We often talk about cravings in recovery like a monster under the bed- if you let them grab a hold of you, you’re a goner. Cravings are, but also are not, that serious. Cravings are a reaction of the brain. Chemical reactions, cravings occur for different reasons. For example, the brain might be processing some residual toxins, memories, and associations which lead to cravings. On the other hand, there might be a circumstantial event which triggers some kind of pain or discomfort in the brain, causing it to want to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter for pleasure. Long Term substance abuse damages the brain’s ability to produce enough of its own dopamine, at least not to a level that creates the same effect as drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, the brain becomes accustomed to such levels and when it cannot achieve them, especially in response to pain or a perceived threat, it produces cravings. Cravings happen because during addiction drugs and alcohol are the answer to everything. Thus, in order to cope with everything, the brain learns to rely on drugs and alcohol. Without mind altering substances, the brain experiences cravings.
Sometimes cravings are a passing experience. Other times, they are an indicator of spending too much thinking time in euphoric recall. Being mindful of your cravings can help you notice what is going on with them: where they are coming from, what triggered them, and what you need to do to calm them down.
According to Mindful, “Mindfulness could be the key to cutting the link between conditioned cues of desired objects and the craving that leads to addictive behavior.” The article emphasizes that just trying to cut off the thoughts where they are is a futile attempt. Instead, mindfulness helps you “build flexibility into how you relate to your own desirous thoughts...what you need is a heaping helping of mindful awareness of thinking-- of observing your own thoughts without buying into them as absolute truth or trying to force them away.”
Running away from your thoughts and creating a negative association only perpetuates the problem. You conditioned your brain to reward satisfying cravings to cope with negativity of any kind. Giving into cravings for drugs and alcohol doesn’t work either. “What’s more helpful,” the article emphasizes, “is to build your capacity to serve as a witness to your own thoughts.” “Typically, when we think about something we crave, that thought feels very close, as if it’s inside us, part of who we are.” People often take their cravings as serious signs that they are going to relapse. Mindfulness helps create distance between the mechanics of cravings and reality. As the article explains, “Mindfulness helps us see the thought as merely a moment of information.” Practicing mindfulness with your moments of cravings helps you gain the information you need to make an adjustment to your recovery program and move through the moment.
Cravings are a natural part of recovery. Learning how to live and cope with cravings is an essential part of treatment. Lifelong recovery is possible. Let the compassionate care at Enlightened Solutions show you the way. For information on our programs, call 844-234-LIVE.