Aftercare


How to cope with cravings

You may leave rehab feeling like you’ve got your addiction under control, but cravings are a normal part of the recovery process.

Cravings are often described as a feeling of intense hunger for alcohol or drugs. When you’re experiencing a craving, you might feel like the abused substance is calling out your name so strongly that you can smell or taste it. You might experience physical symptoms associated with anxiety, such as a rapid heartbeat and headache.

Addiction is a chronic illness, which means you’ll likely face some form of cravings for many months or even years to come. However, once you learn which tactics work to keep your cravings under control, they’ll decrease in both frequency and intensity.

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to making a deliberate effort to focus your attention on the present moment. When you’re having a craving, mindfulness meditation can help you increase awareness of your personal triggers and control emotions that are triggering the urge to use.

Focusing your attention on your breathing and the sensations you’re experiencing in the moment will help you see that uncomfortable emotions are only temporary. You can learn to think of cravings as visitors to your mind that you’re under no obligation to welcome or obey.

2. Distract Yourself

Cravings are short lived, with research showing that intensity diminishes after 15 to 30 minutes. This means the best way to beat a craving may be to simply distract yourself until it passes. For example:

  • Watch a movie
  • Read a book
  • Spend time in nature
  • Write in your journal
  • Draw, paint, or engage in a creative hobby
  • Listen to music

Since stress is often a trigger for cravings, enjoyable distractions will also help you manage the situation by lowering your stress level.

3. Remove Yourself from Dangerous Situations

If you’re feeling the urge to use because you’re surrounded by reminders of your old life, you need to remove yourself from the situation. Continuing to hang around places and engage in activities that you associate with using sets you up for relapse.

Be honest with the people in your life about what triggers your cravings. If you know that going back to your favorite bar is going to make you crave a drink, you shouldn’t be risking your sobriety by putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Anyone who doesn’t support your commitment to staying clean doesn’t deserve a place in your life.

4. Avoid Entertainment that Glorifies Substance Abuse

Songs, TV shows, movies, video games, and books that make substance abuse seem glamorous can trick your brain into a craving. Surrounding yourself with portrayals of people who’ve overcome addiction is a better alternative, since inspirational stories can help strengthen your resolve to stay clean.

Entertainment is also a common person-specific cue for cravings. Person-specific cues are triggers that are unique to each individual, such as associating a certain song with drug use because it was playing the first time you got high. A 2015 study found that person-specific cues have a stronger effect on cravings that substance-specific cues such as the presence of bottles, lighters, or drug paraphernalia.

5. Call a Friend

Knowing when to turn to your support network is an essential part of building a successful sober life for yourself. If you’re struggling with a craving, reach out to a supportive friend or family member. Talking to someone about what you’re feeling can help strengthen your resolve to not fall prey to your cravings.

Talking also helps you remember the negative consequences of using. When you’re faced with a stubborn craving, it’s easy to fall prey to the trap of only thinking about the benefits of drug or alcohol use. Your support system can help remind you of how much you have to lose if you give in to temptation. They can also bring you back to reality by reminding you that using “just once” is likely to lead to a complete relapse.

6. Go to a Meeting

Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups play a vital role in maintaining sobriety by providing you with access to a community of people who understand the challenges you’re facing. Going to a meeting can help you manage cravings by reminding you that you’re not alone and showing you that a lasting recovery is possible no matter what obstacles you’ve struggled with in the past.

12-step meetings are available in almost every community, with larger cities having multiple meetings per day. This means you can find a meeting to attend even if you’re away from home. If you’re struggling with transportation issues, contact a meeting leader to see if another member can provide a ride.

By Dana Hinders

 

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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family

A lasting recovery requires you to replace harmful habits with healthy alternatives. Family-friendly recreation lets you stay on track with your sobriety while making special memories with the people you care about the most.

Although it’s always a good idea to chat with your family to see what activities are of interest, here are some suggestions to help you start planning your next adventure.


Plant a Garden
Planting a garden is a wonderful family project if you enjoy being outside and working with your hands. Watering, weeding, and harvesting teaches responsibility to kids of all ages. There is also evidence that growing your own food promotes healthier eating habits for the whole family.

If you don’t have the luxury of a big backyard, don’t automatically write off the idea of planting a garden. A small container garden can be placed on your porch or sidewalk. You might not be able to grow all the food your family needs, but you can grow fresh herbs, carrots, onions, and tomatoes with relatively little space.

Take Up Geocaching
Geocaching is the modern-day version of a treasure hunt. Participants use a GPS receiver and other navigational techniques to search for containers known as geocaches that are hidden all over the world. The geocaches contain logs that document the activities of past participants and tiny trinkets for trading.  

In addition to finding geocaches, your family can also try creating and hiding your own geocaches. Picking out trinkets to fill the box and choosing a special hiding place is a great activity for children who are too young to actively participate in the act of finding a geocache. Visit the Geocaching 101 website to learn more.

Be a Tourist in Your Hometown
Traveling to far away locations is certainly exciting, but planning a trip can be time consuming and expensive. As an alternative, why not explore some of the destinations in your community that you’ve previously overlooked?

Zoos, aquariums, museums, art galleries, historical sites, and local landmarks are excellent places to visit for the entire family. If you’re on a tight budget, look for attractions that offer free or reduced-price admission on select days.

