Practical Tips on Curbing Substance Cravings to Avoid a Relapse

Here is the good news for survivors of addictions of many kinds: Addiction is a treatable disease—and one that survivors can go for a long time without being bothered by. But the opposite is also true: While survivors can recover from it, specific cravings will rear their ugly heads occasionally. Renowned advocate and activist Russell Brand even wrote at length about his constant cravings; he has been in recovery for a good portion of two decades.

If you or someone you care for is in recovery and experiencing cravings for certain harmful substances, here are some practical tips for curbing those sudden and overwhelming urges:

Avoid a Relapse

Connect with a trusted support system or professional

If you have already gone through some effective drug recovery programs or have been to a rehabilitation facility, you must already have a sober companion or a sponsor. These people are here to help you adhere to the twelve-step program you have been through, and they are available to remind you of the life you will be turning your back on should you give in to your urges.

Every second counts when it comes to curbing your urges; as soon as you feel you want to call a former dealer or drive to a bar, contact your sponsor or sober companion instead. Don’t wait it out yourself—think of it as an emergency because it is. If addiction is a disease, then treat it like so. Think of your cravings as being on the brink of a heart attack, and call your support system as soon as possible.

Some outpatient treatment centers let people drop by and provide emergency appointments if you don’t have a sponsor or a sober companion. If your finances allow it, don’t skimp on having a therapist, counselor, or psychologist who specializes in substance abuse. Talk to them about how you feel, be honest about your craving, and don’t worry about being judged—because you won’t be.

Get some fresh air and walk it out.

Almost any form of physical activity can help you overcome your urges or cravings. Walking is perhaps the simplest and easiest exercise you can do on the list. Even leaving the room you’re in to get some fresh air will give you a world of good and instantly lift your mood. If you are experiencing cravings, call somebody, take a walk, breathe in some fresh air, and bask in the sunlight. The bilateral stimulation of walking and being outside can wonder for an agitated mind.

Take a shower or a long bath.

Holistic health believes that every fiber of our being—our physical, mental, and emotional health—is intrinsically tied together. This means how we feel in our bodies can significantly influence our minds, heart, and vice versa. If you are experiencing some cravings for drugs and alcohol, consider taking a shower or a long and relaxing bath. If you take the reins on your physical well-being, your mental and emotional health might follow.

Moreover, having a shower or soaking in the tub will help you get rid of any discomfort or dirt in your body and can also help relax your aching muscles. Take control of the urges by caring for your physical health, and let the rest follow.

Meditate or pray

You don’t need to be spiritual to center yourself or find peace at any moment. Whether you’re religious or irreligious, or whatever belief or faith system you subscribe to, you will benefit greatly from doing the following:

  • Find a quiet place, one that will not aggravate your agitated state.
  • Do some breathing exercises. Close your eyes and try to empty your mind.
  • Explore mindfulness, which is also a known treatment for addiction. It’s the art and discipline of slowing down so that you’re not rushing from one thing to another, and it can also help you quiet down some overwhelming mental chatter.
  • Verbally say some prayers, or recite some assuring words for yourself.

Express your frustration

And lastly, don’t hesitate to let it all out. Cry if you feel like crying, scream into a pillow if it will help, throw some paint against the wall, or sing your heart out. Expressing your frustration might benefit you; do it with someone you trust.

The journey to recovery may be long and complex, but the goal is always worth it. Don’t give up, and believe you deserve a future.

Jeremy D. Mena
Alcohol geek. Future teen idol. Web practitioner. Problem solver. Certified bacon guru. Spent 2002-2009 researching plush toys in Miami, FL. Won several awards for exporting tar in Libya. Uniquely-equipped for managing human growth hormone in Libya. Spent a weekend implementing fried chicken on the black market. Spoke at an international conference about working on carnival rides in Miami, FL. Developed several new methods for donating jack-in-the-boxes in Edison, NJ.