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5 Ways to Deal with Urges and Cravings

Any addict is well acquainted with cravings: those strong yearnings to go back to substance abuse. Even when you’re aware that such behavior is taking a serious toll on your mind and body, you still find it difficult to resist the temptation. You lose self-control and fight hard not to break the promises you made to yourself.

Experiencing urges is quite common in the early stages of recovery, making addiction difficult to overcome. Urges are defined as subconscious forces that the brain has developed in relation to being rewarded. They’re simply a result of brain wiring that changed with addiction and not the result of you doing something wrong in recovery. It happens to all recovering addicts, so you shouldn’t view them as a sign of failure. It’s important to know that these urges never completely fade away and the only thing that changes is the way you choose to handle the cravings. Read on to find out the 5 most practical ways to deal with urges and cravings.

1.   Recognize Your Urges

Identifying triggers is not always an easy thing to do since they can sometimes have no physical effect on your body. The National Institute of Health breaks down the most frequent types of symptoms induced by an addiction trigger, including:

Physical symptoms

  • Feeling nervous
  • Tightness in your stomach


  • Feeling you need substances.
  • Planning how you would get your substances.
  • Recalling using in the past.
  • Thinking how you would feel from using substances.

Common external triggers include:

  • Seeing the people you used to abuse with.
  • Exposure to the substance.
  • Seeing other people using.
  • Places you used to spend your time at.

Common internal triggers include:

  • Negative types of emotions, such as stressed out, shame, loneliness, frustration, and anxiety.
  • Positive emotions, such as excitement, elation, passion, sexual arousal, feelings of accomplishment.

External triggers are easier to be handled. Make a list of all the people, places, and objects that remind you of your past life. Get rid of any substances in your house, avoid going out in bars and clubs, and stay away from friends that trigger your cravings.

Internal triggers, on the other hand, are often more complicated and require managing your emotional state. You need to learn how to identify your triggers and develop a plan of action.

2.   Make a List of Strategies

Once you have identified your triggers, come up with some strategies that could help you. Some strategies you can take when you’re faced with a trigger include taking a different route home in order to avoid a high-risk situation, or avoiding attending a celebratory event such as a wedding where you know alcohol will be served.

Talking to a therapist, AA sponsor, or support group can also be of great help. They will be able to offer advice and are always ready to listen. Many specialists also recommend developing refusal skills, working on “thought stopping” strategies, and avoiding high-risk situations.

Moreover, hobbies can be a helpful distraction when you’re faced with a craving. Try to distract yourself with a book or a movie, keep a journal, draw, or paint. Exercise can also help you with your urges and can be quite enough to change the way you’re feeling. Just a walk around the park or engaging in a mindfulness meditation can help reduce the stress and anxiety you may be feeling.

3.   Accept the Urge

Some urges can be overwhelmingly strong. When these types of urges arise, it’s best to stay with them until they pass. This technique is called urge surfing. It involves waiting out until the urge peaks in intensity, and then gradually subsides into nothingness, just as a wave.

In order to master this technique, you need to stop for a minute and think about the urge. Try to notice the sensations that arise with it and notice how those sensations shift overtime. You need to simply have an open attitude towards the urge and observe it without fighting with it. Keep in mind that if you fight with your urges, they will fade away more slowly.

4.   Use Positive Visualization

Positive visualization is a technique that can improve your life and attract you success. It’s a process similar to daydreaming where your subconscious mind accepts the thoughts that you often repeat.

You simply need to think about your past life and addictive behaviors. Think about the places you used to abuse drugs at, the people you use to get high with, and the injustice you caused to your family. Then try to replace those images with places, people, and behaviors that support your healthier lifestyle. Think about your home, your family and friends, your support group, and your favorite ice-cream place. This useful technique will help you improve focus and concentration, boost your confidence, and increase your self-esteem. It can increase motivation, relieve stress, and is also a way of practicing before attempting the real thing. There are no limits to what can be imagined, meaning you can create a positive mental scene and experience real feelings of joy and comfort. It can lead to improved mental and physical health, including life-long sobriety.

5.   Be Kind to Yourself

Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Work on your physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. Learn how to accept your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Have compassion for yourself as a human being and learn how to be kind to yourself. Stay focused on what you need, and turn away from destructive behavior patterns that get you into trouble and lessen your self-love. Practice good self-care and nourish yourself daily through sound nutrition, healthy social interactions, exercise, and proper sleep. Forgive yourself, accept your humanness, and grow from your mistakes.

For more information please call this Toll Free 24/7 Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a completely confidential call. If you have health insurance it may cover up to 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now!

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