Cravings are a slippery slope for people in recovery, and they can have fatal consequences. Succumbing to a craving may mean falling back into addiction or derailing the progress of addiction treatment. What’s the solution? Learning what triggers cravings and avoiding those triggers as much as possible. Here are some common sources of drug and alcohol cravings, along with tips to bypass them in the future.
1 – An Environment Once Associated With Drugs Or Alcohol
Relapse most often occurs when a person goes back into an addiction-friendly environment. This doesn’t just refer to a drug dealer’s neighborhood or a liquor store. It could be a friend’s house where you first were introduced to drugs or a diner you used to visit after going to the bar. These environments can trigger cravings years after sobriety because they act as an instant reminder of addiction.
How To Avoid It: If possible, avoid visiting these places altogether. You may not realize you’re in a triggering environment until you’re already there. In that case, make a mental note of the experience and avoid it in the future. If you have to stay in the environment, focus on ways to keep your mind occupied, and talk to your addiction counselor or sponsor if you need immediate support.
2 – Seeing Someone Enjoy An Addictive Behavior
If you’re a recovering alcoholic, seeing someone enjoying a glass of mind may trigger your addiction. You desire to feel the same way they do, even though their experience with alcohol is completely different than yours. This is a “grass is greener on the other side” mentality, and it can have dangerous consequences.
How To Avoid It: Do not attend events where drugs or alcohol are present until you are well into your addiction treatment program. By then, you will learn how to control your cravings so you can enjoy social experiences without relapsing. If you feel a craving coming on, remove yourself from the situation and contact a member of your support team for help.
3 – Stress
The more you experience stress, the more you want stress relief. For someone with an addiction, drugs or alcohol may be considered a form of stress relief. There are many other ways to reduce stress though, from exercise to sleep to meditation and beyond. You do not need to give into cravings to get the break you need.
How To Avoid It: Obviously you need a way to reduce the stress in your life. Maybe you’re working too much or perhaps your finances are weighing you down. You can discuss these concerns during your counseling sessions. Stress is a common topic in dual diagnosis counseling, where a person experiences both depression and addiction at the same time. Your therapist will work with you to reduce stress and control your addiction cravings.
4 – The Ability To Use Drugs Or Drink Alcohol
This is a matter of “perceived availability.” If you feel like drugs or alcohol are accessible, you are more likely to crave them. If you have no access at all, the craving drops tremendously. For example, if you are addicted to cigarettes, you may not crave them as much inside a hospital as you would inside a bar with smoking allowed. Even if no one is smoking in the area, knowing that you could smoke is enough to trigger a craving.
How To Avoid It: Stay away from places where your addictive behavior is permitted, if at all possible. If not, you will need to use your addiction treatment techniques to control your cravings.
5 – The Value You Assign To Your Drug Of Choice
If you give an addictive substance a high value, you feel more inclined to give in to temptation. The perspective shifts from “I’m not consuming something that gives me joy” to “I’m depriving myself of something that gives me joy.” At that point, you’ve justified the consumption of drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or whatever else you are addicted to. This disrupts the progress of your addiction treatment.
How To Avoid It: Rather than focusing on the rewarding aspects of an addictive substance, think about all of the side effects. This could be damage to your health, your social life, your work productivity, and more. You need to decrease the mental value you give to the substance so you feel less inclined to partake of it.
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