How to Manage Urges and Cravings

Urges and cravings are an unavoidable part of the recovery process for most addicts. Learning to deal with these seemingly irresistible desires to drink or use will be a key component in the success of your sobriety. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we want you to have the information and support you need to overcome urges and cravings and remain on your positive path of recovery.

What are Cravings?

Cravings are physical compulsions that are affected by levels of dopamine in the body. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released by the brain that is linked to emotional responses, and behaviors motivated by rewards. The release of dopamine is prompted by “triggers” that cause you to think about using in a positive way. Cravings can hit without warning, so preparing in advance to manage these urges will be crucial in preventing relapse.

Tips for Successful Management of Cravings

There are a number of things you can do to deal with cravings when they arise:

Acknowledge Them

Cravings are a very normal part of the addiction recovery process. Unfortunately, denying or ignoring them will not make them go away. Instead, acknowledge your craving, as well as the fact that it is completely normal and temporary. The discomfort associated with the craving is not life-threatening and you can ride it out without turning back to substance abuse.

Make Them Wait

Like the rest of your recovery process, breaking cravings down to a one-step-at-a-time approach will make the cravings appear easier to overcome. When the craving hits, tell yourself you will not give into the craving for five minutes. If the craving is still present at the end of five minutes, repeat the process.

Think them over

Think carefully about the consequences of giving into that craving. Will you wake up tomorrow feeling hungover and ashamed? What will using do to your recovery? How do you feel without the substance in your system? Self-talk like this can be very useful in talking yourself out of giving into your urges.

Practice healthy distraction

Substitute your desire to use with an activity that you enjoy. Go for a walk, play with your pet or kids, or spend time in prayer. Turn on some music, take a shower or read something interesting. Have a toolbox of distraction ideas on hand so you can turn to one of them quickly when the desire to use hits.

Seek support

Dealing with a craving is often much easier with another person to support you through. Call your sponsor or a trusted friend or family member to alert them to your craving. Make sure you have those numbers on your phone and permission to call any time of the day or night when a craving hits.

Ramp up your self-care

Cravings are more likely to occur when you are tired, hungry or alone. Maintain self-care practices to lower your risk for cravings throughout your recovery process. If a craving does it, turn to a self-care habit to overcome the craving by focusing on doing something positive for yourself.

Ride them out

Keep in mind that most cravings only last 10-15 minutes. Tell yourself you can make it through that short time period until the cravings pass. Once the craving is over, think about how proud you will feel if you do not succumb to temptation.

Cravings are most common in the early stages of recovery. Although they may subside significantly over time, you may never get rid of the cravings completely. To ensure a healthy, successful recovery process, learn to identify triggers that could derail you and seek the support and coping strategies you need to overcome them. To learn more about coping with cravings, contact West Coast Recovery Centers at 442-333-6199.

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