The End of the Road: Drug and Alcohol cravings

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The End of the Road: Drug and Alcohol cravings
By Elijah W. on December 3, 2012
(Overview at the Onala Recovery Center and its benefits)

I’ve spent over 100 hours at the Onala Recovery Center this pass semester observing how they operate and understanding the issue of alcohol addiction and its damage. I’ve sat and had conversations with alcoholics and drug abusers. It’s not easy noticing whose and addict and who isn’t. Alcohol and drug addiction is a serious issue. Many people live difficult lives and families are broken apart because of this. Today we want to see how we can best manage drug and alcohol cravings during our recovery.

Many people in early recovery are probably wondering if it is even possible to do so. The first few weeks of recovery following detox can be typically difficult, so you must try to be patient and relaxed.

Accepting cravings in early recovery:
Part of this is just acceptance: You have to realize that you are going to have some cravings when you are early in recovery. To some amount the only way that you are going to successfully deal with those early cravings is to realize that they are going to pop up and that you need a plan in place to handle it.

Later on in your recovery alcohol and drug cravings will become far less frequent and you will have more power to control them at that time. But in very early recovery you have to realize that there is going to be an initial adjustment period where your brain gets used to the idea that you are no longer going to self-medicate all the time.

So when you are in very early recovery you should not be fighting or resisting each craving that you experience. Doing so is silly because you have almost no control over the cravings at this early stage in the game. You are going to have them because normally you are so used to self- medicating and now suddenly you have stopped doing so. Every little thing in your life that you experience is going to have the potential to trigger a new craving for you. So understand that you need to keep going through the motions, keep experiencing your normal life without the drugs and alcohol and allow your brain to get a chance to retrain itself. You cannot expect to just sober up one day and then never have a craving ever again, this is not realistic. You are going to have to walk the path of recovery for a while until your brain realizes that you are no longer self- medicating all the time.

So part of this is realizing that cravings are going to occur in early recovery and to simply make allowance for them. That said, the addict can still do a couple of things in order to be prepared for a lifetime of sobriety when it comes to overcoming cravings:

1) How to deal with cravings mentally.
2) Sharing with other people to reduce the power of cravings. 3) A preventative strategy for reducing cravings.

So what can you do when you get a craving to use drugs or alcohol? The primary strategy is to share this information with another person that you trust. You’ll need a sponsor. Some people who have attempted to deal with all of their triggers and urges just using their own mind have fell victim to relapse.

To some extent I think that the idea that you can mentally overcome a craving is a bit misleading. The craving itself is mental. The urge to use your drug of choice is a mental urge, so how can you overcome it with just your mental faculties alone? I think to some degree you need to reach a bit further than just trying to use your mind in order to combat a craving. Just look at the variety on that list above and realize that almost none of it is psychologically based–it is all physical and environmental stuff. Take a road trip. Join a gym. Try to sleep through withdrawal/cravings and so forth.These ideas may seem strange at first but many ex-addicts recommend those actions.

Simple awareness may be enough at first. Just realize when you are having a craving and do not...
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