely to triggers. Experiencing stressful events or engaging in people or places that were once associated with one’s use of an addictive substance can all prompt a craving. Experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety can also aid in the development of cravings. However, these are not the only ways in which cravings can occur.
One may find that while they have employed successful strategies throughout their recovery program, slight hiccups can prompt an intense craving. Guilt, doubt, or hopelessness can cause a craving to manifest as the brain may still default to drugs or alcohol as a natural response to stress or when life feels overwhelming. Stress management techniques are crucial, but any shortcomings in one’s stress-management plans may create a craving as an innate response still programmed in one’s mind.
One’s subconscious can also be their own worst enemy, creating the constant struggle between their latent tendencies and their newfound sober practices. This struggle can cause cravings to occur at seemingly random times or even create dreams or nightmares centered around re-engagement with an addictive substance. Upon waking, it is common for these subconscious dreams to have real-world effects on a person’s mental state, creating cravings in the odd hours of the night.
Coping With Cravings
Consistent reaffirmations of one’s decision to pursue sobriety are crucial in combatting these problematic and intense feelings. Reminding oneself of the choice that exists between thoughts and actions and understanding that such compulsions are not necessarily destined to become a reality is a key differential, placing the power to control one’s actions in one’s higher mind.
Maintaining a healthy, consistent diet and proper sleep can help much more than one may first anticipate. These healthy habits provide the body and mind with the energy it needs to deal with difficult and rash thoughts such as cravings. A tired mind can be more open to unhealthy suggestions and bad decisions. Maintaining a healthy diet as a core component of one’s new sober identity can help consistently keep one prepared to deal with cravings.
Lastly, it is essential to let go of any bad feelings, guilt, or other emotionally compromising feelings that may come about as a result of simply experiencing a craving. Cravings are normal and will happen. Experiencing a craving does not indicate a weakness in one’s sober practices. It is what an individual does in response to a craving that dictates one’s continued sobriety. Harboring feelings of guilt about an inevitable and recurring part of the recovery process can weaken one’s emotional resilience and damage self-esteem, making each subsequent craving more and more dangerous.
While learning to deal with cravings can be a difficult process, there is always a way to overcome them. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol and are ready to take your first steps towards overcoming cravings and maintaining your sobriety, Avalon Malibu can help you today. We offer an array of programs designed to help you personalize your journey to sobriety. We employ an array of proven therapeutic techniques to help you better understand and overcome your unique situation, including art, writing, and music therapy, yoga. We also provide individual and group therapy sessions, all in an outstanding atmosphere of community and safety. We can help you take your first step towards a transformed future. For more information on how we can help you recover from addiction, call to speak to one of our trained, caring staff members today at (844) 857-5992.