Coping With Cravings On Lockdown

Coping with Cravings on Lockdown

Cravings are a normal part of addiction and alcoholism recovery. No matter whether you’ve been sober for days, weeks, months or even years, at some point you will probably experience a craving – a strong desire to drink or use again.

While on lockdown, cravings might appear to be much stronger and / or more frequent than you might have experienced previously (or you might only be experiencing them for the first time now). This is to be expected! Most of us have some element of additional stress in our lives at this time, combined with less activities, or less variety of activities, to keep us physically and mentally stimulated due to the confines of lockdown.

First and foremost it’s important to recognise that cravings are a serious issue and need to be addressed. This doesn’t mean that you are going to relapse, but it means that you need to address them in the healthiest way possible. If cravings are not dealt with, they can begin to manifest and the chance of a relapse increases. If you are experiencing cravings, try working through the recommendations below. If you are experiencing frequent cravings or cravings that are making you consider drinking or using, is it strongly recommended that you seek professional help such as online counselling to help you work through this period.

Remember that what you are experiencing is ‘normal’ and a relapse is not inevitable. Seeking professional help does not mean you have failed, it shows that you are taking responsibility for your sobriety and choosing to succeed.

Start by Understanding the Craving

Knowledge is power! During recovery, certain people, places, and things will often trigger the urge to use drugs or drink. When you experience a craving, think about what you were doing immediately beforehand and make a note of it. Were you talking to an old friend on the phone? Was it the smell of cigarette smoke or a certain food that you used to enjoy with a glass of wine?

Ask yourself to “HALT”. Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? These emotional states are often the triggers behind many cravings – and they are easy to fix!

If you can’t pinpoint it every time, don’t worry and move on. If you can pinpoint the trigger, start to make a list of triggering situations and note which ones you can easily avoid and which you will need to develop a strategy to deal with.

Thinking about the Craving Will Not Help

  • Once you’ve identified any possible trigger, do not allow yourself to sit and dwell on the craving. Cravings grow if you allow them to, so you must break your chain of thought.
  • Cravings come and go in waves, they do not last forever, so remember that you only need to deal with what you are experiencing now and it will pass.
  • To do this, try using the strategies below:

1. Reach Out to Others

You do not need to go through this alone. Call your counsellor , your sponsor or a sober friend. These should be your ‘go to’ people for anything recovery related. Have a list of 4 or 5 people handy who you can call at any time for support.

Don’t wait until you experience a craving to connect to others. Sign up for online 12 step meetings or other support groups. Talking with people who really understand what you are going through is essential.

If isolating was a strong part of your drinking or using pattern, online counselling is an excellent way to ensure you stay sober during lockdown – it’s also a great use of lockdown time to work on your recovery, better understand yourself and strengthen your sobriety.

2. Talk to Yourself

When a craving arises, resist the urge to drink or use by talking yourself out of it using logic and reason. Cravings can often be “myopic” and prevent you from seeing the big picture outside the immediate moment so play the situation forward. Imagine what will happen beyond having that one drink or drug. If you are honest, you’ll see yourself indulging in more and how that plays out. Make a list of negative situations which have been caused by your drinking or using in the past and have it handy to remind yourself why you gave up in the first place.

3. Visualization

When a craving arises, try to redirect your attention to something else or distract yourself until the craving inevitably passes. Visualization techniques can also help you relax during a craving if you can imagine yourself in a relaxing setting. If you are familiar with meditation or breathing techniques, these can also help you through cravings.

If you feel as though you cannot get through the day or next hour without drinking or using, try to visualize yourself at the end of the day, clean and sober and focus on the relief that you might experience from this.

If you are unable to visualise a positive situation within 15 minutes, move on and try another technique or call your counsellor to help you work through it.

4. Start a New Hobby at Home

Hobbies are an excellent means of distraction during a drug craving. Starting a new hobby is new and exciting and will engage your brain more than an existing one that you are probably very familiar with and doesn’t take much thought. If your current hobbies are all outdoors and you cannot take part in them during lockdown, starting a new hobby at home is essential – and fun! Be realistic and choose something which matches your interests, finances and available space. A hobby provides something else to engage in other than drinking or drug use.

5. Self-Care

Practicing good self-care such as eating healthily and exercising regularly can help promote physical health and emotional well-being, which will not only make you less likely to want to drink or use drugs but will make you more resilient and better able to deny a craving when it does arise. During lockdown, it’s important to be extremely aware of how your basic needs are now being taken care of. Start an exercise regime that you can easily manage every day. If you are experiencing a craving, this is an excellent time to do today’s exercises – and if you’ve already done them, do them again!

Hunger can also induce cravings when your body becomes confused about what it needs. If you are hungry, make yourself a small snack or light meal. The preparation is usually enough to distract you from the craving but avoid just mindlessly eating to numb the craving.

Remember that alcohol contained a lot of sugar and your body may be craving sugar now. Having some hard candies handy to suck on when a craving strikes can be very helpful.

Other self-care options include running a warm bath or asking your partner to give you a massage, anything that makes you feel good about yourself!

If you are dealing with cravings and need support to get through this challenging time, our counsellors have years of experience and are available for online counselling. As well as working through your problems, you’ll learn a range of techniques which you can use whenever you need to handle a craving on your own.

Lockdown is not an easy time for anyone, but for those in recovery there are additional challenges. If you find you are struggling, don’t be too hard on yourself and ask for help. No one needs to go through this alone.

For more information about our online services, contact us here

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