cravings in rehab

4 Ways to Fight Cravings in Recovery

Published on December 6, 2019 by First Responder Wellness

Addiction is a chronic disease, and while it can be managed with the right tools and vigilant self-accountability, cravings can occur frequently in early recovery, and may continue to arise unexpectedly for many years into sobriety.  While having craving can be an unsettling experience and induce fear of relapse, it is perfectly normal, and there are many techniques and strategies that can help make dealing with cravings as painless as possible.

Distract Yourself

It is important to remember that while cravings and urges can be powerful, they will always pass with time.  Getting through that time is the hard part. When a craving arises, find a way to pass the time that will keep you as engaged and distracted as possible.  Get started on a time-consuming chore, like cleaning your car or taking the dog on a walk. Turn on your favorite movie and commit to watching it all the way through, or get to work in the kitchen and make something labor-intensive and delicious.  Any activity that is sure to take a while to complete is a great option for finding distraction, and you may discover that your craving has passed before your task is complete.

Change Your Environment

Cravings and urges often occur due to environmental factors and triggers, whether they are obvious or happening on a subconscious level.  Leaving your environment when a craving occurs and finding a change of pace can help your urges to dissipate. For example, if you find yourself in a social situation that is making you anxious and causing you to have thoughts of using, remove yourself from the situation and find a quiet place to relax and refocus on your own.  On the other side of the spectrum, if you find yourself having cravings due to boredom and a sense of isolation, reach out to a friend to grab a cup of coffee or see a movie. Loneliness and solitude are often major culprits in drug and alcohol use, so it is important to maintain healthy human connection during recovery. Additionally, it is important to avoid becoming overwhelmed by your environment and to maintain a sense of peace and calm as often as possible.

Practice Self-Care

Self-care has only recently become a popular concept in discussions surrounding mental wellness, but using your intuition to detect when you need to take some time for yourself and invest in your mental and physical wellbeing is a great way to stay strong in the fight against cravings.  Self-care looks different for everyone and may even change from day to day depending on personal needs. You may need to book a massage, enjoy a pedicure, see a movie by yourself and eat lots of buttery popcorn, or simply read a book outside on a nice day. An important rule of thumb when contemplating self-care is to remember that too much of a good thing can be counterproductive.  It is important to avoid replacement addictions by resisting the urge to spend money or overeat every time you experience a craving, but a bit of indulgence here and there can help lift your spirits and keep you away from drugs and alcohol. The best forms of self-care, however, are actions that are truly good for your body and spirit, such as yoga, meditation, or time spent in nature.  

Use Your Resources

During the initial stages of recovery, you will likely be coached into establishing and growing a safety net of sorts that can provide you with support after you have completed a treatment program.  You may have a therapist, a sponsor, and access to 12-step meetings and group therapy. One of the best ways to combat cravings is to call on your support system during your times of need. Call your sponsor, schedule an additional therapy session, or look for a 12-step meeting happening in your area as soon as possible.  Even if your craving has passed before you are able to attend a meeting or see your therapist, you may be able to discuss your triggers and prevent future cravings from occurring. Additionally, if you feel like you are truly in danger of relapse, it is important to be honest with yourself and your care providers, and recommit to another round of treatment if necessary.  For individuals who may be returning to a high-stress job or an environment that can be retraumatizing, recovery can be an especially difficult road. Reaching out to a professional treatment program to prevent relapse or find a way back to sobriety after relapse is the bravest and wisest choice for those continuing to struggle after treatment. 

The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses.  We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult.

Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.  By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing. First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.