Anyone who has ever had issues with substance use certainly understands just how powerful and controlling cravings can be. Once a craving has been triggered, unless one has developed specific techniques or interceptive supports, the craving can become overwhelming to the point where it can dictate a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior, which may prove devastating and self-destructive.
So what exactly is a craving? A craving can be a biological, psychological, or social response (or a combination of all three) to satisfy perceived or depleted chemicals, stimuli, or quite simply… pleasure. In a nutshell, a craving is a powerful desire for something. That something varies greatly from person to person, but is commonly prompted by the need to escape from one’s feelings.
Failing to deal with or ignoring cravings can quickly lead to relapse, which may cause devastating consequences such as health issues, emotional instability, incarceration, familial wreckage, overdose, and even death.
The first thing a person should remember when experiencing a craving is that it can and will subside if the right steps are taken, and does not need to be satisfied in order to pass! A craving longs for instant gratification, which is the demise of many addicts, as it initiates reckless and impulsive behaviors that often come with dire consequences.
There are many ways to cope with a craving. 12-step support is an excellent way to relate to others who understand and can offer hope and practical solutions from their own experiences. Intrapersonal skills or techniques such as prayer, meditation, mindfulness, thought and perception-flipping, and behavioral deviations are all highly effective in combating cravings. Other coping skills can include stimulation diversion techniques such as walking, cooking, and finding alternative methods for diverting the obsessions and compulsions related to cravings. One may also find healthy ways for rewarding one’s self for not acting on the craving. Development of a consistent schedule and a healthy routine is also very helpful. In addition, pharmacological supports may be available if needed. Ultimately, it is a combination of all of these methods that yield the most effective results.
Many addicts may feel shame around experiencing cravings. If you are struggling with addiction and even if you are already on the road to recovery, remember that a craving is not a weakness, it is a natural process that occurs while your neurological and biological chemistries are healing, and environmental factors are stabilizing. With each craving that is overcome, a new strength and awareness is developed. Think of cravings like push-ups… just as they are an exercise that strengthen your muscle tone, dealing with cravings is an exercise in strengthening your recovery!