One of the most challenging obstacles on the path to sobriety is dealing with cravings. Drug and alcohol cravings can be intense and persistent, but with the right strategies and support, you can learn to cope and regain control over your life. While cravings may not go away completely, you will have fewer of them with more time in between.
Since cravings can come and go for a lifetime, it’s crucial to have effective strategies for dealing with them. Let's explore 12 effective ways to cope with drug and alcohol cravings following substance abuse treatment in Easton PA.
1. Recognize and Accept Cravings
The first step in coping with cravings is to acknowledge and accept them. Understand that cravings are a normal part of addiction recovery and do not reflect weakness or failure. If you were trying to eat healthy, you’d likely have cravings for sweet and salty foods. Now that you’re quitting drugs or alcohol, you’re craving what you can’t have.
Cravings are typically caused by certain stimuli in the environment - maybe hearing a song that brings you back to a certain time or driving past a place where you used to hang out. But, remember that you are craving a specific feeling and not thinking about the consequences. By recognizing and accepting cravings, you can reduce their power over you.
2. Develop Distraction Techniques
When cravings strike, one of the best things you can do is distract yourself. Cravings are temporary and will go away, so distraction techniques work wonders. Choose activities that demand your attention, such as exercising, reading, painting or solving crossword puzzles. Immersing yourself in these activities will pass the time and help you get through the craving.
3. Deep Breathing and Relaxation
Stress and anxiety can trigger cravings, so be sure to recognize when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. If you are feeling these emotions, practice deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and yoga.
Having a variety of ways to calm stress and anxiety is important in recovery, as these feelings can creep up on you when you least expect it. Things like deep breathing counteract a stress response, help stimulate relaxation and return everything to equilibrium.
4. Create a Supportive Network
Build a strong support network of friends, family or a support group. Having someone to talk to when you’re feeling down can lift you up and help you stay accountable in your recovery journey. If you’re experiencing more cravings than unusual, this is a sign that you may need more support. Consider joining an intensive outpatient program in Easton PA or attending an extra meeting.
5. Identify Triggers
Remember, cravings are typically caused by some type of trigger. Think about the specific situations, emotions or people that are triggering your cravings. Once you recognize these triggers, you can develop strategies to avoid them or cope with them more effectively.
Some triggers are easy to get away from. For example, if you drive past an old hangout on the way to work, you can take a different route. But other triggers aren’t as easy to escape. If you’re recovering from an alcohol addiction, you’re bound to see people drinking at times. In this case, you should choose events wisely and shop at stores that don’t sell alcohol.
6. Develop Healthy Habits
Replace old habits with healthy ones. Establish a routine that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet and adequate sleep. Healthy habits contribute to physical and emotional well-being, reducing the likelihood of cravings. Plus, when you’re taking care of your physical and emotional needs, you’re better able to tolerate the effects of cravings, making you less likely to give into them.
7. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
During substance abuse treatment in Easton PA, you probably spent time participating in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), an evidence-based therapeutic approach that helps individuals identify and change destructive thought patterns and behaviors. CBT equips you with coping strategies and tools to manage cravings effectively.
CBT is considered a short-term therapy, with results seen in just a few sessions. However, your therapist may recommend that you attend more CBT sessions so that you can continue working on strengthening your recovery skills.
8. Mindful Awareness
Practice mindfulness by paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Mindful awareness can help you observe cravings without reacting to them impulsively. This increased self-awareness allows you to make healthier choices. It’s also an excellent tool for managing stress and anxiety and helping you live in the moment, rather than in the past or future.
9. Create a Relapse Prevention Plan
If you recently attended rehab, you were likely given an aftercare plan that includes strategies for dealing with cravings, recognizing warning signs and implementing effective coping mechanisms.
Don't have a relapse prevention plan? Work with a therapist or counselor to develop one. If you find yourself feeling triggered, you can refer back to your relapse plan and follow the recommendations, which may include attending a meeting, reaching out to your sponsor or talking with a therapist.
10. Reach Out for Professional Help
If cravings become overwhelming or persistent, consider seeking professional help. A healthcare provider or addiction specialist can assess your situation and recommend appropriate treatments, including medication-assisted therapy (MAT) if necessary.
MAT uses a combination of behavioral therapy and medication to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. The medications are safe, effective and approved by the FDA. They work especially well for opioid use disorders and alcohol use disorders.
11. Keep a Journal
Write in a journal to track your thoughts, feelings and cravings. Writing down your experiences can help you gain insights into your triggers and emotions, making it easier to address them. Also, when you’re having a bad day, it’s helpful to look back at how far you’ve come in your journey. This can give you the motivation you need to get through the craving.
12. Celebrate Milestones
Finally, celebrate your milestones and achievements in recovery. Recognizing your progress, no matter how small, can boost your self-esteem and encourage you to stay on the path to sobriety. Some of the milestones you may want to celebrate include achieving personal goals, reentering work and relationships and supporting others.
Begin Your Journey to Recovery
Coping with drug and alcohol cravings is a challenging but essential aspect of addiction recovery. Remember that you have the strength to overcome these cravings, and you're not alone in your journey. By utilizing these coping strategies and seeking support from your loved ones and professionals, you can build resilience and find freedom from addiction. To learn more about starting your journey to recovery, contact Recovery Cove at 484-549-COVE.