Drug cravings and triggers can last for months or even years after quitting. Here are some tips for coping with them.
Drug cravings and triggers like stress can be difficult to cope with, especially in early recovery. They may come and go with seemingly no rhyme or reason, when when they come, they can be powerful, and learning to cope with them is important for ongoing abstinence. But how long do drug cravings last, and how long will triggers be a problem for you? Most importantly, what can you do to cope with drug cravings and triggers? Here are some answers to these common questions.
How Long Do Drug Cravings last?
How long drug cravings and triggers last depends on a number of factors, including the severity of your addiction and whether you develop some essential coping skills to deal with triggers of addiction.
Cravings are the result of changes in your brain’s memory, learning, and reward centers. They can be extremely intense and last for mere moments, or they can simmer just below the surface, making you feel uneasy. They often surface when you encounter another trigger, such as seeing someone you used to use with or driving past a bar you used to frequent. Stress is a common trigger for cravings, and so are negative emotions.
Coping Skills to Deal With Triggers of Addiction
Learning to cope with drug cravings and triggers is a major focus in high quality addiction treatment programs. A variety of coping skills and strategies are learned in treatment. Here are four of the most effective.
1. Reduce stress.
Stress is a major trigger for relapse, and reducing the stressors in your life can improve your chances of successful recovery. But you can’t make all your stress disappear.
When you’re under acute or chronic stress, hormones like cortisol and adrenaline keep you in a fight-or-flight state, and whereas you once reached for a pipe or a bottle to reduce these unpleasant feelings, you now have to cope with them without substances. The prospect of that only adds more stress, which intensifies the cravings, creating a vicious cycle. Breathing slowly and deeply reduces the levels of stress hormones in your blood. Almost immediately, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease, your muscle tension relaxes, and your cravings subside. Exercise also reduces stress and cravings on the spot.
2. Take care of yourself.
Excellent self-care is a pillar of successful recovery. When you don’t get adequate sleep or eat a healthy diet, you get tired, cranky, frustrated, angry, hungry, and any other range of negative feelings and emotions. Negative emotions are an important sign of an impending relapse, and they can cause intense cravings. The best way to keep these negative feelings to a minimum is to get a good night’s sleep every night, eat healthy food every day, practice good personal hygiene, and get plenty of exercise. The resulting feelings of energy, strength, and good health and wellbeing are kryptonite to your cravings.
3. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the act of living in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. When you’re in the present moment, you’re more aware of what’s happening around you and what you’re thinking and feeling. Keeping in close touch with your emotional state is essential in early recovery. Practice mindfulness through yoga or meditation, a daily meditative walk, or even by setting an alarm several times a day to remind you to take a quick assessment of your current state of mind. The more you begin focusing in the present moment, the better you’ll be able to see drug cravings and triggers coming your way and take steps to deflect them.
4. Go urge surfing.
When a craving is all-encompassing and putting your recovery at risk, try urge surfing. This technique is commonly taught in rehab and involves your imagination. As the craving hits, sit back and let it wash over you. Notice all of the sensations you feel, both physical and mental. Notice how these sensations change throughout the craving. Imagine the craving as a wave that you’re surfing. Breathe slowly and deeply as you ride the wave to shore, where it crashes and dissipates.
If you’re struggling with triggers like stress and cravings, a high quality treatment program can help you change your ways of thinking about them and develop an arsenal of skills to help you cope with them. Contact Better Addiction Care today, and we’ll help you find the right treatment program for your needs. Call us at 1.800.429.7690.