While your recovery journey may not be easy, the rewards are enormous and your life is sure to transform in beautiful and unexpected ways.
Humans often become addicted to substances such as drugs, alcohol, and food in order to numb our feelings and avoid facing life's challenges and opportunities. One of the main struggles in addiction recovery, particularly in the early phases, is cravings.
It’s important to remember that cravings are not an insurmountable mountain or a scary beast. They are just your body’s calling for old comforts and, more often than not, they are habits you built—which means they can be changed.
Here are some tips that might help you surpass the uncomfortable moments when cravings rear their head.
The uncomfortable urge to use a certain substance does not last forever. It passes. When the urge comes, remind yourself that this is just a feeling and not reality.
Whatever you do, do not engage with the thought. That means don’t start bargaining with yourself or arguing with the thought, such as telling yourself, "I could eat this cake tonight and start tomorrow." Eating the cake, or smoking that cigarette, or drinking that beer is not an option. Distract yourself, go for a walk, play a game, or talk to someone.
Whatever your substance of choice might be, make a plan that includes things you could do instead of using that substance. If you used to use your substance in the evening, make a plan to do something different from your usual routine. For example, instead of sitting down to watch Netflix while drinking a bottle of wine, make a plan to go for a walk after dinner, call or text friends you haven't contacted in a long time, or take a bath.
It helps to be among other individuals who are going through what you are experiencing. Joining a support group or a group such as a 12 step program might lighten the burden of discontinuing the use of a substance you thought was helpful. It might give you hope and courage to know that others like you have been able to overcome their addictions and they can be there for you to guide you in moments of need.
Keep up with your plan, whatever it might be. If you decide to join a support group, stick with it. Go to the meeting, no matter how much you may be resisting—bring your body and your heart will follow. Even if you are struggling with your commitment to your recovery journey, attending recovery meetings with fellow travelers is sure to rub off on you and help you heal. Recovery is contagious.
I often tell my clients that service is the fastest-acting antidepressant on the market. When you experience a craving, instead of focusing on the discomfort and irritability you might often feel when cravings come on, ask yourself: Whom can I help? How can I be of service?
The answer may be as simple as texting a friend or an elderly relative you think may be alone or lonely, opening the door for someone, helping a parent or a caregiver carry a stroller up the stairs, or asking the barista at a coffee shop how they are doing. Service gets us out of our self-centered focus on our pain and angst and brings us joy to see that even a small gesture can make someone else's life a bit easier or lighter.
Crowding your substance out is very similar to replacing it. Say your struggle is with alcohol, particularly when you are at a party or gathering. Instead of just standing there, twiddling your thumbs and focusing on the discomfort you feel, make yourself a non-alcoholic drink, and a really nice one at that. Doing so can trick your mind by satisfying part of the habit you had developed, to have a glass in your hand with an attractive cocktail.
Remember that every time you overcome a craving, it is money in your recovery bank account. Instead of dreading the craving, think to yourself, this is wonderful.
You have this opportunity to teach your unconscious mind that you are actually strong enough and have the tools and techniques to overcome these cravings. Every time you do not succumb to a craving is more money in your recovery bank account. The bigger the recovery bank account, the higher the chances that you will overcome your addiction.
One day at a time is a 12 step concept that has helped many people. Instead of thinking that you will not be smoking, drinking, or taking certain drugs for the rest of your life, consider that it is just for today. Tell yourself, “Just for today, I will not go to the bakery. Just for today, I will not take the first drink, or smoke, or take that pill.”
While struggling with addiction can leave us feeling stuck and stagnant, the road to recovery can help us repair relationships with loved ones and allow us to truly experience life and all its gifts. The road to recovery may be difficult, but help is out there. I’m wishing you the best on your road to a happy destiny.
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