6 Things You Can Do Right Now if You're Having Cravings
Drug and alcohol cravings are a typical and expected part of recovery, but they are also one of the most challenging parts of this journey. Your cravings may feel overwhelming and impossible to move through, but they will pass, and you can get through them.
Each person experiences urges in their own way and should be equipped with their own unique set of tools to combat and tolerate cravings. If you’re not sure where to start, here are six things you can do right now.
Accept That You Are Having Cravings
Accepting the fact that you are having cravings is an essential first step. As mentioned, cravings are a normal part of the recovery process and do not indicate failure or lack of hard work. These cravings can persist for several months or even years after stopping use.
They will happen, and they will pass. However, if you do not accept the reality of cravings, and instead push them away or try to ignore them, your brain may focus even more attention on them. Accepting the experience you are having at the moment is the first step in being able to do something about it.
Grab an Ice Cube
Our senses are powerful, and sensory experiences are one of the most helpful tools for distraction. Therefore, you can harness this power by using intense sensory experiences as a tool for distraction from your craving. Distraction is different from ignoring the craving because it gives your brain something to actively focus on.
Ice cubes are an excellent tool for this type of distraction. Grab an ice cube and hold it in your hand. Pay attention to the coldness of the ice and the sensation as it melts.
You may even find it helpful to hold the ice to your face or neck. The intense sensory input takes your attention away from the craving and gives your brain something else to do while you let the urge pass.
Eat Something Sour or Spicy
Just like ice cubes, use the power of your senses to distract yourself. For example, a sour candy, cinnamon gum, or a drop of ultra-spicy hot sauce can direct your attention back to the present moment and take attention away from the craving.
Your brain will struggle to focus on two thoughts at the same time, so use the powerful tool of distraction to bring attention to your senses and bring your thoughts away from the craving.
Exercise is another powerful tool for distracting yourself. Cravings typically only last around 10-15 minutes before they subside. So staying physically active can provide much-needed relief.
Keep your mind and body occupied during that time with something that requires your attention, like exercise. For example, go for a run, play catch in your yard, put on a quick YouTube workout video, or hit the gym.
Your brain will focus on the task at hand. By the time your workout is complete, the craving will have likely passed.
Change Your Environment
Is your environment triggering the craving? You may be in a restaurant, at a birthday party, or in a work setting that feels uncomfortable. You may be with a person who is stressful to be around or preparing to have a difficult conversation.
In these moments, it can be helpful to change your environment. Leave the restaurant, take a walk, or leave the stressful conversation.
Keep in mind that if you received a call that there was an emergency, you would leave your environment immediately if needed. Treat your triggers the same way and go if you need to.
Even if meditation is not your thing, mindfulness can support you as you let your craving pass. Pay attention to the present moment and the sensations that come along with the craving. Do you notice tension in your shoulders? Can you release stress from your neck? What does the craving feel like in your body?
Try sitting with these observations free from judgment. Allow the craving to be what it is. Notice how these sensations change as you pay attention to them. You may feel the physical cues that the craving is going away and be able to handle the change as the wave subsides. This practice gets easier the more you use mindfulness in daily life.
Cravings are a normal part of recovery and not something to be ashamed of. Having cravings is not an indication of failure or lack of trying on your part. Cravings are uncomfortable and complex, but they will pass.
You can equip yourself with the tools and resources necessary to combat your cravings. Next time you feel a craving come on, remember that they do not last forever, and you can use distraction, mindfulness, and environmental experiences to support yourself as the urge passes.
At The Resurface Group, we support our clients in their recovery processes. We can help you manage your cravings and live a healthier, happier life. Contact us today to get started.