In the moment of feeling a craving for a substance you are addicted to; it can feel like it will never end. This is, of course, by design. Your body is essentially under the impression that it will die without that substance. But you know the fact of the matter: You will live if you’re patient.
That does not make it any easier to endure, however. So, how can you endure? How does one deal with cravings? Well, you might be interested to know that the worst part of cravings tends to last no more than five minutes. That means you have to really struggle for a short time, but after that it will get easier and easier. Of course, it never gets easy. But your suffering will end.
This is one of the least appealing ways of responding to a craving, but studies show it to be easily one of the most effective. Part of the science behind it is that the chemicals that create the craving feeling in your nervous system are processed faster while exercising.
Basically, that means you are fighting chemistry with chemistry here. Your cravings are chemical events in your body, so the most effective way of fighting them is with other chemical events that are actually good for you.
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Offsetting is actually a highly generalized term, but it is a good entry point to understanding what is going on neurologically when you feel a craving. Your body feels like it is going to die if you do not satisfy a craving, but your brain essentially “knows” that you are not.
What your brain really feels is that you have to do something. And you can train it to be satisfied with something other than your addiction. This can be chewing gum, fidgeting, almost anything.
But focus on the more physical forms of offsetting.
As far as offsetting goes, these are the least immediately effective. There will definitely be a moment where you are using a fidget toy while feeling a craving and it will seem to do absolutely nothing. If you get over that hump, however, your body will release certain chemicals that fidget toys are built around. These chemicals are the ones for balance.
And not balance in the spiritual sense. Literally, the chemicals released that tell you that you are not going to fall over. These bring you a sense of security that help you resist cravings.
Cell Phone Use
No psychologist enjoys this, but cell phones are great for offsetting. The reason being that they essentially supplant one addiction for another: Addiction to social media.
But if getting on Tik Tok or YouTube and watching something silly reduces your craving for harmful substances, then do it. It will release dopamine that your body craves from addiction.
Record Yourself and Play it Back
This is one of the more difficult ways to address a craving. You see, relapse is a normal part of fighting addiction. It is the most normal thing in the world for a person to say, “I haven’t used in a while, I can spoil myself just this once.” This does not mean you are not recovering, even though you obviously should not do that. But if you do end up in that situation, record yourself.
Because whether it is a video of yourself or an audio log, you will end up recording yourself using, feeling good, and then crashing back down and feeling guilty. Use that recording to convince yourself not to use later.
Mindfulness will rarely save you from addiction by itself. But if you are experiencing a craving and out of options, try this: Look for five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing that you can taste.
Addiction makes it easy to get stuck in your head. Mindfulness is about pulling yourself out of your head and returning to the real world.
Take a Walk
This is a bit simple, but it can do wonders. Going for a walk means both exercising, which processes those chemical signals, but it also means getting away from the ability to use.
If you leave your house and go to a mall where there is no alcohol, painkillers, or any other vices besides consumerism, then you are far less likely to use.
Of all the items on this list, this is the least socially acceptable. But there is a reason people let out noises when they are in pain: It helps release tension. And that release of tension can mean the difference between a relapse or resistance. So, scream if you feel like it helps you.
This is one that comes from the MMA circuit. You see, lots of people who do amateur MMA will injure themselves trying to go too hard, get on painkillers to shorten the healing process, then end up addicted over the course of their treatment. It is tragic, preventable, and all too common.
But because this happens in MMA, a very particular method for fighting cravings cropped up: Practice falls, like are done in grappling. Basically, you trigger the vertigo reaction of falling by doing a crouching fall backwards onto your back.
The vertigo will put you on alert, helping you fight the craving.
Accept the Craving
No one is going to like this advice. We do not like giving it. But there are two sides to accepting a craving: Mentally coming to terms with it, and actually indulging it. And listen, we are not going to tell you to indulge a craving. But here is what we will say: Cravings are normal.
People will sometimes feel guilty for having cravings. But it is much easier to overcome them if you accept that they are part of recovery.
Fighting addiction is hard, but not impossible. If you feel like you need help, go to this page and start looking at how you can get outside help towards recovery.
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