Dealing with cravings is one of the most difficult and major obstacles in the recovery from alcohol use disorder. Cravings may be something simple to overcome by just saying, “No.” However, in taking part in choosing to participate in consuming alcohol, it’s just simply not that simple. It’s actually a complex response pattern in the brain that the body programs as a result of the exposure to the prior alcohol usage itself that was established. It is also from other factors including environmental conditions paired along with it. This is not limited to changes in mood, overall stress, and other types and kinds of triggers.
Sometimes you may feel these cravings may come out of nowhere unbeknownst to you or those around you. However, they more often come from an environmental situation, memory, or feeling one has about their prior alcohol abuse. They may not even be fully aware to them of the moment. For many people, it takes time and counseling to work on mindfulness skills. It takes commitment to develop the self-awareness to understand and identify those triggers that can oftentimes be left a mystery if we don’t try to understand them.
Environmental conditions are a trigger for cravings. Well-known recovery groups such as Alcoholic Anonymous (AA), share with their members that they should avoid people, places, and things that directly associate with a person’s previous use of alcohol. Although this can be difficult and even at times impractical for some given certain circumstances. Nevertheless, if you can avoid it, it’s best to do just that, until you can learn better ways to cope and not partake in your addiction.
The acronym HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely Tired) is frequently used in Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) the types of conditions that are more likely to coddle cravings and support a relapse.
Those believe only a negative emotional state supports an alcoholic relapse and that’s not solely the case for all people. That’s including the case that is triggering alcohol cravings as well. Positive emotional states can also create cravings. The reason for this is because they can create intense emotions reinforcing effects that can potentially drive the use of alcohol. For many people when it is time for celebration, the first thing they want to do is party.
Cravings can be very powerful. Sometimes, a person may find it is impossible to resist their alcohol craving, even though it is not certainly the case. Experiencing cravings for some people starts an internal debate with themself. Usually, this is over if they should continue to even live their life in sobriety. Recovery and long-term sobriety is challenging in themselves, and cravings do not completely dissipate. Unfortunately with cravings, it is something you learn to manage throughout your journey in long-term sobriety.
Do you need help to stop alcohol cravings? Contact our Blue Hills Recovery team today.
Cues, Cravings, Triggers and Relapse
For every person, there are different cues and triggers along with different names for the same or similar types of situations that lead to cravings in a person. It can be subjective and personal or can be very generalized. The effects can produce mental and physical changes that become a craving. These changes are:
- Psychological changes are consistent with central and peripheral nervous system activity. These can conclude to feelings of excitement, feelings of anticipation, including memories associated with experiences that were in the past were pleasant with one’s drug choice.
- Physical changes, involve increased heart rate, increased activity of the sweat glands, and elevated blood pressure as well.
In preventing relapse, there are two categories of intervention an alcohol addiction treatment specialist will rely on. It is best and recommended for the person in recovery to choose from both categories to increase maximum success in dealing with cravings.
Are you tired of dealing with alcohol cravings? If this is true, please reach out to our alcohol addiction treatment team here at Blue Hills.
MAT for Alcohol Addiction
Decrease cravings through the physical process by medically assisted alcohol addiction treatment by medication can be very beneficial for those who suffer from extreme cravings. There are medications that professionals use to help reduce cravings for alcohol successfully.
Here are some of the more well-known medications to help reduce cravings outlined below:
- Campral (acamprosate)- It has been more successful in reducing the volume of alcohol consumed, once a person begins drinking alcohol, although, it has also been used to address cravings as well.
- Gablofen (baclofen)- It is known to control alcohol cravings but is also a muscle relaxant as well.
- Antabuse (disulfiram)- If an individual consumes alcohol it will reduce their cravings overall given the effects it brings. It will make them become extremely sick if they consume alcohol after taking this medication. This extreme reaction will more than likely not reduce their future cravings for alcohol in some individuals.
- ReVia (naltrexone)- Initially this medication was made to confront cravings for opiates but has been shown to be helpful in confronting cravings for alcohol as well. Topamax (topiramate) which is a certain anticonvulsant medication has been shown to be successful in the reduction of alcohol cravings.
