Cravings are one of the biggest challenges in addiction recovery. They are typically most frequent and intense early on and they get less frequent the longer you’re sober. However, they never go away completely. A craving makes you feel like you must use again, even if you know, rationally, that you don’t want to. Here are some ways to deal with cravings and keep them from derailing your recovery.

Accept that cravings are normal.

The first thing to do when a craving comes is to accept that it’s normal. Cravings happen to everyone in recovery, without exception. Having a craving doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or that you’re failing in recovery. Cravings happen because of deeply ingrained habits and associations, which take a long time to change. Everyone who has ever recovered from addiction has had to deal with cravings and you can do it too. Don’t fight a craving or try to suppress it. Just accept that it’s normal and it will go away before long.

Know the cues.

Cravings typically start in response to certain cues. These are typically people, places, and things you associate with drugs or alcohol, which is why it’s typically best to avoid those people, places, and things. However, you can never avoid these cues entirely and you can’t always know what these cues are beforehand. Cravings are rarely spontaneous, so try to figure out what caused a craving and add it to your list. Even if you can’t always avoid cues, just being aware of what they are makes you feel more in control.

Challenge your thoughts.

When you experience a craving, you might have thoughts like “I have to have a drink,” or “I can’t stand it,” and so on. These are distorted thoughts and you don’t have to accept them at face value. You may feel uncomfortable for a while if you don’t have a drink but, assuming you’ve already detoxed, you’re in no physical danger from not having a drink. The feeling that you need a drink is only a feeling and it will eventually go away.

Distract yourself.

Cravings will eventually go away on their own. They rarely last more than 15 or 20 minutes, but that can feel like a long time. It will go much easier if you distract yourself when a craving arises. Have a plan ahead of time for what you will do if you get a craving. It could be taking a walk, playing a video game, or calling a friend or sponsor. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust. Using exercise as a distraction has the added benefit of improving your mood and boosting your self-control.

Play the tape.

“Play the tape” is an old 12-step saying. It simply means to think beyond the initial gratification of relapse and imagine the consequences of drinking or using again. Think about how disappointed you’ll feel and how disappointed your loved ones will feel. Remember as vividly as possible what made you decide to get sober in the first place.  

At Alta Lama Transformational Services, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Lama uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.


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You understand your needs best. If you have found yourself at a crossroads in your treatment and feel like your program options don’t fully understand you or aspects of your recovery, it’s time to contact the specialists at Alta Loma. We will help you craft the ideal care plan and secure the support you need, quickly, to avoid unnecessary problems. At Alta Loma, that’s our mission — to provide each individual with optimum care for the wellbeing they deserve.