How much do you know about cravings for a substance to which you were previously addicted? Possibly: not much more than that they exist. However, there is more to these dangerous lures than you might realize, and by looking into them, you might be able to overcome them and their related, distorted thinking more easily in the future.

What to Know About Cravings and Preventing Relapse

The definition of a craving is “an overwhelming emotional experience that produces a powerful, often overwhelming, urge to consume a drug.” Of course, you could also have cravings for alcohol if you are recovering from an addiction to drinking. Whatever the case, this sensation is often a part of the recovery experience (and an unpleasant one, obviously). So, what is there to learn that can help you to stand firm against them in the future?

Cravings naturally “narrow attention” so that the person thinks more and more about the unhealthy behavior and so that other things in his or her life seem less meaningful. Over time, that impulse will only grow stronger if left unchecked. The patient is increasingly unable to opt for what is the best choice for their health and growth and instead comes to choose this momentary desire despite their previous commitment to recovery. One instance of relapse like this as a result of distorted thinking and a lot of previous work and struggle could be for nothing.

As seen in the above example, these impulsive feelings lead to distortions in judgment that grow over time. Cognitive dissonance comes into play when the patients are able to “modify their reasoning processes to support the satisfaction of impulses:” that is, to create flawed and untrue reasoning to justify his or her behavior. They experience less guilt if they are able to “explain it away,” but that doesn’t mean that the relapse is any less dangerous and detrimental to the recovery process.

Something that can be practiced which allows for some control over cravings is “self-awareness,” which (in theory) allows the individual to look inward and to exercise restraint rather than to give in to distorted thinking. It may take a conscious effort to be able to admit these difficulties to oneself and to then actively choose not to engage, but the practice will get easier with time. Part of this is recognizing the short vs. long-term benefits of either taking the drug again or choosing not to and realizing that taking it only brings fleeting “benefits,” or immediate gratification.

“Data suggest that while waiting to smoke, time may seem to pass more rapidly when smokers are not craving than when they are in a craving state.” This is another dangerous roadblock in trying to control the impact of a craving. After all, if time seems to stretch on and on, the person’s resolve may erode. It makes sense, and it’s difficult to ‘speed up’ time again when you’re experiencing this sensation, but realizing that it tends to happen can at least aid the person in increasingly his or her awareness of the present situation.

Finally, recognize that most of what a person feels during cravings is a kind of distorted thinking, a ‘reality’ that is driven by the fringes of that addiction. It isn’t a conclusion or a sentence, and more than that, it can be overcome. Don’t feel as if you have to prevent relapse on your own, though; contact The Bergand Group if you are looking into recovery programs for yourself or for others or are seeking education materials about addictions. The Bergand Group is Maryland’s leading addiction recovery center and offers support for those struggling with addiction and mental health issues, including direction for those who may be denying an addiction.  We can help you to work through your addiction in a safe and healthy environment where everyone is committed to your care.

About The Bergand Group:

At The Bergand Group in Baltimore and Harford County, Maryland, our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol rehab and drug rehabilitation. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. We can help. Contact us today.