Are you ready to get into medication-assisted alcohol addiction treatment? If so, contact our Blue Hills team today.
Effective Behavioral Interventions for Alcohol
When it comes to cravings and reducing them, medications are the only thing that can address physiological issues. That is beneficial, however, it does not address the other issues of triggers and cues in the environment that can provoke cravings.
Behavioral Interventions help address triggers that can also target in aiding in reducing cravings both in the amount and the intensity. It also helps people identify their triggers, understand their feelings associated with their triggers, and learn positive ways to reduce the intensity of cravings they may experience. The more effective behavioral interventions are:
- Learning mindfulness meditation techniques which allows people to focus on their feelings but not abruptly act on them.
- Understanding and identifying your personal triggers that result in cravings and compromise your sobriety.
- Psychoeducation on the vulnerability of cravings and the techniques in helping to control them such as distraction, meditation, and time.
- Understanding with psychoeducation that cravings are a normal occurrence within recovery and do not represent signs of failure or inadequacy.
- Developing personalized coping strategies to help deal with cravings, focusing on the negativity of alcohol versus the positive feelings that it gave.
- During periods of vulnerability, helping to recruit support from others.
Formal substance use disorder therapy is the best way to learn about behavioral interventions when it comes to cravings. For different individuals, there are numerous techniques that can be used to help cravings and lessen the chances of relapse.
Working Through Therapy
In therapy, therapists can help people learn diaphragmatic breathing techniques, and progressive muscle relaxation which you can learn fairly quickly. These can be rather beneficial tools for helping to deal with controlling cravings. Individuals can then practice more difficult and complex aspects of cravings. One example would be becoming more educated in understanding aspects of cravings in general. Practicing advanced distraction techniques, being more attuned in understanding triggers, and being more mindful of how you can cope or avoid certain triggers altogether. It’s important to understand that some people can benefit from a combination of behavioral intervention and medication in order to successfully manage their cravings.
In dealing with cravings there are some important things to remember, such as:
- Cravings are time-limited. They will typically dissipate within 15-20 minutes as long as a person can resist them. Luckily they do not last forever!
- The most successful way in dealing with cravings is a distraction. Distraction can be anything from meditation, socialization, and exercise, all of which are great ways to help deal with cravings.
- Involving yourself in activities is very beneficial in helping to keep cravings at bay. Especially if these activities have a higher purpose for you personally.
- Changing your lifestyle to a healthier one can help be motivating to improve in reducing and controlling one’s cravings. Give attention to your diet and make sure you stay properly hydrated. Ensure you get enough exercise and spend the proper amount of time to meet your socialization needs as well. This will all help reduce the number of triggers and environmental cues that will set off cravings.
Signs of Alcohol Relapse
It is important to keep in mind and be aware while in recovery of these signs that a relapse could be on the near horizon.
These signs can all include:
- Negotiating that just one or two alcoholic drinks would be, “Just okay,” this one time.
- Reminiscing about one’s past alcohol use.
- Finding yourself going back to old familiar spots such as bars
- Finding yourself starting to hang out with your past drinking buddies too.
- Making excuses to skip therapy sessions or support group sessions altogether.
- Not feeling like you need to listen to other peers who are in recovery or family members with good intent.
- Feeling overconfident in recovery or thinking you’re superior, having also overcome your past alcohol use disorder entirely.
It’s inevitable to not experience cravings for alcohol while you go through your journey of recovery and sobriety from alcohol. There is also no quick fix in dealing with those cravings. The next thing you can do is develop a plan that is action-based to handle the physiological and psychological/behavioral aspects of cravings.
Get Into Alcohol Addiction Treatment Today
Luckily you do not have to go at it alone! Help is only a phone call away to give you the support that you need. Blue Hills Recovery can help you navigate and find the right rehab program. We are an alcohol addiction treatment and mental health center located in Worcester, Maine. Our team has a desire to help you build the life you want to live! We know recovery is the answer and we would like to help. You can contact us at (508) 680-0115 to speak to a representative coordinator today!