Substance abuse is caused by both physical and psychological factors, with both dimensions working to keep you in the loop of addiction. Many people carry the misconception that it’s only the physical aspects of addiction that make it hard for habitual users to break free, but the truth is that you need to be able to identify how your mental psyche interacts with the cravings your body is presenting. Then, you need to decide how to react from a place of balance.
All of this is, unsurprisingly, easier said than done. But the key thing to remember is that it can be done. You are strong enough to overcome all of the symptoms of your addiction – that is just a fact – but it can feel like the opposite is true when you’re battling through a strong craving or a difficult day.
Today we’re going to talk about beating a craving when it strikes you, specifically about how that craving triggers a thought pattern, and how to remove yourself from the addictive cycle of thoughts.
Addiction Cravings: A Brief Explanation
Addiction is a maladaptive habit, formed by repeatedly reinforcing the use of drugs or alcohol. This applies whether you have used it as a coping mechanism or simply to chase the pleasure of the high, and it is one of the things that makes addictions so difficult to kick for good.
Furthermore, addictions are always a combination of the physical and psychological aspects of your body, never one in isolation.
And finally, you need to approach the resolution of your addiction from both the small and large-scale paradigms. Uprooting the causes of your addiction and putting large-scale changes in place is necessary to change your life, however it is also important to know what to do in those individual moments when you’re lying in bed and suddenly get hit with a craving.
Techniques to Deal with a Craving
There are many things that can trigger a craving, and they will all depend on the person – it could be a situation, a place, a person, or a feeling, all are equally valid and equally likely. Drug and alcohol counselling is typically aimed at identifying these triggers, so that you can avoid them in real life, but life is ultimately quite difficult to control or anticipate.
So, if you find yourself blindsided, here is a mental process to take yourself through in the effort to resolve the craving in the healthiest possible way.
Step One: Check In
Once you have noticed the craving, try to take a mental step back from it. Ask yourself where it came from – is it the situation you are in, the person you are talking to, something you are feeling? Did it come from absolutely nowhere?
It’s important to identify where the craving came from on the surface level so that you can deal with making yourself safe right then and there. The major priority is not to understand the feeling in-depth, but simply to deal with it in a way that will keep you on track. Later is the time for reflection, right now is for damage aversion.
Step Two: Take Charge of Your Environment
It sounds a little bit aggressive, but all this really means is to create a safe space for yourself. Bring yourself back to baseline. Once you know what is causing your craving, you can find ways to direct yourself away from the trigger, relieving a lot of pressure and thus giving you a chance to deal with it.
If it is a person, place or situation that is prompting the craving, it is entirely okay to remove yourself. Take some time, go for a walk, call your sponsor – breathe. You are ultimately in control of what you do. You are never obligated to remain in a situation that is putting you in danger of relapsing, no matter what anyone says.
If it is a feeling that has brought the craving on, or if you’re just not sure where it has come from, this is where you reach out to your backup plan.
Step Three: The Back-Up Plan
Always have one of these in place. It can be a person who will talk to you over the phone, an activity or TV show that distracts you from the physical craving and occupies your mind – anything that works. The principle behind having a plan like this is to create a safety net for yourself. You don’t always have to be a paragon of resistance and strength all the time, and it can be a giant relief to know that you have something that you can rely on.
An important note here is to try and make this plan both physical and mental in some way. Through this, you can be sure that both the physiological and psychological dimensions of the craving are being, in a way, shoved aside to make room for the new activity. This is why exercise is such a great tactic!
Ultimately, the best way to be ready for a craving is to have a plan in place that includes both you and your support system. Priority one is keeping yourself safe, so don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you to ask for help.
You don’t have to do it alone.
Zen Detox is a qualified retreat for rehabilitation in New Zealand, where we help you to overcome your substance addiction and put plans in place to keep you on track. If you’re struggling with an addiction, or if someone in your life is, then don’t be afraid to give us a call. The choice starts with you.