How to Manage Cravings and Triggers in Early Recovery

In recovery, controlling cravings can seem downright impossible. However powerful they may seem, these cravings can be controlled and triggers resisted.
Knowing that you have the strength to overcome your urges will help ease the fear of facing them. And there’s a lot you can do to curb your hunger and other urges. The good news is that you will encounter them less frequently over time.
In this article, we will discuss the many causes of cravings and provide you with 5 effective strategies for managing cravings and triggers while in recovery from addiction. South Africa is home to a burgeoning population of recovering addicts, counsellors, and specialists, making it an excellent setting for drug rehabilitation centresGet in touch with us for more information on our South Africa treatment centre.

Cravings, triggers and your brain

Cravings are a typical component of the healing process. Every person in early recovery has experienced cravings, and even those further along in recovery may occasionally feel cravings.
It’s easy to be paralysed by desires when they strike. Your thoughts can lead you to believe that you have no other option but to use substances in order to overcome these powerful urges.

Managing Cravings and Triggers in Early Recovery
Managing Cravings and Triggers in Early Recovery
Managing Cravings and Triggers in Early Recovery

Oftentimes these cravings are set off by what is referred to as triggers. Due to the nature of triggers, it is often stressed in rehabilitation that avoiding certain people, places, and even associative items is crucial. In the early stages of sobriety, cravings might feel overwhelming. However, with time they grow less severe and easier to deal with. Changes in brain chemistry that occur during active addiction might be a trigger for cravings. Consistent drug use causes the brain to change, leading to an increased likelihood of viewing drug use as a rewarding experience. One of the most challenging parts of recovery is dealing with cravings, but if we’re open to it, they may teach us a lot.

Learn to accept the craving

Recognising and accepting that you are experiencing a craving is a crucial mental shift to make. This is because trying to ignore it or punish yourself only makes the craving stronger.
When we try to supress and urge, or when we make a concerted effort not to think about something, we end up thinking about it all the more. You should allow yourself to experience whatever it is you’re feeling when you have a craving, no matter how strong it may be.

Find a healthy distraction

It may not feel like it at the time, but a craving will eventually pass. The average duration of a craving is only 15 minutes. The reason it seems like they’ve lasted so long is because we allow them to continue existing in our imaginations. We try to ignore the craving while our thoughts race to come up with a solution.
When we allow ourselves to continue in that state of mind, we reinforce the idea that we need to use to relieve the urge. However, the reality is rather different.
Find a way to divert your attention away from this negative thought pattern. One way to achieve this is to focus intently on a another, healthier task.

Exit triggering situations

If you’re experiencing persistent cravings, it’s important to take stock of your environment in case of any triggers. If you find yourself in a triggering environment, it’s time to leave. If the drinking at a party is a trigger, for instance, you shouldn’t feel pressured to stay. Keep in mind that the craving is just temporary and that the underlying cause is external.
You should prioritise your health and sobriety above all else. It’s understandable that you should guard yourself from any stressor, no matter how minor, by setting and enforcing healthy limits.

Managing Cravings and Triggers in Early Recovery
Managing Cravings and Triggers in Early Recovery

Observe your thoughts

A carving is an emotion that is kept alive in your mind. Pay close attention to the reinforcing ideas you’re thinking while you’re in the midst of a craving. Your mind is probably exacerbating the urge. But even in the midst of a powerful desire, you can exercise complete mental control. Remind yourself that it is natural to experience cravings during recovery and that the urge will eventually pass. Investigate potential underlying causes of your craving.

Use the “play the tape” technique

Many people in recovery use a method called “playing the tape” to combat cravings. While you might be focusing on how good it would be to satisfy your craving, you often forget everything else that follows. This is known as reflection bias.
When we “play the tape”, we mentally fast-forward past the point of use.
If you were to use now, what would happen next?
By listening to the audio, we can get a sense of the shame and guilt we would experience if we relapsed. We see that we would fail ourselves or our sobriety if we were to drink. The possibility of harming our loved ones may even cross our minds.
Playing the tape in its entirety is an effective method for controlling urges and making them less intense.

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