Even after a patient has undergone the standard detox process, there’s no guarantee they have completely shaken the full physiological effects of addiction, particularly those levels of cravings that go beyond the physical. Throughout the recovery process, the former addict must anticipate they may feel the occasional need or desire to return to their substance abuse and meet a craving for the way their drug of choice made them feel.
That's why the addict needs a plan to address such moments and, in keeping with that plan, here are five strategies for coping with cravings during early recovery.
The early part of the recovery process is, of course, one of the most precarious. The former addict, newly returned to sobriety, is in a fragile state, still unused to the rhythms of a life free of substance abuse and liable to fall, without careful guidance and needed precautions, into habits that might lead back to drug use and relapse.
Add to that the specter of cravings pushing the former addict to desire their old poison of choice, and one can see how it’s all too easy to fall into the well-remembered cycle of addiction and find oneself caught in the coils of substance abuse once more.
But there are steps one can take to try and avoid such a regrettable fate. Here are just five strategies for coping with cravings during early recovery:
- Avoidance. Early on in your recovery, you’ll start to identify various people, places and things that can trigger cravings. Put simply, you should avoid all of those things as well as you can. Of course, some things cannot be avoided, and some things you try to avoid can surprise you with an appearance in your life. But identifying and putting aside as many triggers as you can is a good start to quelling such cravings.
- Replacement. Cravings are a negative feeling in your new post-addiction outlook, so as much as you can, replace them with positive feelings. This can be done with various actions or activities, such as exercise, hobbies you enjoy, entertainment you like to partake of such as movies or music, soothing activities such as meditation or prayer and, of course, support meetings for you and others struggling with addiction.
- Change your thinking. Negative feelings inspired by cravings can overwhelm you, causing stress or panic. Focus on pushing through that to focus on the good. Focus on what you like about your new routines and how substance abuse can harm that. Remember what you like about the new you. It’s a mind over matter approach.
- Find help. Seek out those who know about your struggles with addiction and talk to them when a craving grows strong. Let their assistance guide you through the craving without falling prey to it.
- Have a plan. It’s easier to avoid cravings if you know to expect them and plan for them. Don’t let things sneak up on you, such as dates with negative connotations or events that cause stress. Expect and plan for them. Surprises will happen, but with proper preparation, you can avoid most relapse opportunities and have methods in place to help cope with the rest.