Addiction is a complex disease. Cravings have a lot to do with why people continue to use drugs or alcohol despite negative health and social consequences. Cravings are common in early recovery, but they can even pop up after being sober for a long period. If you are dealing with cravings after long-term sobriety, you may be feeling scared, guilty, and ashamed. However, cravings are normal, even if you’ve been in recovery for years. Luckily, there are several ways you can overcome cravings and come out on the other side.
Accept and Move Past Your Feelings
Craving drugs and alcohol after you’ve been sober for an extended period can bring up a lot of emotions. You may be feeling scared that you’re going to give in to your urges or guilty for even having these thoughts. Don’t let these feelings rule your life. When you give in to these feelings, you are allowing yourself to become vulnerable to relapse. However, when you accept and move past these feelings, you can help yourself eventually move through your cravings.
When trying to accept and move past your feelings, it may help to talk with a sponsor or another person in your recovery circle. Another person telling you that cravings are normal can help give you the nudge you need to start moving forward. These people have most likely dealt with cravings before, too, and can help you come up with ways to overcome them.
“Ride the Wave”
“Riding the wave” or “urge surfing” of your cravings, urges, and emotions is a way to address current cravings and prepare for future ones simultaneously. You can visualize your cravings as a wave. Like a wave, cravings may begin as a small swell. Then, as it moves along, it grows in size and strength until it naturally crests and crashes over into the sea. After that, it calms back down again.
Urge Surfing is the act of riding that wave of cravings like you would if you were a surfer riding a wave into shore. You can’t get rid of cravings. Like waves, they come back again and again, forever crashing into and washing over you. However, if you can work on accepting cravings, you can use your attention to ride the wave out.
Find a Distraction
When you’re overwhelmed with a craving or an urge to use, finding a distraction is helpful. Whether that means treating yourself to a different drink like an iced coffee, a sports drink, or some tea, going for a walk, or calling a friend, these types of simple distractions can get your mind off the craving and onto other things.
Getting outside and doing something active can be one of the best distractions to get your endorphins pumping and make you feel great. Some practical activities could be riding your bike, taking a yoga class, going for a run, or walking your dog. Moving your body can help you forget about your craving and find pleasure in something else.
Focus on the Present
It can be extremely easy to dwell on how great drugs or alcohol made you feel the first time or how much you have to lose if you relapse. Instead, you should work on focusing on the here and now—nothing else. Instead of ruminating on the past or worrying about the future, it’s helpful to think about your life now. Think about how far you’ve come in recovery, and remain thankful for all the great things you’ve fought so hard to achieve in sobriety.
You can also practice mindfulness to help yourself focus on the present. Practicing mindfulness in recovery has many benefits, but it can also help you fight through cravings and urges to use. Recognize what’s going on inside yourself, including your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. Whether you journal about it, meditate, or just set aside ten minutes every day, being mindful can help you strike a balance and focus on the present, even when you’re struggling with cravings.
Ask For Help
While you can do a lot to deal with cravings on your own, it’s essential that you ask for help when needed. You can look for help from your friends and family, a support group such as 12-Step programs, or a therapist or counselor. You can talk to a counselor or therapist to determine the root issues behind cravings and work to solve them. You can get emotional support from friends and family.
You can also share how you feel and how it affects you in a nonjudgmental environment of your peers in a support group. Being able to share with others how you feel will help you stay accountable to yourself and the people you let into your life.
Cravings are normal, even after you’ve been in recovery for years. However, they may still bring up feelings of fear, guilt, and shame. Cravings don’t have to define you and your recovery–you can move past them. By accepting and moving past your feelings, “riding the wave” of your cravings, finding a distraction, and focusing on the present, you can help yourself move forward to the other side. If you are still struggling with cravings, it may be time to ask for help. At Hired Power, we believe that relapse doesn’t have to be a part of recovery. We utilize a collaborative, team approach to help individuals achieve lasting recovery. Our professional team works closely with each client’s existing doctors, therapists, treatment coordinators, interventionists, and other key recovery team members to develop an effective treatment plan based on their unique needs. For more information on our services, call Hired Power today at 800.910.9299.