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Coping with Urges and Cravings

A young, beautiful couple meditating during a yoga session.
One way to battle a craving is to get busy—with yoga or some other activity you enjoy.

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Don’t panic.

The first thing to realize is that you will have cravings, especially early in recovery. Because you can’t avoid them, you have to learn to manage them—which means you need a plan. Panicking is what happens when you don’t have a plan.

Your situation is unique, so your plan must be your own. Here are a few strategies to get you started.

Wait It Out

When a craving hits, it can feel like an itch (except a million times worse) that won’t go away unless you scratch it.

But that’s not true.

Cravings will eventually pass—and usually in a shorter period of time than most people anticipate.

One common technique for dealing with cravings is called urge surfing. When a craving hits, imagine it as a wave in the ocean. You don’t fight the wave. Rather, you accept it. You allow yourself to calmly experience the feeling of wanting to drink or to use.

What you’ll find is that the urge—just like a wave—will build in intensity, but then it will pass.

Learn to Relax

We all experience tension. The trick is to learn to deal with it—in a healthy way (which means not by drinking, using, overeating, compulsive shopping or gambling.)

What does that leave?

That’s for you to discover. For some, it’s gardening. For others, it’s listening to music. It could be meditation, yoga or prayer. It could also be walking your dog or even cleaning your house.

What you’ll find is that drugs or alcohol have taken you away from a whole world of rewarding—and relaxing—opportunities. Use your new freedom to discover them.

Call a Friend

In the midst of a craving, it can be hard to believe that it actually will end. Call someone who has been there and knows that it will. That could be your sponsor or simply a friend who has been in recovery long enough to be able to give you perspective on the urges you’re feeling.

Change Your Setting

If you’re at home—where you used to drink every night after work—put on your shoes and go for a walk. Or to a movie. Or to meet a friend for coffee. The point is to distract yourself for long enough to allow the craving to pass.

Exercise

You’re probably sick of hearing it by now, but exercise truly is a great way to generate the hormones that make us all feel happy, calm and motivated.

Think About Your Goals

Why did you decide to quite drinking or using in the first place? If you’ve never done so, make a list. It can be a great tool when a craving hits.

A craving is just a feeling—one that you have control over. Instead of fearing it, think of it as a crossroads. In one direction is everything you’re trying to break free from. In the other is everything you want out of life.

Finding Hope at The Raleigh House

At The Raleigh House, we can help you get the life you always wanted. Treatment is not just about giving something up. Rather, it’s about discovering what you really want—and having the tools and the ability to go for it. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs at The Raleigh House.

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