Why You Need to Manage Addiction Cravings
If we are unable to manage our addiction cravings, it is unlikely we are going to achieve long-term recovery. This intense desire to drink or use again will often appear out of nowhere (at least that’s the way it seems), and if we don’t have a good strategy for dealing with this threat, it may be only a matter of time before we give into it. The good news is these cravings will tend to arise less and less frequently the longer we stay drug free, and we may reach a stage where they disappear almost completely.
There are many tools for dealing with addiction cravings, and you will learn about these during your time at Hope. Distraction and delaying tactics can be highly effective, especially in early recovery, and admitting to other people that we feel tempted is one of the most crucial steps we take.
Mindfulness offers an alternative method for dealing with addiction cravings. It involves leaning into this urge rather than trying to escape it. The benefit of this way of doing things is we lose our fear of cravings because we no longer feel at the mercy of them. Instead we feel empowered, and we can use this new skill to eradicate any other addictions in our life (e.g. nicotine or junk food). Mindfulness is highly effective technique for managing cravings, but in order to get the most out of it, we first need to develop our compassion.
What is a Craving?
A craving can be defined as a ‘programmed response’ to a trigger in our environment that we have learned to associate with the use of alcohol or drugs. It is comprised of a mental (e.g. ‘I really want to use’), physical (like a deep yearning in the body for the substance) and emotional component (e.g. feeling of excitement at the thought of using).
Mindfulness of Cravings
The physical and emotional components of a craving are much easier to deal with than the actual thoughts about using again. If we allow this pattern of thinking to gain too much traction on our attention, it can be like we have entered a fever dream, and we then feel powerless to prevent a return to addiction. We may not be able to do much to stop these thoughts arising, but we definitely do get to decide where we put our attention.
By moving our attention to the the physical aspects of cravings (the feelings in the body), it becomes much easier to manage these desires. Later as we increase our concentration and mental clarity through mindfulness practice, it becomes less of a challenge to deal directly with thoughts but in early recovery it is best if we focus on the physical.
A Compassionate Approach to Addiction Cravings
Cravings are a bit like fire. You have probably seen the fire triangle before (see image above). This tells us that in order for there to be a fire there needs to be oxygen, fuel, and heat – if we remove any of these, there can be no fire. As we already said, cravings involve thoughts, physical sensation, and feelings, and by focusing on any one of these, it effects the other two. If we put our attention on how the craving is affecting our body, and we do this in the right way, it will soon pass without putting our recovery in jeopardy.
How Can Compassion Help with Cravings
So what is this ‘right way’ of experiencing cravings in the body? It involves experiencing these sensations without judgement or resistance. This means being compassionate to our cravings – here ‘compassion’ refers to our willingness to be with discomfort.
When we start to experience cravings in this new open way, we may begin to wonder what the big deal is. These physical sensations aren’t painful, and they don’t last long – it is the thinking patterns generated by these sensations that are the real problem.
Urge Surfing for Cravings
Urge surfing is a mindfulness technique devised by G. Alan Marlatt. It requires a radical shift in our attitude towards cravings – instead of living in fear of these episodes, we develop more of a ‘bring it on’ mentality.
An urge is like a wave that increases in intensity before crashing harmlessly on the shore – the craving generally lasts less than 20 minutes unless it is being retriggered. The fact that we know a craving is only temporarily makes it easier to face with courage, and we can even start to enjoy doing this – sort of like a weightlifter ‘loving the burn’.
How to Use Compassion to Master Cravings
If you found this post useful, please support us by sharing it online.
Other Topics That Might Interest You
During your time with us at Hope, you can expect a life-changing adventure, but we will also provide you with the tools you need for a better future. This is not a quick fix because quick fixes don’t tend to last
A lack of love for the summertime may just be down to personal preference, but it can also be due to an underlying disorder or because we’ve had bad experiences at this time of year. Summer can bring out the worst in us, and this is particularly the case if we have some kind of addiction issue.
In this episode of the podcast, we discuss a wonderful meditation practice that can benefit both the person performing the tea ceremony and those observing it.
There are people who have found ibogaine treatment to be useful in overcoming drug addiction, but it certainly does not appear to work for everyone. There are also potential dangers associated with it that anyone considering it needs to take into account.
Covid 19 has been like a massive storm that has passed through our lives and, at least for some of us, left behind lasting damage. Anxiety issues, depression, and substance abuse may be another obstacle that some of us will need to face.