Every person who experiences recovery will encounter triggers and urges to drink. It is a natural part of the process which will fade as time goes on. Setting expectations early on for what is ahead in recovery can help build positive coping strategies for the inevitable.
Cravings in Recovery
Cravings are an intense feeling or desire to drink again. During recovery from alcoholism, cravings are a usual part of the process, particularly in early recovery when thoughts and cravings to drink can pop up out of nowhere anytime. Experiencing cravings does not lead a person to relapse but support does exist to cope with the feelings as they arise.
Symptoms of Cravings
An intense desire to drink can lead a person to feel the need to relapse which starts with self talk in the mind before an action ever happens. Alcohol cravings are both manifested in physical and mental feelings. As habitual drinking habits are reduced, a person can expect positive thought patterns to emerge. Cravings have a basis in more negative thought patterning which is a result of physical and mental urges to drink and may be triggered in the following ways:
- When a person is in contact with people, places or situations which are associated with past drinking behavior
- A person stops drinking
- A person tries to escape from unpleasant feelings (depression, anxiety, boredom, stress)
- A person wants to enhance a positive mood (like when the individual used to get from alcohol)
- Triggers which make a person feel hunger, anger, loneliness, tiredness
Dealing with Cravings
Many ways exist to deal with cravings in recovery. The best way to cope include the following strategies:
- Avoid triggers. Certain people, places and activities will trigger cravings for alcohol. Avoid the situations even if it means changing social or private life and old hobbies
- Practice saying ‘no.’ Willpower is a strong way to combat cravings even when the world throws curveballs. In social situations, people may offer a drink but a person can refuse rather than accepting. Having a prepared response will help (firm, polite turn down of drink).
- Manage triggers. Talking with trusted friends, sponsors, counselors or loved ones can help offset the effect triggers have on a person’s recovery. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
- Relaxation techniques. Anxiety, fear, anger and stress can be common triggers for cravings. Learning how to stay calm and breathe deeply (meditation, yoga) can help when situations arise.
- Medication. Medicine can be a powerful support for individuals who struggle with cravings but should be done under the consult of a therapist or program overseen by professionals.
No one-size-fits-all approach works in treatment to stop cravings completely. It helps to have support and strategies for coping with cravings which will arise from time to time throughout recovery. The key is to find trusted individuals within whom to confide and seek support when it feels too much to handle.
Hired Power helps individuals recover from the power of addiction and substance use. The journey of recovery is best done in community. Call us to find out how we can support your journey with resources, tools and information about addiction recovery.