Addiction cravings are an obsessive desire for a particular thing, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, cigarettes or even sugar. When a person stops using a substance and the physical symptoms of withdrawal are gone, cravings can linger on.
During addiction, the neurons in the brain have been transformed and trained to respond to the chemicals in drugs or alcohol. When you become sober, your brain has a hard time adjusting, and those neurons don’t know how to respond without the drug they have become used to. This leads to cravings.
Here’s some help:
The first thing to remember is that cravings are completely normal. Don’t be afraid of them. Just learn to recognize the onset and prevent yourself from spiraling into a relapse.
The Addiction Craving Cycle
Types and intensity of cravings might be different for each individual, but there’s a familiar and very recognizable pattern that’s common to most people. Here’s what to look for:
- Trigger Response: Addiction cravings can be triggered by certain events, smells, songs, places or people associated with your past drug use. I used to use in Publix grocery store bathroom, and the certain smell of their cleaner used to put the craving cycle in motion for me.
- Obsessive thinking. Once the craving cycle begins, your brain will experience a strong desire to continue to play movies of past drug use in your head. The more you lean into these thoughts the stronger the desire to act on these thoughts will become.
- Full-blown Craving. If you don’t shut down your thoughts, the craving can become both emotional and physical. The emotional part is that strong urge to use. You might have a plan in your head, an excuse to leave the house, and already come up with all of the possible scenarios and repercussions. The physical part of it manifests in rapid heart rate, perspiration, anxiety levels, and even shortness of breath. If you let it get this far, it can be extremely difficult to resist the urge to act on your craving.
So, what can you do? There are plenty of options, but here are my favorite five:
1. Changing Your Diet Can Reduce Addiction Cravings
Think ahead of addiction cravings. Amino acids, produced naturally in the brain and found in food, are often depleted during drug use. This can cause behavior changes like depression, mood swings and loss of appetite. Reintroducing certain ingredients to your diet can restore the chemicals in your brain and help reduce cravings.
- Magnesium, often found in raw nuts, whole grains, spinach, avocados and bananas can help with alcohol cravings.
- L-phenylalanine, an ingredient found in most protein-rich foods, can help with cravings, depression and anxiety. Add cheese, soy products, beef, poultry and yogurt to your diet.
- L-Tryptophan can be found in dried dates, milk, cottage cheese, red meat and eggs. This ingredient helps with insomnia and appetite control.
- D-Phenylalanine can be taken as a supplement with a healthy diet to help reduce cravings and improve energy and focus.
2. Breathing Through It
Deep breathing is an excellent way to manage the stress of withdrawal, but it can also help with cravings. This type of breathing lets you turn your focus to the way you breathe, concentrating on something else besides your need to use. It also counteracts the body’s response to stress. It helps lower your blood pressure, reduce muscle tension and lower heart rate so you can relax.
3. Healthy Distraction
Get yourself into a new environment immediately. Have you ever heard, “Move a muscle, change a thought?” It’s so true. This is definitely one time when you CAN run away from your problems! Leave the room, go to the gym, take your dog for a walk, watch a comedy movie (laughter releases dopamine). Whatever you choose, just get in a new environment.
4. Give it Time
Many people don’t realize that cravings are 100 percent time sensitive. Some last for only a few minutes. Others may take a bit longer to outlast, but you really can wait it out. The key for me was to combine distraction and prayer with the knowledge that the craving would soon subside. (In therapy, it’s called impulse control, and we need it in recovery).
Sometimes the best thing you can do is take it one minute at a time. Anyone can stand anything for one minute. So, wait it out. If the feeling is still there after one minute, wait for another. While willpower is definitely not the best solution to long-term sobriety, understanding that addiction cravings are only temporary is definitely helpful when you’re in the middle of experiencing one.
5. Get Spiritual
I like to throw all my problems and crisis on God. He created me and He knows how to heal my brain so that cravings won’t overtake me. Prayer is scientifically proven to work in all healthcare situations, including addiction recovery.
Get More Help From Gracious Care Recovery Solutions
At Gracious Care, we’re here for you. You don’t have to go through withdrawal or recovery on your own. We’ll help with anything you need, from medical detox to inpatient care. Our experienced staff is here for you every step of the way and can assist with both withdrawal and cravings. Call us today.