When all traces of a drug leave the body, a certain legacy is left behind. That legacy is the physical effect drugs can have on the brain, and the psychological scarring left behind by addiction and its consequences. To many, a marked and powerful aspect of that legacy is the craving and extreme difficulty to resist temptation.
Cravings remain long after rehab, and the only thing that helps them wane is time. But until they do, trying to resist temptation and fighting the urge to use again is central to any one person’s addiction recovery – and everyone has a different approach to ignoring the temptation.
Regardless of what your drug of choice was, cravings are a natural part of the recovery process. They come to you when you least expect it, and when you’re at your weakest. Anyone entering recovery must be prepared to resist temptation of these cravings, and you’ll need both short-term and long-term strategies to resist temptation and fighting off an urge when it appears. Here are a few applicable tips.
Find Something Else To Do
Addiction is tied intimately to the reward center of the brain, affecting what motivates us and makes us happy. Reclaiming that is an active process – finding new hobbies and spending time engaging in them can help people in recovery resist temptation and avoid struggling with cravings by instead focusing on other passions, such as painting, music, or sports.
From creative endeavors to intellectual pursuits or workplace ambitions, it’s important to find something that satisfies you, makes you feel accomplished, and keeps you busy and motivated.
Understand Your Triggers
Relapses rarely come out of nowhere, especially after early recovery. If you have been clean for a while, then the urge to use comes mostly during times of great stress, or when you are somehow reminded of your drug use. Positive memories of previous highs, places and things that remind you of the past – everyone carries different emotional triggers, based on memories or feelings.
It is important to recognize these triggers when they appear, resist temptation, and find a way to avoid them in the future. For example: even if you move to a new neighborhood, you might still take a similar route to work. That route might bring back memories, making it hard to focus and giving you a craving. Avoid that route and try to get to work through a different path.
Not all triggers can be avoided, and no one wants to live their life running away from places and people out of fear of certain memories. Understand that this is a temporary measure, and that with time, you can desensitize yourself to certain triggers and, with the help of therapy, eliminate their effect on you completely. However, this takes a lot of time and effort, and it is best to minimize the work you have to do by first taking the steps to resist temptation and avoid triggers wherever you can.
Talk It Out
Over the course of time, it is normal for events, feelings, and thoughts to weigh heavily on us. What might just be a passing casual thought in a fleeting moment could turn into a major issue in retrospect, an instance you feel ashamed or worried about.
Talking it out with others going through addiction recovery and hearing their perspective on it can help you better understand and accept your cravings, and learn to overcome them with time, rather than live in fear of them.
Sharing such moments with others also creates the opportunity to hear from them how they deal with their urges, learning new things that you might be able to apply in your own life.
It’s okay not to be entirely open to others at first. It is difficult to talk about addiction to others, especially early on. But something as simple as getting your worries and negative thoughts off your chest in a group can help you feel better, and even round up a few ideas on how to dispel and debunk those thoughts.
Try Therapy To Help Resist Temptation
Cognitive behavioral therapy allows patients to learn how to better control their thoughts, defeating negative thinking and replacing it with more positive, logical thinking. Cognitive behavioral therapy is not based on hearing what you want, but it is based on helping you create mental bridges to come to logical conclusions to eliminate negative bias.
Addiction can often bring with it shame and self-doubt, and cravings can make you further feel bad about yourself. But through cognitive behavioral therapy, you learn to resist the temptation of a craving by living out the consequences in your mind, being mindful of what you risk and what you care about, and helping you make a calm and sound decision to resist temptation and ignore the craving rather than give into it.
Overcome Your Past
Early addiction treatment relies on avoiding certain triggers to prevent recurring urges, but that does not mean that facilities or treatments advocate avoidance in the long-term. The only thing you need to avoid is drug use – but it is critical to confront your past, your actions, and their consequences.
Making peace with past events and coming to terms with everything that has happened over the course of the addiction is important. It gives people peace of mind and allows them to ultimately forgive themselves after asking others for a little forgiveness.
The urges and cravings are not just tied to events and places, but to mindsets as well. Being in a certain state of mind not only due to external stressors but due to an internal argument can cause a relapse. Coming to terms with your past and overcoming it – growing past it – is an important step in long-term recovery.
Learn How To Surf The Urge
Urge surfing is a therapeutic technique based on mindfulness, developed by the late Dr. Alan Marlatt. When urges begin, they can last up to half an hour depending on the intensity of the urge. Feeling an urge is accompanied by certain physical reactions, including sweat, jitters, shallow breathing, and an increased heart rate.
Urge surfing recommends taking an outsider’s perspective on these physical reactions, focusing on your breath, and taking note of every sensation and change that occurs as your urge begins. If you find yourself getting angry or otherwise emotional over the urge, stop and refocus on your breath. In, and out.
With time, the urge will subside – your controlled breath will help normalize your heartbeat, and by staying calm rather than reacting cholerically, you do not let the urge linger.
The reason surfing applies so well to this technique is because urges and cravings come in waves. They crash over you, steadily and powerfully. But by taking a deep breath and by riding it out on top of the wave rather than under its wrath, you can observe it from a safe distance and wait for it to subside. The key is not to do battle against the urge.
Research suggests that the longer someone stays sober, the lower their chances of relapse. This rests on the idea that as you continue to stay away from drugs, you develop ways to keep yourself sober and happy, limiting and even eliminating the need for drugs in your life, and resisting any urge to go back. To get to that point will take time, but with support and proper treatment, it can be done.