Archive for March, 2018

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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Our 2018 Alumni Reunion is just a few weeks away!

 

Bald Eagle building

Join us at St. Joseph’s campus for an afternoon of fun, food, and recovery-based fellowship on May 19 from 1:00-10:00pm.

 

All alumni are invited to bring one guest (adults only). Please also bring a chair for chillin’ around the bonfire.

 

RSVP to Emily Benjamin at ebenjamin@stjosephinstitute.com with your name, number of attendees, and t-shirt size (alumni only) by April 15.

 

If you missed our email invitation, you can sign up for our mailing list here.

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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