Let’s talk about cravings. If you are newly sober, here is the deal, you are going to have them, they are natural. There isn’t a whole lot we can do to prevent them in the early days, but there is a whole lot we can do to cope with and manage them.
Just because we have drug cravings doesn’t mean we have to use, or that we are going to relapse. What it means, is that we might not have drugs in our system anymore, but we still have work to do. Long story short, if you are a drug addict, your mind is going to try and trick you into believing in those cravings or giving into them.
Now let’s talk about what to do when we have those cravings. First of all, don’t freak out! It isn’t the end of the world, you aren’t going to jump out of your skin. Instead, JourneyPure encourages everyone to try some of these methods to cope with and walk through those cravings like a strong, sober, bad mamajama!
1. First Things First – Safety Net
The most proven and successful method to ensure that you aren’t trying to fight off cravings for the rest of your days is to work a recovery program. 12 step fellowships have helped millions of people get and stay sober, but the key here is honesty and willingness to give it your best shot.
They say that if we put half the energy into staying sober that we put into getting high, we will be just fine. Take it from me, I have been sober for almost three years, have worked my steps fully, and to be honest, I never even really think about getting high or drunk anymore. I can go to any concert or restaurant or family event, and not have to worry about getting messed up. I don’t feel like an outsider for not having a drink in my hand anymore. I am always able to drive myself home safely and wake up the next morning without a hangover or withdrawing.
This can happen for you too, the only requirement to rid yourself of cravings is to do the steps. However, sometimes cravings can happen while you’re still early in sobriety and working your steps. When those times strike, there are a few other helpful options to manage cravings.
2. Move a Muscle, Change a Thought
My first sponsor always told me, whenever I’m feeling squirrely, having cravings, or sitting on the pity pot, the best thing to do, was to get off of it. Sometimes that literally meant to do something else. For example, sweep the floor, put a load of laundry in or take a shower. Sometimes it had to be something bigger, like taking a walk to the coffee shop, going to a meeting or going to the gym.
The main idea behind this trick is to literally distract yourself from that craving, even if just for a moment. If you are more of a “face the problem head-on” type of person, read the next tip.
3. Practice Mindful Meditation
A lot of professionals argue in favor of sitting through cravings as they happen. Rather than trying to shut them down or distract yourself, it is somewhat of a form of mindfulness meditation to literally focus inward on the craving.
For example, when a craving strikes, try these methods:
- Notice the sensation in your head and take a deep breath
- Try to locate where the craving is coming up in your body, whether it be in your stomach, in the palms of your hands, in your throat, etc. Take a deep breath
- Focus on following that feeling, which is now just a feeling and no longer a thought, throughout your body, where does it feel most intense? Breathe into that area.
- Sit and breathe through your feeling until it disappears.
This practice isn’t for everybody, as it can sometimes make some people feel it too intensely, but it is a good way to isolate the thought and feeling and to practice sitting with the uncomfortability rather than distracting ourselves from it.
4. Reach out to a Sober Support
When all else fails, reaching out to another sober support can usually get our heads back on straight. Calling a friend or getting out with someone you trust can really shake up the thoughts that were bouncing around in your brain. It is also helpful if this person has already worked their steps through and has experienced a spiritual awakening as a result.
This person would be a good shoulder to lean on, so don’t be afraid to open up about your cravings, where and why you had them. It can often be extremely beneficial to hear someone else’s experiences with cravings in their early sobriety, and how they pushed through them.
5. Be of Service to Someone Else
You will hear it over and over throughout the books and rooms of your recovery program. Service for others is what will always keep us sober. In hard times and good, being of service for others gets us outside of ourselves. More often than not, if we are struck suddenly by cravings, and just can’t seem to convince ourselves it isn’t a good idea, working with or being with another addict or alcoholic will always save the day.
To be honest, when people who have cravings and don’t reach outfall to relapse, many people attest it to them falling off of their program or no longer working with sponsors. The reason is because when we are not being of service to others, we go back to living selfishly. Being there for someone else will always put us back into our good place!
It can be overwhelming even thinking about going to rehab, never mind actually doing it. However, if you are suffering from even just one of these signs, reaching out for help is the best chance you have to put an end to your substance use disorder for good.
Do not ignore yourself and your needs. You are worth getting the appropriate treatment so that you no longer have to live in this dangerous cycle of abuse. Reach out to us right now. We can help.
Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.