A huge part of the addiction recovery process is recognising, controlling, and refusing to give in to cravings. There are numerous strategies out there for both addiction treatment centres and individuals suffering from addiction. Set techniques and plans can help make cravings as manageable as possible.
New discoveries in the world of cravings management are being made regularly. As people’s experience and scientific research work together, people suffering can learn how to handle the impulses in their brain and find out which methods work best for them on a personal level.
With these strategies treatment centres can incorporate them into their educational and awareness programmes. That way, when people return to their everyday lives, they know how to deal with their craving and which techniques to put in place to reduce their impact. Thankfully, cravings often lessen over time and become less intense. So once an individual has a set strategy in place and gets into the habit of acting upon it, cravings management becomes entirely possible in daily life.
Many of the abundant cravings management strategies out there work on simple premises based upon easy to remember acronyms. So that people suffering can apply them quickly and easily in their time of need.
For example, the DEAD acronym helps addicts say no to their cravings and continue in their recovery with each letter standing for a practical approach to the issue.
The D is for delay. This principle is based on the idea that cravings will pass with time. Unless you actively indulge in them, mentally or physically, then they will naturally go away. It is a strategy of simply waiting out a craving.
The E is for escape. This encourages the addict to get away from the situation that is provoking their cravings. It might be something like being in a pub or being at a party where drug use is happening. Simply escaping the triggering environment will lessen temptation and distract your mind from cravings.
The A is for accept. This helps addicts understand that cravings are a normal and inevitable part of recovery. Knowing that it happens to everyone and that they will eventually pass can keep cravings in perspective. Yes, the addict might feel uncomfortable, but through this step, they also know that it will not last forever.
The second D is for dispute. This is the process of applying a rational belief system, often learned during treatment, to the irrational nature of cravings. It is like applying mind over matter. Or thinking logically about bodily impulses. Some people will have learned exercises or developed counter statements during therapy to help them dispute their cravings. At this point in the process, you apply those exercises.
The final letter, S, is for substitute. This means to replace the thing you are craving with something else that is more beneficial. This list of possible substitutes will vary from person to person. But simply focusing your attention on to something else, especially something new or fun, will help distract you from your cravings.
Many cravings management strategies focus on this act of substitution. There are many possible ways for an someone to distract themselves from unhealthy and impulsive urges. One key example is exercise or a form of physical activity. This is a great option because it gives an outlet to your body. It is also a healthy lifestyle choice that can contribute to general wellness and mental health. Again, the exact exercise will vary depending on the person, but it could include running, playing a sport, or going to the gym.
Meditation is another possible substitute. This is a different approach to physical activity, focusing more on the mind than the body. It is a way of emptying the mind from the complex urges and desires of a craving and instead focusing on inner peace and balance. Grounding yourself in the moment can reduce the urgency of a craving and put your greater path to recovery in perspective.
Taking a bath is another common craving substitute. Soaking in warm and relaxing water can sooth some of the physical attributes of a craving. It engages the body and triggers sensual pleasure but in a healthy and calming way. Or, you can choose to do something creative. This is often very engaging for the mind and creative tasks can be easy to get lost in. You might find that after some time starting a creative project, you have forgotten all about a craving. It could include playing music, painting, or journaling. All of which are popular therapy techniques too.
It is also important for people suffering, and the treatment centres that help them, to recognise the importance of triggers in terms of cravings. Triggers are simply things that can trigger cravings. They will change depending on the individual. But if you know your triggers, then you can know what to avoid to keep cravings to a minimum. Common triggers might include places like pubs or supermarkets, people you know are also struggling, or social situations like parties or weddings. For this reason, it is useful to plan ahead. By knowing your triggers, you can act in preparation by taking simple precautions. For example, avoid certain routes home that pass triggering places. Or research which mocktail you can order at a party function before you arrive. Then, once you are in the situation, you can apply the same methods as before. Accept the craving, dispute it through rational thinking, and find a substitute for the craving.
Craving management techniques are an important part of treatment programmes. They prepare people for life in the real world, which will be filled with factors that trigger cravings. However, by internalising the strategies to manage cravings, people can successfully recover from addiction. Cravings will lessen over time if they are not indulged in by the addict. By recognising the inevitability of cravings, knowing how to diagnose them, handle them, and substitute the gratification of giving in with something healthier and more beneficial, managing cravings will become easier and easier. And a happy and healthy lifestyle will become entirely possible.
Group Treatment Lead, UK Addiction Treatment Centres
Nuno Albuquerque is an Addictions Counsellor with over 19 years of experience in working in the field in the UK and around the globe. Nuno comes to UKAT with a wealth of...