Strategies to overcome cravings during recovery from stimulant abuse
If you’ve been through drug abuse counseling for stimulant abuse, then you know that cravings can be a frequent and problematic part of recovery. They can come from a variety of sources, but these may not always be obvious. Fatigue, downtime, changes in mood, reminiscing about past drug use—these are all among the many unexpected catalysts that can prompt your desire to return to your habit, but learning how to recognize and cope with these cravings will be one of the most useful tools in staying clean on the road to recovery.
Though cravings may be an inevitable part of fighting drug abuse and dependence, you do not have to give in to them. To help you prepare to resist cravings whenever they arise, here is a basic overview of how cravings affect you and some strategies to keep them from impacting your recovery.
Cravings are not your fault. They result from changes that stimulants have on your brain activity.
Many are quick to blame cravings on a lack of trying of their part, or a sign that treatment has not been effective, but this is a mistake. Because chronic use of stimulants will naturally impact your brain function, cravings can continue to occur long after you’ve stopped using, though they will typically become less frequent with time.
Cravings do not make relapse inevitable.
Though they may seem insurmountable at times, any craving will eventually pass. You will never get a craving that becomes so intense that it makes avoiding drug use impossible. Cravings tend to come in waves, building to a high level of intensity before ultimately subsiding. As such, it’s important to learn how to ride out these cravings. One useful strategy may be to look at your cravings through the eyes of another person—this may help to decrease their sway.
Cravings will be most powerful and frequent in the weeks just after you stop using.
Cravings may continue long after ending your drug use, but they’ll be at their strongest at the outset of your abstinence. This makes learning about how to cope with cravings a crucial strategy to anyone just beginning their recovery.
Cravings will only subside if you stay committed to ceasing drug use.
When you give in to a craving by using, you’re reinforcing that craving and giving it more power. Any time you follow cravings with the use of a psychoactive substance, you risk reigniting them, making complete abstinence the most effective way to get them to subside.
Now that you know a little more about how cravings function, here are some strategies that will help you manage cravings when they threaten your recovery:
- Don’t think about the high—think about what happens after. Cravings may produce feelings that idealize the drug experience, keeping your brain focused on the sense of euphoria that the drugs produce instead of the consequences that brought you to treatment in the first place. To stop cravings in their tracks, give yourself a reality check by focusing on the serious penalties of using. Despite the tendency to idealize the high, remember that addicts can no longer experience the “good” aspects of drug use without also suffering from the bad.
- Change your thoughts, change the scene. Even if where you are or what you’re doing isn’t the overt cause of cravings, it often helps to place yourself in new surroundings or engage in a different activity. Try going for a walk, getting some exercise or visiting a trusted friend—anything that will change the situation you’re in. These are all effective “thought stopping techniques,” strategies that will focus your attention outward and alter your visual cues. Leaving a room, exercising or simply listening to music that does not remind you of using can all be helpful ways to stop cravings from growing into a more threatening compulsion.
- Reach out. As soon as cravings start to creep up on you, contact someone in your support system. Talking out your cravings with someone supportive of your recovery will be one of the best ways to prevent cravings from resulting in drug use. Rather than ignoring cravings or waiting in agony for them to pass, talk to someone you trust by phone, email or in person.
Remember: cravings can be difficult to overcome, but you aren’t powerless to resist them. By learning to recognize and ride out cravings early in your recovery, you can contain them before they have the chance to impede your progress.