You could be in your early days of sobriety or several years in, when suddenly it hits you out of nowhere: a serious craving to drink, use or return to dangerous old behavior. No matter when it happens, it can be shocking, frightening … and more than a little tempting.
Science has proven that alcoholics and addicts have different brains than the rest of the world, and unfortunately years of substance abuse can alter them even more. Those changes are never completely reversed, despite how long someone works a program of recovery. So even if it’s been years since your last drink or fix, and even if you know for sure that you don’t want one, your brain can temporarily convince you that you do.
Lots of different factors can trigger cravings: positive emotions and experiences, negative emotions and experiences, people, places, memories and more.
Whatever the cause, the risk of a craving is that it’s hard in the moment to remember what the long-term effects of that one drink or one hit can be. Unlike putting your hand in a fire, giving in to a craving is more like slowly boiling yourself alive. It takes some time, and you might not realize what you’ve done until it’s too late.
For that reason, a common trick used by many alcoholics and addicts is to “play the tape forward.” When a craving hits, you can take a minute to “fast forward” in your mind to where your relapse could take you. Sometimes, it might also help to remember where you ended up after your last run. A (literally!) sobering look at the destruction, devastation, and demoralization that could unfold can often be more than enough to shatter even the most intense craving.
Other tips used by people in recovery include eating or drinking something sweet: The sugar hit can trick your brain into thinking it got what it was craving.
Or, you could go to a meeting, connect with a sponsor or friend in recovery, pray, or even journal about your feelings. Above all, remove yourself from the situation if you are surrounded by others indulging in your vice.
But even if none of those work, the number one fail-safe way to get through a craving with your sobriety intact is simply to wait. It’s hard to believe it in the pulse-pounding, mind-racing moment, but it’s been proven that most cravings take hold of the brain for a mere 30 seconds. Even the most overwhelming ones will only hold you hostage from two to five minutes.
Our kind and knowledgeable staff members at Clean Path Recovery can help you come up with even more strategies to help you conquer cravings. Many of them have even been through the same experience themselves! Contact us today to find out how we can help you overcome your addiction.