Dealing with cravings after drug treatment can seem very difficult for a lot of people. The urge to use or to continue with the same unhealthy behaviors seems more like a compulsion than an urge. And, it kind of is. Your body and mind have learned that drug use is “good” because of the way dopamine influences addiction. Dopamine is released in your brain to promote the repetition of activities that produce joy and fulfillment.
When a person abuses a drug, their dopamine level is higher than normal. The brain trains itself to seek out those substances which lead to addiction. These compulsions are hard to overcome, especially for those fresh out of detox. But there are ways you can deal with cravings after treatment is complete.
Know Your Triggers
The first step to prevent cravings is to understand what triggers them. Sometimes these triggers can be environmental such as certain smells or places that remind you of using. Sometimes these triggers can be mental such as using a substance to self-medicate mental illness or to escape negative emotions. No matter what kind of triggers you experience, recognize them and find ways to avoid them.
Waiting it out goes hand-in-hand with triggers. If you experience a trigger, wait it out about 10-15 minutes. If the craving still remains, it means you probably are still exposed to the trigger that caused those cravings. It may seem impossible, but using mindfulness techniques can help. Practice deep breathing and identify things about using that you dislike most. Once you overcome a craving, it becomes easier and easier to overcome other challenges.
Adopting a regiment of self-care is important to prevent cravings. Exercising helps relieve stress and creating healthy eating habits provides physical well-being. Emotional and physical health is important in fighting cravings. Remembering how using made you feel sick, tired, and depressed and all the subsequent complications can keep you on your path.
Self-care also includes self-soothing techniques like taking a bubble bath or getting a massage. Taking care of yourself provides the realization that using was not doing anything positive for your mind or body. The perceived relief is a chameleon which often changes into severe mental and physical health issues.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a technique used to relearn healthy behaviors and develop healthy habits. CBT can be administered by a clinical therapist or a drug recovery counselor. CBT helps you to pinpoint flaws in your thinking. A common cognitive flaw that occurs during cravings is called catastrophizing.
When you are experiencing a drug craving, you may catastrophize the situation by thinking things like, “I’m never going to be able to do this,” or “This feeling will never go away if I don’t take this drug.” CBT techniques can help you to deescalate the situation and see it more objectively.
Addressing any mental illness post-recovery is important to fighting cravings. Sometimes, people’s addictions are influenced by trauma or mental issues. If these issues are not being addressed, then your recovery may not be sustainable. Drug use and trauma are often part of the co-occurring disorders that require professional support. You can’t expect to get rid of the behaviors or habits if you haven’t addressed the root cause of them and therapy is how that happens.
Joining a support group is a good way to alleviate cravings. Surrounding yourself with people who understand your journey and its roadblocks can be a huge comfort. There may be feelings of shame stemming from drug use, and that is a normal emotion. Though there is nothing to be ashamed of, the stigma that comes with addiction and relapse is very real and the only people who may feel true empathy and compassion are those who experience it.
There are plenty of support groups online and on social media. If you are not comfortable with face-to-face groups, this may be an option for you. Research local support groups or contact your local health department for more information on what groups are available to you.
Northstar Transitions want you to know that relapse is not a sign of failure. In fact, it is considered a normal part of recovery. Understand that retraining a brain to think differently is an incredibly long and tedious task, but it can be done and the trained, compassionate professionals at Northstar are here to support you. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Just say no,” but it’s definitely not that easy when avoiding relapse. Relapse prevention often requires clinical help and Northstar Treatment is here to help you achieve your recovery goals. Call us now at 1-303-558-6400.