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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Monday, March 10, 2014

Understanding Cravings in Recovery

By Jacque Miller

While some folks may not experience cravings early in recovery,  many do. However, you can look forward to a time during your recovery when you no longer will have the cravings and they will begin to ease within a short time. Addicts and alcoholics spent months and years getting their body used to using, so it is hardly surprising it may take time to get over the effects.

What are cravings? 

Cravings are urges that start in the brain and can become a whole body neurochemical experience that translates into a sensory experience. Imagine your brain poking you — you respond with all of the physical and emotional responses know so well: hunger, desperation, anxiety, obsessive thoughts — you name it, it’s part of the craving experience.
Cravings are different from the physiological need for drugs one might experience when using. The need then was to prevent withdrawal — cravings are experienced when you are totally clean and sober. It is the urge and desire to use again, despite knowing the experiences and havoc it caused in your life.
Anti-craving focus options:
Since cravings start in the brain focus is needed to stop them. Techniques to help modify cravings can also be applied to everyday living during recovery.
If you begin to struggle with thoughts of using, try to think positively. Take your mind in a new direction. Get active, go hiking, listen to upbeat music, write a gratitude list or try an activity you have never done before. Got to a meeting and call your sponsor or anyone you consider a strong support system to help move you through the moment.  Avoid people, places and things that may lead you to use or drink. Replace them with safe, sober, healthy alternatives.
This too will pass, like an anxiety attack the feeling may build but it will subside.
Did you know that new neurological pathways develop each time you make it past a craving experience? In time, the more you move past these experiences, the more you break the connection of wanting to use.  The brain has the ability to rebuild or develop new connections that will move you past the cravings sober.
Learn from your craving experience. A craving may be an indicator you need to do more to address your recovery, and is a warning sign to stay on your toes.

Learn to relax

Anger, stress, frustration, anxiety, and depression — are powerful triggers that may cause cravings to resurface. How you deal with these emotions can help curtail cravings. Relaxation techniques may include meditation, yoga, Pilates, massage, prayer, biofeedback, and deep breathing exercises.

Proper nutrition

Good nutrition habits are important yet often overlooked component of a healthy recovery process.
An individualized eating and supplementation plan is necessary to bring consistency and balance to any recovering addict.  Eating in a balanced way helps keep blood sugar stable and results in decreased cravings for sugar, refined carbohydrates and other chemicals that can undermine the brain’s ability to produce a stable, happy mood. Unstable blood sugar fluctuations also affect and increase the desire for sugar and caffeine —both of which can fuel anxiety and trigger cravings that encourage unhealthy eating habits.
Understanding the nutrition behavior that impacts the creation of healthy habits is crucial to recovery. When nourishment is consistent and balanced we are able to respond, rather than react, to our bodies natural need for food while averting cravings and mood fluctuations. We all make nutritional choices that may sabotage our health but an addict’s nutritional sabotage is linked to cravings and triggers often a direct path to relapse.
All addicts are nutritionally comprised while using no matter what their drug of choice. It is one of the ‘signs’ of using that we all can recognize so it is only logical that the addict’s body/mind/spirit must be replenished before they can fully recover.

Jacque Miller MHN CLE CBS is a Behavioral Nutritionist and the founder of Jacque Miller & Co. an addiction and recovery resource. She is an author, Speaker/Educator She teaches behavioral techniques to practitioners/families/addicts that improve communication and effectiveness with their staff and clients. Jacque can be found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/jacque46 and www.twitter.com/jacquemiller. www.jacquemiller.com