Overcoming a drug or alcohol addiction can be a trying endeavor requiring plenty of patience and an overarching will to succeed. Actually, it can be downright miserable if you don’t know what’s going on inside your body. Getting clean and sober isn’t easy, as cravings can be debilitating and will test a person’s mental faculties. There is no reason to quit trying though, and learning a few quick facts about drug cravings, what causes them, and how to avoid triggers can be great tools in a successful recovery.
Symptoms of Cravings
While a craving may seem like a simple urge, it is actually a complex mix of mental and physical reactions. Most people quickly begin to have symptoms of physical withdrawal, which is just the body’s way of showing that it craves the missing drug. The severity of these symptoms vary depending on the drug of choice, and can last anywhere from a few days to several years.
Additionally, there are forms of mental and emotional withdrawal that many individuals feel when they distance themselves from their drug of choice. These can range from depression to anxiety to even severe mania, all manifestations of a craving, we sometimes refer to this as PAWS, or post-acute withdrawal syndrome.
What to Avoid
Because cravings and symptoms of withdrawal can be so intense, it is smart to avoid any triggers that may exacerbate the problem, or incite an urge to once again use drugs. This urge can lead to relapse.
If it happens, you can always pick yourself back up after a relapse, however it is best to find ways to avoid relapse triggers.
As you might guess, anyone trying to overcome an addiction should avoid being in the presence of any drug substance. Even physical proximity can be detrimental to someone’s rehabilitation. That’s right, the old sage wisdom of “Change your people, places and things” has a method behind its madness.
Additionally, because drinking or using may have been our hobby, we may find the we have too much free time, time that was once spent actively seeking drugs, doing drugs, drinking or just doing damage control from the mess we caused the day before. To combat a feeling of boredom, and to prevent any further urges to spend time using, picking up a healthy hobby, such as knitting, or a reading group, can help satiate urges. Another option is joining a gym or just running outside, as it activates some of the same chemicals in your brain and can reduce the urge to use. Another option of course, is to get involved in a twelve step program, do some service work, and do the steps.
Finally, because drug use is often associated with depression, it is necessary for anyone in recovery to find a strong support group of positive individuals in order to avoid falling back into another cycle of substance abuse. So get connected. This healthy energy is an important step in the rehabilitation process.
The Dangers of Relapse
Overcoming an addiction is a praiseworthy achievement, but the threat of relapse is a dangerous slope that should always be taken seriously. According to a paper published on the topic, between 40-60 percent of people relapse before their first year of recovery, but that number lowers to up to 40 percent after one year. This just means be careful, be gentle with yourself, and remember that you’re human, and this is hard; but by properly reducing triggers, you can lower your odds of relapse.
Strive for a Drug Free Life
There is no one true and universal way to quit an addiction. But by following these steps and managing the effects of drug cravings, the recovery process can be a learning experience that can help you move forward to a brand new, drug-free life.