15 Mar How to handle triggers and cravings during drug rehab
Triggers and cravings are an ordinary part of the recovery process that can increase the risk of relapse if they are not dealt with correctly. It is essential to understand this and know that these things are not signs of weakness but a normal part of the road to recovery. Understanding them is a huge step in reaching sobriety, so we thought we would share some of our expert advice on what they are and how you can deal with them.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or has already joined a rehab program, it is important to know these steps, whether it is to help yourself or be there as support for someone that is currently facing this battle.
What exactly do we mean by cravings?
Cravings are urges that a person faces to use drugs or alcohol. During rehabilitation, cravings can be so intense that it is almost impossible for the mind to focus on anything other than satisfying the desire for substances. The reason they can be so hard to fight is that drugs and alcohol release dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that the brain associates with reward. During withdrawal from drugs and alcohol, the brain begins to crave this reward more than ever.
Cravings are a natural symptom of withdrawal, but they can be lessened if you know what to do. Often, they can be associated with people, things, activities, or places that remind a person of when they used to use the substance they are trying to kick. After using drugs and alcohol for a long time, the body adapts to associating them with this feeling of reward. Because of the unnatural amount of dopamine that they release, it can feel like nothing else will give the person pleasure.
What exactly are triggers?
Triggers can be places, people, or things that a person relates to the use of drugs and alcohol. When someone battling addiction encounters a trigger, it can bring on cravings. Triggers can sometimes be challenging to avoid because they can be things that we do on a regular basis. For example, if you spent your childhood going to a particular sweet shop on the way home from school, you might crave sweets every time you walk down that particular street for the rest of your life. This is very much the same for people suffering from addiction, but much worse.
Triggers may include some of the following:
- Bars that people used to go to
- Familiar neighbourhoods
- Friends who take drugs or alcohol
- Dealing with rent or utility bills
- Going to work
- Seeing drugs or alcohol on TV
- Past relationships
- Difficult memories
As you can see, triggers can be vast and are different for everyone. It is crucial to learn to understand what a person’s triggers are when fighting addiction.
How long do cravings last?
Unfortunately, cravings don’t always come to an end for a person who has been through addiction. However, there are many ways to manage them. Over time, they will become lessened and may even go unnoticed. It is common for cravings to be there worse directly after quitting drugs and alcohol, but life will become easier after this stage of withdrawal.
One important thing to understand about these withdrawal symptoms is that they often come back at some point between six months and two years after kicking the habit. This stage in the recovery process is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome. It may be anxious to think about, but if a person is prepared for it, it can efficiently be dealt with using coping methods learned throughout rehab. Knowing they will likely occur is the first step in beating them when they arrive.
Different types of triggers
Although triggers can come in many forms, there are four categories in which they usually fit. These are pattern, social, emotional, and withdrawal. Often a trigger belongs to one of these categories, but sometimes that can span across more, which may make it hard to irradicate. For example, if you associate drinking with family members or work colleagues, this could be pattern, social, and emotional.
Pattern – These are things and places that people associate with taking drugs or alcohol. It can also include a time throughout the day or the year. For example, if you used to go to music festivals during the summer, the summer season might naturally be a trigger and make you want to start using again.
Social – These are people that might be associated with drug or alcohol consumption. For example, a bar or restaurant you used to frequent or the home of a friend you may have taken drugs with in the past. They can also be places that carry negative connotations, such as a doctor’s surgery or workplace.
Emotional – This is when the use of drugs or alcohol comes from an emotional place. It could be a happy emotion, such as a celebration or a negative emotion where drugs are used to cope with stress, sadness, or anxiety. This could include football games or bumping into an ex-partner.
Withdrawal – While the other triggers are psychological, withdrawal triggers are very much physical. These usually occur straight after someone has stopped using drugs and alcohol. Withdrawal triggers tend to get better after the withdrawal period.
Identifying your triggers
Because triggers can be vast, it may be hard to identify them, or they may be ones you haven’t identified yet. Some people will have one or two, and others will have a long list. There are ways that people will discuss in rehab how to identify triggers. This could include taking note of how you feel when you think of certain situations. Another method can be asking questions such as: When did I usually use? Who was I with when I used? Where did I use? How did I feel before, during, and after I used?
Ways to beat cravings
There are many methods that you can use in terms of overcoming drug cravings and triggers. It is down to the person and what works well for them. All of them will be discussed and experimented with during drug rehab. Ways to beat cravings involve some of the following techniques.
CBT – This stands for cognitive behavioural therapy and helps you identify cognitive distortion in your thinking. There are many techniques used in CBT that can help beat cravings. They revolve around distraction, visualisation, and redirection. For example, it may be finding something to distract you when a craving occurs or visualising the image of yourself that you wish to be.
Acknowledge them – Avoidance can be a sure way to relapse. People are prone to identify and ignore their triggers, but it is much better to identify, discuss, and try to resolve them, so they don’t come back anymore. Acknowledging cravings can also be referred to as ‘surfing the urge’. This is when a person embraces the cravings they are feeling, sits down, closes their eyes, and observes precisely how they are feeling at that very moment.
Find new hobbies – Throughout rehab, people are introduced to a plethora of activities and new hobbies. This can go hand in hand with CBT and can also give a person a sense of achievement. Hobbies are a great way to distract yourself and feel good at the same time.
Self-talk – When cravings happen, it might be difficult for a person to take their mind somewhere else other than to what they are craving. Self-talk is a great technique that a person can use to talk themselves out of their cravings using logic and reminding themselves of why they are going through these motions.
Facing the past – If any emotional triggers are likely to occur, it is good to identify them, and with the aid of therapy, it is possible to accept them as part of your past. Going through this process will lessen the chance of triggers during and after rehab.
Talk to others – One of the most beneficial things can be talking to others about cravings, triggers, and feelings. It is also good to talk to other people facing similar struggles. This can help someone find a support network that really understands what they are going through. This is one of the main premises of group therapy in drug rehab.
Self-care – By self-care, we mean eating healthily and getting exercise. It might seem obvious to someone who hasn’t battled addiction, but it can be tremendously beneficial. People suffering from drug or alcohol addiction might have forgotten these basic things in life, and it can help a person feel fantastic and beat cravings when they relearn to do it again.
It is imperative to learn what your triggers are and what coping mechanisms suit you. Identifying these detrimental things during rehabilitation makes it far more likely to lead a healthy and sober life post-rehab. A good clinic will go through the motions with you and guide you to identify what ways work best for you.
Medically assisted treatment (MAT)
If withdrawals become too difficult to handle, a person might be referred to medically assisted treatment. This method uses drugs alongside different forms of therapy to help reduce cravings and withdrawals. It is often a last resort, but it can be very beneficial in reducing the chances of relapse in the future.
Do you need help?
If you or anyone you know is dealing with addiction, it might be time to reach out. There is no shame in asking for help; it only shows strength in character and a willingness to become a better person. At Calm Rehab, we have incredible facilities and methods to help people battle addiction. We are comprised of a team of internationally qualified counsellors, psychologists and dedicated group facilitators. Head to our contact page and get in touch if you think drug rehab in Bali might be the right choice for you or your loved ones. We will work together to help you become the person you truly want to be, getting back to the best version of yourself.