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Understanding Cravings During Recovery

Posted on :  November 4th, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

Cravings during recovery are often a frightening prospect for those seeking to end their dependence on drugs and alcohol. However, cravings are a natural and normal part of the recovery process. Just because an individual is experiencing them does not mean a relapse is likely to occur. Understanding a little bit about cravings is the first step to dealing with them.

What are cravings?

Cravings are defined as overwhelming and persistent desires to use substances. The definition itself seems relatively simple, but as anyone who has experienced cravings can tell you, they can be a living nightmare.

Cravings are both physical and emotional. There is a physical dependence on the substance, so naturally the body craves it when it is no longer available. This withdrawal can result in physical manifestations such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, sweating and muscle tension. As for the emotional issues, moods can fluctuate, leading to feelings of restlessness, anxiety and depression.

One of the main issues with cravings is the thoughts and behaviours that occur during those urges. The accompanying thoughts and behaviours are what lead to a “cycle of addiction.” Among the most common thoughts are:

  • “I can’t deal without it.”
  • “I have to have it.”
  • “I need to find it.”

Those specific thoughts, if left unchecked, can lead to detrimental behaviours such as:

  • Hiding small bottles of alcohol
  • Soliciting for drugs
  • Stealing other people’s prescription medications
  • Using sex for drugs

Important things to understand

Although cravings seem daunting, they can be managed and overcome. There are a few things to understand, however.

Cravings are fleeting. It’s important to know that cravings don’t last forever. When they hit, they can last anywhere from three to five minutes or longer depending on one’s focus. Unfortunately, the longer one dwells on the craving, the longer it will last. The key is to engage the mind in some other activity so as not to focus on the cravings. Participating in a mentally engaging activity like reading, game playing or even physical exercise can help dispel the urges.

Cravings are normal. Cravings are a natural occurrence after substance abuse ceases. They are to be expected and shouldn’t be considered a sign of weakness. Cravings do not mean that recovery efforts are unsuccessful. Quite the contrary, cravings mean things are progressing.

Cravings are tougher at the beginning. For most people going through recovery, the beginning phase is the most difficult. They experience the most intense and frequent cravings as they start a program. It’s important to know that cravings will become less intense as time goes by.

Cravings don’t equal relapse. Just because cravings occur, doesn’t mean a relapse will occur. Cravings are desires and nothing more. That doesn’t mean one has to give in to them. Undoubtedly, it is a struggle, but it can be overcome.

Cravings vs. triggers

While in recovery, many people confuse cravings with triggers. Although the two go together, they are quite different. Triggers are either mental or emotional situations that can lead to a craving. An argument with a spouse, for example, can act as a trigger, prompting the individual to crave drugs or alcohol. Even memories or significant dates can act as triggers. Wistfulness over the past or dealing with certain holidays can also spark cravings. Cravings, however, can occur even without a trigger. They can simply happen out of the blue for no reason at all.

Understanding cravings can help take away some of the fear surrounding them, but nothing compares to having adequate support and treatment to help deal with them. Participating in a recovery program can help address some of the specific issues involved with cravings so that they don’t seem so overwhelming. After all, cravings are just part of the journey to recovery.

If you’d like to learn more about dealing with cravings during recovery, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey.

Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

Towards Recovery Clinics Inc. (TRC) is an Ontario addiction treatment centre with the philosophy to help individuals take control of their addiction and help them rebuild their lives and careers.

Who We Serve ?

  • Individuals using/abusing street narcotics (e.g. heroin).
  • Patients abusing prescription narcotics(i.e., Codeine, Talwin, Percocet/Percodan, Dilaudid, Morphine or Demerol, et cetera).
  • Individuals displaying any of the following behaviours: Compulsive drug use or drug seeking/craving.
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