Imagine this scenario. You’ve just completed 60 days of treatment in an inpatient addiction treatment center, and you’re on your way to long-term sobriety. Even though you learned a lot about controlling addiction cravings and avoiding temptations, you weren’t quite prepared for how difficult this would be. Staying in a sober living environment is conducive to self-healing, but the real world is quite different. How do you deal?
There are two ways to deal with cravings and urges:
1. You must control the craving and deal with it head-on so that you do not relapse.
2. You avoid the temptation.
Ideally, you will need to learn how to do both since we can’t always control our environment or those in it. At The River Source, our behavioral health technicians and life coaches spend a great deal of time talking to our clients about accountability and how they need to be responsible for their own actions. This is an important piece to the puzzle because we can’t control what other people do; we can only control ourselves. Therefore, if someone walks into a gathering with alcohol, it’s up to YOU to say no.
In the initial months following treatment, it’s especially important that you are mindful of the activities you participate in. This is a sensitive time, and you will need to follow the aftercare plan precisely. Everyone’s aftercare plans are different, and yours will meet your particular needs. Staying on this path doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, but it does raise your chances of staying sober. Aftercare plans include recommendations for therapy and counseling, suggestions for coping with urges and temptations and ideas for establishing a healthy, well-rounded schedule that doesn’t leave time for boredom.
As you begin to merge with society more, you will be stronger, but this strength is necessary in fighting temptation. Many of our clients at The River Source return to their same habitat, so they are always being reminded of their past habit. Whether it’s driving past a familiar park or seeing familiar faces at the grocery store, these types of reminders can cause the urges to pop back up. While it’s certainly not possible to redesign your entire life, it is a good idea to avoid obvious triggers.
So what exactly are triggers?
A trigger is something that occurs in the brain and sets off a memory or flashback. Triggers are personal, and they vary for each person. For a recovering addict, a trigger can take them back to the place where they were abusing drugs, causing the cravings to occur. You may notice that driving past your old school is a trigger, or maybe it’s the tailgating at a football game. The summer season alone is a big trigger for many addicts because it’s a time where people are socializing more, attending graduation parties and celebrating the summer holidays. While you may begin to learn many of your triggers, we can’t always control them. The cravings to use again can pop up when we least expect it.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to control temptation. Identifying your triggers is essential, because you may then avoid at least some of them. Some of our clients have found that shopping in a different town, taking an alternate route to work or wiping their slate entirely clean of friends are all ways to “start fresh” and avoid triggers.
Learning effective coping mechanisms is another key piece to the puzzle since you need to do something healthy to fight off the craving. If you notice an urge bottling up inside of you, a game plan is needed. Maybe it’s some form of exercise, talking to a sponsor or writing in your journal. Establishing these healthy coping strategies early on can help you deal with the craving and take your mind back to a state of peace.
Going back to the two options, either dealing with the craving or avoiding it altogether, you will eventually learn how to manage both. In fact, both of these capabilities work together to control addictive behaviors. If you avoid temptation, you won’t have such strong cravings, and you can continue your life on a sober path. But if you do run into temptation, you can deal with the cravings and urges that popup.
Remember, recovery is a long-term process, and each day, you learn something new. Identifying and dealing with the temptation will always be part of controlling the addiction, but it will also make you stronger and more resilient.