Cravings are a perfectly normal part of the recovery process. However, the social distancing restrictions and general uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for many people in recovery to keep their cravings in check.
We Are Here for You
In this post, we offer some suggestions to help you manage your cravings. Safe Harbor Recovery Center, our drug and alcohol addiction treatment center in Portsmouth, VA, will remain open and available to serve clients regardless of other COVID-19-related closures. We’ve implemented CDC recommended safety precautions and are here to offer the support and encouragement you need to continue moving forward in your recovery journey.
Know Your Triggers
No two people in recovery are exactly alike, which means you need to personalize your treatment plan to account for your specific triggers. Write down every situation where you experience cravings—even mild ones that pass quickly. After a week or two, you should start to recognize patterns. For example:
- Seeing certain people or visiting certain places might bring back memories of substance abuse that trigger cravings.
- If you were attracted to substance abuse to self-medicate stress, you might find that stressful situations at work are the most common trigger for your cravings.
- If you drank or did drugs most often when you were socializing with friends, the weekend might be a trigger.
Understanding what is most likely to trigger your cravings will help you be more proactive in managing your recovery. Even if you think you already know what causes your cravings, COVID-19-related changes in your daily routine may have created new triggers you haven’t considered before.
Lean on Your Sober Support Network
COVID-19 has made it harder to socialize in person, but staying connected to friends and family is an important part of your recovery journey. When you’re isolated and lonely, you’re at risk of relapse. Attend virtual 12-Step meetings while in-person meetings are on hold, and schedule time to call, text, email, or video chat with loved ones regularly. Those who are older or who have health conditions that put them at high risk of COVID-19 complications will be especially glad to hear from you!
This post, 10 Sober Activities to Do While Social Distancing, offers some tips on activities, including virtual socializing, while quarantine restrictions are in place.
Give Yourself a Reality Check
Cravings are often accompanied by an urge to romanticize addiction-related behaviors. Stop the cycle by reminding yourself of all the progress you’ve already made in your recovery and the specific goals you’re working towards. For example, are you making plans to go back to school or working on strengthening your relationship with your spouse?
Thinking about what you stand to lose by going back to unhealthy habits can help you summon the inner strength to continue moving forward. You may find it helpful to write down your reasons for sobriety or keep pictures that remind you of why you decided to seek treatment in locations you can easily see when a craving strikes.
Pay Attention to Your Diet
What you eat can have a significant impact on how you feel. For example, keeping blood sugar levels stable by eating complex carbohydrates such as those found in whole-grain bread and cereal can help you avoid mood swings that can trigger cravings. Additionally, increasing your protein intake can help slowly stabilize the production of dopamine in the body.
For more tips on eating well during the early stages of recovery, refer to our post about foods that support substance abuse recovery.
In many cases, cravings pass quickly. Distracting yourself with a different activity may be all you need to keep your cravings in check. Some ideas to consider include:
- listen to music you enjoy
- go for a walk outside
- try a new workout routine
- play a favorite game on your cell phone
- write in your journal
- play with your pet
- call a trusted friend for a chat
Try Urge Surfing
Urge surfing is a mindfulness technique that helps you gain control over your cravings by increasing your awareness of the physical sensations they produce. This technique, developed by the late psychologist Alan Marlatt, stresses that the feelings produced by cravings are a normal part of recovery and only temporary.
Check out this post on urge surfing, to learn more about this method of coping with cravings and how to practice urge surfing at home.
Consider Medication-Assisted Treatment
In some cases, medications can be helpful in managing your cravings. Medications taken under a doctor’s supervision are safe and non-addictive. They don’t interfere with cognitive functioning but balance brain circuits affected by substance abuse to give your body time to heal as you work toward recovery.
Learn more about medication-assisted treatment in this post from our partners at SJI, Understanding the Medications Commonly Used in Addiction Treatment.