Reduce cravings by using some simple coping skills. The key goal is to change your focus of attention from inside yourself and your feelings of craving to other sensations. Although the techniques at first glance seem like quite a simple solution, studies show that the following techniques do reduce strong cravings.
Remember, the goal is to change your focus and attention from internalthoughts and sensations to external thoughts and sensations. As you read the techniques, take time to briefly note on your “Craving Management Plan Worksheet,” the techniques you would like to try out. It is important that you have several techniques you can practice and use quickly. For starters try some of the following simple techniques to reduce or end cravings (Beck, Wright, Newman, & Liese, 1993).
Focus your attention on describing your surroundings. The more you can focus on your surroundings, the less you will be focusing on your internal sensation of craving. Use talking to someone to distract you. Remove yourself from a cue-laden place. Go for a walk or a drive. Visit a friend. Go to the library. Do household chores as a part of distraction. This diverts your attention from craving and results in a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Recite a favorite poem, meditation or a prayer out loud. Write it down as you recite it. Get involved in a card game, video game, board game or word puzzles. Choose any mentally challenging and pleasurable activity that diverts your focus. Have you got the idea?
Use cue cards:
When cravings are strong in early recovery, you can lose your ability to reason objectively. Prewritten coping statements will help you get through this. Write your statements on an index card and keep it with you. Use your card to list your greatest advantages of not using. Keep this card along with a list of things you can buy with the money you didn’t use for drugs or alcohol. Write single, concise statements and update them regularly. Try these:
- I feel saner when I don’t use.
- Things are going great with my life. Keep it that way.
Refocus and get your mind off cravings by imagining something outside yourself. Begin by saying: Stop! Hold your hand up in stopping motion. Replace thoughts and images of using with images of you running or exercising. You are powerful and strong. Imagine yourself being successful at work or imagine yourself laughing and having fun with your kids. Create your own positive mental images to use when you need them.
Record rational responses:
Carry a note pad with you and jot down the thoughts that go through your mind when you experience cravings or unpleasant thoughts. Write down a description of what you are feeling. Create rational responses for your negative thoughts and write them down such as: This feeling will pass shortly. I can stand it for a few more minutes. Then, use a distraction technique to take your mind off your craving.
Relaxation training can help you cope with anxiety, frustration, anger, and cravings. It will increase your feeling of well-being, reduce stress, as well as reduce the occurrence of cravings. Try these:
- Deep breathing
- Listening to music
- Looking at peaceful pictures
- Watching calming videos of water
- Looking outside at nature
- Guided imagery tapes or CD’s
Learn and practice a number of options to meet your varying moods and to carry out in different settings.
Always schedule activities for those times when you regularly used, such as after work or on a Friday or Saturday night. Have positive commitments already scheduled for those high-risk times. These commitments will allow you to move forward quickly with your day when you experience a craving, rather than having to stop and think, What can I do? What can I do? Keep a list of activities you can do on short notice when you feel those strong cravings. Keep your relaxation tools with you, wherever you are. For example:
- Keep a pair of walking or running shoes at work.
- Maintain a drop-in membership at an exercise club.
- Keep an updated list of movies you are interested in seeing and that are playing so you can go on a moment’s notice.
- Buy a membership card for drop-in swimming and keep you swimming suit in your car or locker.
- Keep the phone number of a good friend in your wallet who is willing to go walking or running at short notice.
Next, use your calendar to book activities for every day, in advance. Make a list of short-notice activities for each week that you might need to use to combat sudden urges or cravings. Keep your commitment to abstinence posted with your positive life goals for family, work, education, sports, and whatever you want to accomplish. This will reduce cravings, as expecting not to use reduces craving (Beck, Wright, Newman, & Liese, 1993).
Do not test yourself to see if you are cured. You are safer when you don’t test yourself. Stay away from cues forever. This is called being smart and taking care of your self. Be an addiction myth destroyer. Total lack of control over drug or alcohol use is a myth. Manage your cues and cravings and live for your life goals. You can choose to never use again. Stay away from all drugs and alcohol, even if you weren’t addicted to them, because drugs and alcohol impair your judgment. Keep your mind and body sharp and you will never choose to use again. Now you know the facts.