5 ways to mitigate drug and alcohol cravings

| November 5, 2018

As defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, disease is described as “a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.” Some diseases are life-long and can only be managed through treatment of their symptoms.

Science has proven that substance abuse affects the brain and changes behavior. Biological and environmental factors can also play a major role in the disease of addiction. Research has also shown that genetic variations contribute to addiction and this has given way to providing more specific treatment for substance abuse.

According to NIDA, “Addiction is considered a brain disorder, because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control, and those changes may last a long time after a person has stopped taking drugs.” Addiction, like many other diseases, disrupts the normal function of major organs such as the brain, heart, and liver. While researchers believe addiction is a lifelong disease, with treatment the side effects and harms can be avoided and recovery is possible.

The beauty of recovery is that, although difficult and often times exhausting, there is hope that we can destroy old thinking. Cravings, unhealthy thinking, and old behaviors are symptoms of the disease of addiction even in the absence of any mood or mind altering substances.

In other words, just because we get sober, we may still have cravings for the things that no longer serve us. Practicing healthy habits has been proven to enhance the overall wellbeing of an individual, especially an addict’s desperate search for recovery. When we find find pleasure in mundane daily tasks, anxiety over uncontrollable stressors seem to disappear and the risk of relapse lowers substantially.

First thing’s first – Hit a meeting

Proven to be most successful in the treatment of addiction, 12 step recovery programs promote long term sobriety, fellowship, and the skills to incorporate recovery into everyday life. The process of going through the steps is to lay down our old pain, thinking, behaviors and to take on an entirely new perspective.

Meetings, within the fellowship, create a safe space for addicts to safely speak about their struggles, receive relatable support, and ask for help. They say if we take the energy we used while indulging in our vices, into getting sober, we are unstoppable.The goal is to function, in any atmosphere, sober. With the fellowship of these programs and working the steps, the options for recovery are limitless.

Move your feet

It’s not uncommon for an addict to feel overwhelmed by racing thoughts, cravings, and becoming complacent in isolation. The most important thing to remember, thoughts are fleeting. We can become enslaved to our thinking, or do something as simple as move our feet.

When I find myself struggling to get out of my own way, I will force myself to get up and do something. From cleaning the house, going for a walk, putting on makeup (with no plans to leave the house) can work wonders. Sometimes the phrase “fake it ‘till you make it” serves the desired outcome.

As addicts, we have the innate habit of obsessing and indulging in over almost everything. The purpose is to distract the brain and encourage a new thought to sweep in and replace the craving.

Pick up the phone

My sober support has carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. One of the fundamental roots in recovery is fellowship. Isolation can be disastrous for anyone struggling with addiction. It’s so easy to get caught up in momentary cravings and without talking about it can be fatal. It’s no easy task. I’m instantly reminded of therapy. Less than desirable, but so liberating.

It’s always favorable for an addict to speak to someone who understands exactly what the individual is going through.  It’s never easy to confess when we are struggling, but sometimes speaking out loud helps to sort out the chaos in our head.

Be mindful and meditate

The goal of mindfulness is enlightenment which refers to awareness,attention, and remembering. The individual should become aware of what goal/object they wish to achieve, focus on that idea, and ultimately remember and manifest the concept.

Mindfulness has been attributed to lowering feelings of anxiety/depression, controlling the body’s reaction to stressors, aiding in pain management, and identifying/processing emotions.

Mindfulness meditation comes in many forms such as mindful eating, moving meditation such as yoga and tai chi, and mindful breathing. Recovery requires awareness, balance, and control which can be cultivated through many meditative practices. Chaos and meditation cannot coexist. Meditation cultivates awareness and disrupts unmanageability.

Lend a helping hand

According to literature in one of the 12 step fellowships: “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.” In other words: when all else fails, help another alcoholic.

It’s so easy for us to get unraveled within our own self induced despair and stress. The goal is to get outside of ourselves by humbly helping our fellows. When I am not acting in service of others, I am sure to go back to living selfishly and ultimately falling back into my old self destructive behaviors.

Recovery is an all encompassing lifestyle change: mind, body, and soul. Most importantly, the addict must take care of self first. Developing new and healthy habits replace the detrimental habits and help shift old thinking and behaviors. Cravings may still arise, but if we continue to relish in the things that feed our soul, the frequency and intensity of cravings decrease dramatically.

It is pivotal for us to plug into our local sober support and maintain fellowship with other addicts as well. In order to achieve long-term sobriety it is important we completely abandon ourselves to an entirely new way of thinking and living.