Early Sobriety: 5 Tips for Handling Cravings

Develop a detailed response or escape plan long before the cravings hit, such as reaching out to a friend or sponsor

Drug cravings can be incredibly powerful. Even when you commit to staying clean, once those cravings hit, you may find yourself using again. The early days of sobriety can be the most difficult in many ways. In addition to the psychological cravings, there are physical withdrawal symptoms as well. The misery can seem unbearable and recovery can feel impossible, but with the right treatment you will learn to handle even the worst cravings without using.

If you are struggling to recover from an addiction to Ambien or other substance, the following are five tips for successfully navigating cravings on your way to a drug-free future.

Don’t Ignore Your Cravings

Some addicts try to ignore their cravings, believing that they will fade. This is not a good strategy. Addiction changes the way the brain works in critical ways. The same part of the brain that is most directly impacted by drugs and alcohol also manages the following critical mental functions:

  • Impulse control
  • Forming and recalling memories
  • Emotion management
  • Feeling pleasure or satisfaction

In addition to any physical pain or other withdrawal symptoms that drugs relieve, the vast majority of addicts also find relief from underlying or co-occurring psychological disorders they may not even realize they have. Loneliness, boredom, anxiety disorders and depression are all temporarily relieved when you get high. Addiction causes your brain to seek relief by whatever means become necessary. If simple cravings don’t work your brain might use any of the following mechanisms to motivate you to get high:

  • Feelings of overconfidence in your ability to quit whenever you want
  • Blaming others for your drug use
  • Denying your drug use or dependence issues to friends or family
  • Justifying your drug use as something you deserve
  • Remembering the good times you have had while high but blocking memories of the pain and shame you have caused yourself and others
  • Acting on your addiction before you even realize that you have

Ignoring your cravings simply amplifies them as your addicted brain digs in deeper to influence your behavior. If a simple reduction of willpower doesn’t do the trick maybe feelings of overall panic might? You can’t ignore these cravings forever. The secret is to confront them, articulate them, and then consciously choose not to act on them. Having a strong network of support and training at your fingertips greatly increases your chance at success.

Make an Escape Plan Before Cravings Hit

If you wait until cravings happen before you decide how to respond you have waited too long and will certainly relapse. Develop a detailed response or escape plan long before the cravings hit. Our recovery staff can help you with this. Your plan might involve reaching out to a friend or sponsor. It might involve writing down your thoughts and feelings so as to move them from the subconscious part of your brain to the conscious part. It might involve meditation, prayer, or reading a particularly powerful book. Whatever your escape plan is, build it now. Like waiting until a house is on fire before you make your escape plan, waiting until the cravings come is too late. Think about your plan, talk about it with your counselor. Practice your response over and over until you memorize every step. Make adjustments as needed, but make sure that you can actually work it. There are many good books out there about actively engaging with your cravings without succumbing to them.

Stay Honest with Yourself and Others

Transparency is a powerful weapon in your battle with addiction. While the disease causes you to hide, to minimize your struggles, or to lie as you justify your drug use, all those things move you closer to relapse. When you feel tempted to sneak off, to do something dishonest, or to throw in the towel on your recovery, do the opposite. Humble yourself, talk about it. Recovery support meetings are designed around the understanding that sharing your feelings, fears, and goals with a group is a great way of gaining control over them. Unarticulated feelings are among the most common and powerful relapse triggers a person can face. If you’re serious about getting free from this disease you need to stay connected to your sponsor, counselor, or sober friend on a daily basis. Share every thought, idea, craving, justification, or excuse that crosses your mind. Are you feeling angry? Hopeless? Be honest with yourself and with your sponsor or support person.

Call Someone Right Away

Who are you going to call when cravings hit? What is the phone number? If you don’t yet know now is the time to decide. Any of the following can make a good first call support person for you:

  • Your personal doctor
  • A fellow person in recovery
  • Your sponsor
  • A close friend who does not use
  • Your treatment center
  • A spiritual leader, pastor, or advisor
  • Our 24-hour helpline

Have these numbers on your phone’s speed dial. One of the reasons regular recovery support meetings are so important is that they prevent too much time from passing between conversations with your support structure.

Find Comprehensive Treatment Today

If you are struggling to overcome Ambien addiction and have not experienced comprehensive rehabilitative treatment, please call our toll-free helpline right now. You do not need to face this challenge alone. We can help you find the best treatment for your unique needs. We can help you navigate the logistics of rehab. We can answer any questions you have about overcoming addiction and then we can help you do it.

Attempting to get clean without the skills taught in rehab would be like becoming an infantry soldier without learning how to use a gun. You are not prepared for this struggle. With treatment, however, you will be able to face down your cravings without succumbing to them. We’re always open and always ready to personally answer your call with complete confidentiality and no strings attached. You have nothing to lose. Call now.