Once a person enters the world of recovery, their life often quickly becomes better and positive things start happening. They return to school or regain employment, begin new relationships with others in recovery; they engage with a sponsor or counselor and their physical health and looks improve. With all these great things, cravings for drug use may linger and sometimes be very intense. People with decades of recovery will explain that even they still get the occasional craving to use drugs. The best way to manage any craving for drugs or alcohol is to utilize your recovery toolset.
A person’s recovery toolset must include a network of support from others who are in recovery. Sharing with others in recovery about your drug abuse desires is one of the best ways to allow others to help you with it. By not being honest about feeling these cravings, it can influence a person to isolate, lie, and then relapse. Recovery from addiction is a supportive effort; nobody remains clean and sober all by themselves. It is through others that former addicts learn that what they are feeling is not an individual experience. A group of recovering addicts is as powerful as any drug because the group helps each person feel better.
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When people in recovery share their feelings about wanting to use drugs or alcohol, others in recovery instantly relate. You’ll be surprised how many recovering addicts will hold out their hand to help you get through these tough times without using. Or they will offer to stay by your side until the craving goes away. Typically, the miracle of opening up to another recovering addict about a craving or drug fantasy minimizes it to nothing but a strange thought.
If a person in recovery is truly fixated on getting high, another tool that is recommended is to make sure that your physical needs are being met. The acronym HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) is extremely helpful. Many addicts in recovery will realize that they are not actually craving a drug but perhaps a meal, or even something sweet. A person’s physical state affects their emotional and mental health. Walking around hungry is uncomfortable, as is too full. Monitoring how much and what kinds of food you eat is a simple cure for reducing drug cravings.
Emotions Have a Huge Effect
The next letter of the acronym is a big one. Anger is often the trigger for many drug cravings. Addicts used drugs to numb or ward off their feelings. There are no other emotions that are as intense as Anger. If a person in new recovery experiences something that sends them into the red zone, quickly they will immediately try to expel that uncomfortable emotion, and their mind will remember what has “worked” in the past (getting high).
To get to the root cause of anger, the 12 Steps are the most applauded method for uncovering how and why certain people or experiences cause anger. By working the 12 Steps (specifically Step 4) many recovering addicts have found that by identifying their part in a situation that causes their anger, the acceptance makes it go away. Another tool for anger is like the tool for hunger, and that is to make sure that all of your physical needs are being met. An angry person is often hungry or tired.
Feeling lonely is another symptom of the disease of addiction. Addicts use drugs not to feel lonely. If a newly recovering addict is feeling alone and desolate, they need to get involved with others. By reaching out to others in recovery, a person is no longer isolated, and their feelings of separateness diminish. This does not mean that newly recovering addicts must be surrounded by others at all times. It does mean that picking up the phone and calling someone when you feel lonely will help ease that emotion.
Physically Things That Cause the Cravings
Like being hungry, being tired is a physical influence that will cause an addict to crave drugs. Many addicts used to stay awake all night on drugs and alcohol for days on end. Once a person gets clean and sober, they may struggle with getting enough sleep or too much sleep for the first several months. At about six months of sobriety, most recovering addicts sleep cycle returns to normal, and they feel refreshed after a good night’s sleep. If someone is not getting enough sleep, tiredness can add to the uncomfortable feelings that cravings seek to medicate. So, get enough sleep.
Have a Relapse Prevention Plan
Another essential tool that helps every addict on their journey in recovery is having been taught the skills from relapse prevention groups or literature. Relapse prevention groups teach addicts how to cope and where to go for specific types of help. A relapse prevention plan will include adding 12 Step meetings, working with a counselor and a sponsor. It will also recommend that the recovering addict’s day is full of positive activities.
An idle mind is dangerous for people in recovery because boredom is often a trigger for drug cravings. By filling the day with meetings, work, and time with friends and family who are supportive is essential. Also, do not forget about having fun! Going to movies, out to eat, riding a bike and many other entertainment activities make recovery worth it.
Avoid Boredom in Recovery
Boredom in recovery is more likely for a person who lacks aspirations and motivation. If a newly recovering addict is not striving to improve him or herself, then its’ recommended to revisit how their recovery is serving them. Additionally, people who have been in recovery for years can become complacent and begin to believe that they do not need to spend as much time on their recovery. This is a prime example of the disease of addiction at work. Recovery is a lifelong endeavor that when nourished, grows stronger.
To stabilize your recovery and prevent drug cravings, another essential aspect for recovering addicts is a connection to a Higher Power or God. By beginning every day with time for spiritual reflection or meditation, recovering addicts have a purpose presented to them that does not wholeheartedly focus on “self”. By getting out of your way and considering that a Higher power is in charge is a freeing experience. Addicts are some of the most self-involved and self-centered people that exist. To believe that this trait completely goes away once an addict is in recovery is simply not always true.
Addicts who are in a very strong recovery will explain that they have character defects. By addressing the character defects, addicts learn to cope with who they are clean and sober. This simple realization is a great approach to make your recovery fulfilling. Recovery means that addicts and alcoholics can finally enjoy life as it is presented to them. Life is no longer dismal and recovering addicts can connect to it far beyond the help that any drug or drink once provided.
Don’t Pick Up, Stay Sober
The most important thing for every addict and alcoholic is to remember is that no matter what…do not pick up a drink or a drug. Addiction immediately begins the minute you start using again. All other important facets of a recovering addict’s life get thrown to the side, and the addiction starts all over again. Cravings diminish with time in recovery; this is a fact. To get through the times that your mind fixates on drugs, look to your support network, check in with yourself through HALT, review your relapse prevention plan and spend time with your Higher Power, and complete your day or week with friends in recovery and have some fun!