Drug and alcohol cravings are so powerful that they can tempt you to throw days, weeks, months, or even years of sobriety down the drain. During the first few months after you quit, cravings are almost inevitable. Knowing how to cope with these challenging moments can help yo get to the other side of sobriety without relapsing.
Understand What a Craving Is
Though you might often think about drugs or alcohol, a craving is a discrete physiological event during which you have a strong desire to use. Cravings typically last less than 10 minutes, so understanding that a craving is a temporary event, rather than a permanent state of being, can help you manage the stress of wanting to use but being unable to do so.
Replace Your Addiction
Replacing the source of your addiction with a healthier “addiction” can help you pass time without drugs or alcohol while distracting yourself from the desire to use. Some hobbies are especially effective at combating cravings. They include:
- Exercise, which can help you resist feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Cooking, since eating a healthy diet can improve your chances of recovery.
- Spending time on activities that make drug or alcohol use impossible, such as building a coffee table or attending a function at your child’s school.
No matter how powerful any given craving feels, it will be gone in a matter of moments. The key is to distract yourself long enough to give the craving a chance to go away. Some helpful ways to distract yourself include:
- Drinking a glass of cold water, research suggests this can help you stave off cravings. Moreover, dehydration can make cravings worse.
- Sucking on a piece of hard candy.
- Spending time with your family pet; research suggests that petting an animal can combat stress, and may even help you avoid anxiety and depression.
- Taking up a new hobby or attending classes to master a new skill.
You shouldn’t have to fight your cravings alone, and spending too much time alone increases your chances of relapsing anyway. If you’re overwhelmed by your cravings, don’t be afraid to seek out help. Ideally, you should have a list of people who have agreed to let you call or otherwise reach out when you feel overwhelmed. If you aren’t sure what to do, though, try one of the following strategies:
- Attend a 12-step meeting, even if the group is not your usual group or you’ve never been to a meeting before.
- Call your AA or NA sponsor.
- Reach out to a friend who’s expressed an interest in helping you.
- Invite a loved one out for lunch or dinner; you don’t even have to talk about your addiction, since getting out of the house may be all you need to do to feel better.
- Call your therapist to schedule an appointment.
- Call a hotline for people struggling with addiction.