During alcoholism recovery, cravings are an expected occurrence which are more usual than not. In early recovery, cravings can pop into a person’s consciousness out of nowhere. Cravings do not necessarily lead to relapse.Explore some of the reasons cravings occur and how to work through the desire to drink with the right support.
Cravings can occur seemingly out of nowhere but urges to drink do not spell relapse. Sometimes cravings happen in a person’s sleep such as dreams about drinking which feel vivid and realistic. A person may even smell or taste alcohol. The important thing to remember is cravings are just a natural part of recovery, the body’s way of working through the transition after addiction.
Cravings can occur early in recovery or long after a person goes through withdrawal. A life event or situation can bring back memories of how drinking made a person feel. Triggers to consume alcohol can happen anytime, particularly when the following occurs:
- Connection to people, places or situations associated with the drinking habit
- Stop drinking (part of alcohol withdrawal)
- Seeking escape from unpleasant feelings (depression, anxiety, stress, etc)
- Mood enhancer (elevated mood, sense of happiness when drinking, etc)
- Hunger, anger, loneliness and feeling tired can trigger cravings
Learning how to cope when cravings occur is a process which takes time. While it may not happen overnight, it is possible to work towards feeling less triggered to experience cravings. The following are examples of how to deal with cravings in recovery
Avoid anything which triggers the urge to use. People, places, social situations or other activities may trigger cravings to drink. Changing one’s social and private life may be required along with moving away from a certain area and giving up old activities to start fresh.
Practice Saying ‘No’
People will offer a drink but it is on the individual to say ‘no.’ In social situations, a person may offer a drink who does not know about the recovery. Practice being firm, yet polite by turning down the drink (without being offended).
Methods of distraction can switch a person’s attention away from cravings towards more pleasant thoughts. Going for a walk, practicing meditation or doing a hobby can be positive distractions.
Finding a trusted individual to share thoughts and feelings with can be helpful. Speak with a therapist, sponsor, counselor or supportive family member for help. Learn to relax feelings of tension or anger which are common triggers for cravings. Learning to stay calm can lower anxiety and feelings of desire to drink.
Medications work in treatment for alcohol addiction in tandem with a holistic treatment program which provides psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral support and more. Acamprosate, Disulfiram and Naltrexone are common drugs approved by the FDA in the United States for treatment of alcohol addiction and cravings.
If you or a loved one are struggling with sobriety, there is hope. The Villa provides individualized treatment plans focused on the whole person. Recovery is possible. Call us to find out how we can help you achieve your goals.