dealing with cravings

Dealing with Cravings

Articles, Australia, Education, International, LGBTQ, Malaysia, Treatment, Understanding Addiction, United Kingdom, United States

Dealing with Cravings – The nagging problem of cravings is familiar to anyone who has ever dealt with addiction. This is the central rub for addiction. People can tell themselves again and again that they do not want to use. They know if they use that there will be consequences, maybe even death. However, there is something that flares in the minds of addicted people which drives them to use in spite of their own wills to not use. However much they want to be sober, the craving for alcohol, for heroin, for any substance will not relent.

Treatment and counseling will address this problem first off. Inpatient treatment in some ways is specifically designed to lift a person out of their environment and create a space where those cravings can be met with something other than the substance. Some treatment options remind people that the cravings do fade over time. The severity and immediacy of the craving will eventually go away. However, many people report that the cravings return, sometimes many years later. Addicted people need a real method for dealing with cravings.

One method involves using a specific understanding of exactly what constitutes a craving. One researcher and counselor suggests that we can handle cravings by understanding them. The craving is in reality a thing of the past. Its present weight and immediacy is an illusion.

Whatever drives the craving comes from something we did or experienced long ago. We started using because of a trauma or some form of abuse, for example. Without diminishing those moments, we can also remind ourselves that those things are not happening now and the behaviors we developed to handle those terrible times and feelings are equally in the past.

Either with a counselor, in a group, or with a therapists patients in treatment are encouraged to experience the moment of craving then taught to allow that feeling to slide along a continuum of time. Reaching back to all the times one experience the craving, all the way back to the kinds of feelings and experiences which led to substance abuse. By doing this patients can begin to see that the craving is part of something else. The craving is no longer an undeniable drive to use. It becomes a part of long series of moments and feelings none of which are actually bearing down on them at that time. The moment of craving can be re-directed.

It would seem that this insurmountable craving is not quite an inevitable feature of sober life. Many people fear recovery because they cannot imagine a life that is not characterized by a constant “need” to use. Facing the cravings without using becomes the very thing which prevents proper recovery. By addressing the fact of cravings in a way that takes the mystery, inevitability, and pain out of cravings, patients can see recovery for what it is: relief from suffering rather than a different form of suffering. What is more, this method of recognizing and dealing with cravings can be taken well beyond the time of initial treatment. It is a skill that can be learned and carried throughout a sober life. 

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Anne -

Anne Lazarakis joined the DARA Rehab team from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health on a global, local and community level. She also relays personal accounts of substance abuse and recovery through the stories of our clients, their families and our own team members.

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