Dealing With Cravings After Long-Term Sobriety
Once you decide to get clean and stay clean from substance use, you have newfound freedom from drugs and alcohol. From now on, you don’t have to rely on them to get you through the day. You have done the hard work of maintaining sobriety without slipping into relapse. Inevitably, though, cravings will come, and you may be afraid of what they mean.
People who have maintained long-term sobriety may still experience cravings. It doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong and, with the proper precautions, it does not have to result in relapse. Knowing what to do when you are faced with cravings can help you work through them before they lead you back into substance use.
What Are Cravings?
Cravings are an intense desire to re-engage with substances to achieve a sense of pleasure again. When you habitually use drugs or drink, your brain begins to make changes and adjustments based on what is introduced to it. Your brain has a reward system that is triggered by things that give you pleasure and it can remember what feels pleasurable. Drugs and alcohol are capable of triggering this reward system. If you continually use or drink, your brain will start to crave those substances more because it knows they feel good. Your body and brain will remember the feeling of it even after the substances have left your body. Even after you have gone through detox, your body can recall this pleasurable feeling from drug and alcohol use and causes you to have cravings. The thought of using drugs again to fix these cravings can cause a person to relapse.
Identifying Your Triggers
Triggers are anything that reawakens your desire to use or drink. Triggers can be people, places, or anything that activates the senses due to a memory or feeling associated with your former addiction. Below are a few areas you can examine to find where your triggers may come from:
- Social triggers can be a single person or group of people that you associate with the use of drugs. When you encounter these people it can trigger the desire to start using drugs again.
- Emotional triggers can be related to an emotion that either caused you to use or drink in the past or you felt while doing so. These can be negative feelings like sadness or fear, or they can be celebratory feelings like happiness or accomplishment.
- Patterns can also trigger cravings. In the past, you may have used drugs or drank alcohol at a specific time in the day or during a specific season. When the time rolls around you may crave those substances again.
There are more difficult triggers to avoid like loss or anniversaries of something that caused you grief. Intense feelings and reminders of sadness like a death, the end of a relationship, or another difficult life event can trigger a relapse. Be aware and make a plan for when these things come around to help you avoid relapse.
Overcoming Your Cravings
Cravings can often be so intense that they interfere with day-to-day activities. During the recovery process, you should be reminded that you have the power to take action and make decisions that will affect you for the better. Dealing with cravings can be very difficult, but you have to believe in your power to overcome these intense feelings and stay on the right path.
Support groups. Attending support group meetings is a great way to get advice and tips from others who have experienced or are experiencing the same thing as you. Asking others how they work through their cravings allows you to learn new coping strategies that have been successful for others. This also gives you the chance to discuss your feelings and receive support.
Therapy. Many programs are available to help you beyond rehabilitation services. Outpatient facilities may offer therapy services that you can attend at a treatment facility or in your home. During therapy, you can identify your triggers, learn coping strategies, and find ways to incorporate your family and friends into your sobriety journey.
Self-care. Finding things that help calm and relax you can help ease your cravings. Make some time for activities you enjoy. A hot shower or bubble bath can help refresh and soothe you. Creative activities like writing, painting, or photography allow you to express what you feel artistically.
Talk to your sponsor. Your sponsor is there to help you in situations such as this. Talk to them when you get cravings and they will help you work through them. They have been where you are, so they know how you are feeling and can help you through it.
When you go a long period without using substances after your treatment process, you might feel as though the urge to use or drink will be a thing of the past. With heavy substance use comes potential cravings even long after the detox and withdrawal process. Identifying your triggers can help you know what you need to distance yourself from. If you find you need extra help, reach out to professionals. Mountain Peak Recovery has programs to help support people even after they have been sober for many months or years. Our treatment services are available to help you with your specific needs such as aftercare, therapy, and outpatient programs. The journey of sobriety continues even after you have successfully completed your treatment programs. Extra support to stay sober is a very proactive way to keeping a drug-free lifestyle. You can call Mountain Peak Recovery at (801) 824-8829 to speak with us today.