Dr Mazvita Machinga Mental Health
This week I am discussing craving of substances especially alcohol and how to deal with cravings. An important part of stopping abusing alcohol involves stopping the craving process. I am doing this in order to save someone life who may be enslaved by the bottle.
Remember, cravings can quickly lead to a relapse if not handled appropriately. One of the hardest things that clients who want to quit drinking alcohol struggle with is craving. “Craving is the hardest thing to overcome, if only I can overcome this I know I have made it” one client said.
Cravings for alcohol are the biggest reasons people who try to quit will start drinking alcohol again. Most clients talk about the smell, the taste and the thoughts of alcohol preoccupying their minds before they take one. So, what do you do when you crave? Is it possible to stay sober despite the craving? Yes, it is possible to stay sober regardless of the craving.
There are things you can do to help your-self with craving. Before you do you overcome it, you need to understand what craving is and then you can work towards overcoming it. So, what is craving?
What is craving?
It is a strong desire for something a push/ thought to make you do something. It takes effort to identify and stop a drug-use related thought. Cravings are for the most part in the head. Your mind is one of the most powerful things that can help you succeed or that can set you up for the bad.
The further the thoughts can go, the more likely the individual is to drink alcohol or use drugs. Cravings depends on many factors, such as, how long you have been drinking, or how much you have been drinking. Let me start simple. As you are reading this article, think of a fruit of your choice e.g. a lemon. I want you to take a minute looking at this lemon.
Think about cutting it, think of its taste, the smell of it. You may notice something in your mouth, acidic feelings, sour feelings, tingly feelings inside your mouth or cheeks etc. This is what your brain does when you remember something, just like when you are hungry you get a grumbling stomach. This is automatically produced by your body.
The same happens when you are dealing with alcohol craving, over and over you have trained your brain to think of alcohol with a good feeling. This means you have linked the drink with a positive feeling,the smell, the taste, the look, all is linked with the good feelings. You link the drinking with some places of happiness and with activities. Your brain will always have a euphoric feeling and only recalls the good stuff of drinking.
This is so strong that it bypasses everything. You do not think of the bad,your brain suppresses the bad stuff e.g. the vomiting or the fights and violence etc. You tell yourself that I will never drink again but then you see yourself craving. A craving does not mean you are weak, it is the way the brain is wired. It is obsession of the mind it can go on repeatedly until one give in.
What do you do then when you crave?
So, as mentioned above, cravings are a normal part of addiction recovery. It is true that you will crave, but you do not have to be controlled by the craving instead you need to take control of the situation. Whether you haven’t been drunk in months or you just stopped drinking this week, you’re likely to experience an urge to drink at some point and this what we call craving.
Do you then have to drink NO. One needs to realize that it’s not the alcohol that’s “fun”, but the state of mind that it brings out in oneself. The most effective way to truly quit is to not think about the enjoyment that you will get after drinking; in other words, enjoy your present state and don’t try to “be somewhere else” in your mind. ?The key to dealing with this process is to not allow for it to start. Stopping the thought when it first begins helps prevent it from building into a craving. You need to replace craving with something of equal or of greater value. You cannot just get rid of craving without replacing it.
1. When a craving arises, resist the urge to take a bottle by talking yourself out of it reminding yourself that you have quit.
2. Redirect your attention to something else or distract yourself until the craving inevitably passes e.g. spiritual activities, recreational activities.
3. Make a list of high-risk situations and try to avoid exposing self to them such as hunger, anger, loneliness and tired
4. Learn to Relax- Relaxation is not an optional part of recovery. It’s essential to recovery. Since people use drugs or alcohol to escape, relieve tension, and reward themselves. Find many positive ways to relax. They range from simple techniques like going for a walk, joining a choir, support group, etc.
5. Know Your Triggers- Knowing what your triggers are can help prepare you for the possibility of a craving and allow you to avoid it when possible.
6. Reach Out to Others -If you feel a craving coming onor when the urge to use arises, consider calling your mentor, your pastor or psychotherapist
Dr. Mazvita Machinga is a qualified psychotherapist who is based in Mutare. Call 0771 754 519, email [email protected] for more information on staying sober