How to Battle Drug Addiction
Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol is painful. It’s hard to imagine anything that feels worse. The symptoms vary from a number of factors: the substance used, how long it was used, how much was used, and the individual’s tolerance. The range of severity runs from barely noticeable to excruciating. Know that after you work through this, you’ll feel better at the end. In the meantime, drug cravings are the largest hurdle to those new in recovery.
Physical discomfort, unfortunately, is just the tip of the iceberg. The real challenge is the anxiety that results from quitting those damaging chemicals. After the first seven to ten days, the withdrawal sickness becomes bearable. In fact, you’ll soon start to feel better, especially in a proper drug detox program. However, this is also when your brain starts to crave your drug of choice badly. Drug cravings will begin to rule your thoughts, and you must have a plan on in mind to help you work through the intensity without caving in.
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Drug Cravings as a Symptom
During recovery, you’ll repeatedly hear the saying “One day at a time.” Some might deter you and claim that’s too short of a goal. In fact, they might tell you that you should be setting longer-term goals to help work through your drug cravings. Let me assure you that they are incorrect!
In those very early days of recovery, you must focus on your wellness and keep from becoming overwhelmed. Your brain is chemically addicted and is unable to process input correctly. When you take on too much or allow enormous levels of stress into your life, you will become mentally overwhelmed. Your brain will kick into high-gear and amplify cravings for drugs or alcohol.
Here are some of the craving scenarios that you could experience.
Dreaming About Using
Because these happen when you’re sleeping, dreams about using are particularly challenging. Additionally, we can’t control our unconscious brain and how it’s processing during sleep. Be proactive and keep vigilant if you experience this drug craving scenario.
Some things that can help you avoid this are listed below.
- Meditate before bed.
- Read instead of watching tv.
- Share positive thoughts from the day in your journal.
Reminders You Can’t Avoid
One difficulty is cutting out all that you’ve done, seen, and experience when you were using. This means that even mundane things can trigger drug cravings—something you see or hear, for example. Find new experiences as you learn to live life as your best, sober self and learn to appreciate the world around you.
- Create new memories and experience new things.
- Avoid danger zones in your area.
- Always be mindful of everything you hear or see.
It’s inevitable that you’ll come across something to remind you about your days of abusing drugs or alcohol. You’ll also occasionally look back at the fun you had when you were high or drunk. It’s urgent that you find a way to keep those memories in perspective every time that they try to intrude on your sobriety.
Every day you should strive to avoid negative thoughts that can derail you.
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Shift Your Focus Away from Drug Cravings
Never dwell on your thoughts of cravings for very long. You must shift your focus when you feel the inexplicable urge that pulls you into thinking about alcohol or drugs. Research shows that those very intense drug cravings will only haunt your memory for 15 to 30 minutes per episode. Knowing that, find a new focus for that time. Try word puzzles, reading a chapter of your book, or listening to music as a means of temporarily distracting yourself. If you need a brief change of scene, try a brisk walk or some stretching exercises.
A big part of drug cravings are the associations we build between the dopamine and seratonin releases we know we can achieve through substance abuse. However, the best way to combat addiction and our triggers is to forge new associations with these chemicals, by finding new ways to give ourselves dopamine and seratonin.
Live Day by Day
As you recover, you must focus on living day by day. Know the things that are within your immediate control and avoid those which will overwhelm you. Set daily goals that will enable you to feel ownership of the day. Carry those victories with you to start off the following day. Such a structure will help you set yourself up for a successful recovery.
Think Through Your Thoughts
A life of addiction is a long, hard road. Even as you recover, you’ll fight to find yourself again and learn to cherish the freedom from your addiction. However, you will get that taste of recovery and see firsthand how fulfilling your life can be when you have learned to live without cravings. Think through your alcohol or drug cravings from start to finish. Understand completely the consequences of what you’ll lose if you give in to those thoughts and who you’ll hurt the most if you decide to use again.
We want to believe that we can use safely again one day, but that’s not going to happen. There is no safe way that an addict can use any drugs or alcohol, ever. Even shifting from alcohol to drugs, or vice versa leads to a catastrophic relapse.
Have a plan for handling cravings, surround yourself with a support system of people who are clean and sober, attend groups, find something else to focus on, and get through your cravings one day at a time.
Most of all, do not give up. You’ll soon see that you’re almost to the finish line.