Go Camping
Spending time in nature and getting away from electronic distractions offers the chance to reconnect with the people you care about in a more meaningful way. You don’t even have to travel far, since you’ll experience many of the benefits of camping even if you’re simply pitching a tent in the backyard.

Younger children will love to make s’mores, collect fireflies in a jar, or skip rocks along the river. Older children can tell ghost stories, plan a scavenger hunt, or see how many constellations they can find. Photographing the beautiful scenery or playing outdoor games such as cornhole and horseshoes are also great options.

Plan a Game Night
A weekly family game night is sure to provide plenty of special memories. Scrabble, Monopoly, and Yahtzee are classic games that can be enjoyed by players of all ages, but there are plenty of newer board games to consider as well. If you’re not sure what types of games your family might enjoy, see if your local public library has titles to borrow. Many libraries now offer board games, puzzles, and movies to check out in addition to books and magazines.

Add a little extra element of fun to your family game night by purchasing a thrift store trophy that you can award to the winner. Kids love having tangible evidence of their victory, especially when it’s the first time they’ve managed to win against a parent or older sibling.

Have a Movie Marathon
A movie marathon is the perfect chance to share your favorite classic films with your children or to enjoy a series such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter together. With today’s plethora of streaming services, almost any movie you want is available with just a few clicks.

Create a cozy atmosphere by encouraging everyone to change into their pajamas and covering the living room floor with pillows and blankets. Break out the popcorn, soda, and candy, then get ready to enjoy some quality family bonding time.

Volunteer
There’s no greater joy in life than helping others. Volunteering lets you give back to your community, make new friends, and build new skills.

Here are some volunteer ideas that are appropriate for the whole family:

  • Help build a home through Habitat for Humanity.
  • Care for pets at a local animal shelter.
  • Prepare and distribute care packages for the homeless.
  • Organize a canned food drive.
  • Clean up a local park.
  • Help elderly neighbors with yard work.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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Using Writing to Further Your RecoveryWhile it won’t cure substance abuse issues on its own, writing offers many therapeutic benefits to people in recovery. Even if you’ve never had the urge to jot down your thoughts in the past, writing can be a powerful tool for physical, mental, and spiritual healing.

How Writing Helps in Addiction Recovery

In today’s fast-paced world, many people jump from one activity to another without ever pausing to consider the consequences of the choices they make. Those who struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol are often even more frantic—using substance abuse to avoid uncomfortable self-reflection.

Writing allows you to take the time to contemplate your life story without any outside distractions. It’s a way to better understand your past, present, and future.

Some of the benefits of writing while in recovery include:

  • Processing past trauma, such as physical or verbal abuse
  • Coping with loss, such as the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship because of your addiction
  • Understanding the roots of your addiction
  • Tackling challenges associated with co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression
  • Taking a second look at your emotional response to specific situations
  • Reframing your thoughts on specific recovery challenges
  • Acting as a distraction technique for coping with cravings
  • Documenting your progress so you can see how far you’ve come when you’re feeling discouraged
  • Gaining a better understanding of your personal strengths and weaknesses

Anyone can benefit from writing while in recovery, but this activity is particularly helpful for those with more introverted personalities. If you struggle to feel comfortable sharing openly in a group, writing down your thoughts may be a way to process issues on your own terms. Finding a way to open up without fear, anxiety, or shame can give you the boost you need to continue moving forward in your recovery.

How to Get Started

The act of writing is a highly individual process, so there is no right or wrong way to go about incorporating writing into your recovery plan. Depending on your preferences, your writing can take many forms. For example:

  • Private journal entry
  • Letter to a friend
  • Memoir
  • List
  • Song lyrics
  • Poetry
  • Short story
  • Novel

Some prompts you might use include:

  • Write a letter to yourself as a child, teen, or young adult
  • Describe the moment that make you realize you needed to seek addiction treatment
  • Explain how you handle your cravings
  • Describe how you imagine your life after six months, one year, two years, etc. in recovery
  • List all of your recovery accomplishments and describe how they make you feel
  • Write a letter to a friend or family member who has supported you throughout your recovery journey

Although typing may seem like the natural choice, the old-fashioned method of putting pen to paper may help you connect with your emotions on a primal level. Use whatever method feels most natural.

The best way to overcome writer’s block is to make writing a part of your daily routine. Set aside 15 to 20 minutes at the beginning or end of each day to write, preferably in a quiet place with no distractions.

As you write, don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or sentence structure. Focus simply on getting your thoughts down on paper. You can always edit and revise at a later date if you feel it’s necessary. Remember, even professional writers don’t create award-winning prose on the first try.

Sharing Your Work

It’s fine to want to keep your writing private. However, sharing your work with a broader audience can offer a number of advantages as well. For example:

  • Positive feedback that boosts self-esteem
  • Emotional satisfaction from helping others with their recovery journey
  • Feeling less isolated as you learn how others have connected to your addiction and recovery story.
  • Reader insights that make you think about your specific recovery challenges in a new way

In addition to sharing with your counselor or the members of your 12-step group, you may choose to seek out writing workshops for people in recovery or to start a blog.

Tapping into the Power of Creativity to Make a New Life for Yourself

You may find that you enjoy writing exclusively, but writing can also be combined with other holistic therapies for addiction recovery. Music, art, or dance therapy can all be used to explore many of the same issues while providing a creative outlet. No matter what path you choose to pursue, finding sober ways to express yourself can help you build a future without the burdens of addiction.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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