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Monday, December 19, 2016

Coping With Cravings

coping with addiction cravingsAnyone who has ever had issues with substance use certainly understands just how powerful and controlling cravings can be. Once a craving has been triggered, unless one has developed specific techniques or interceptive supports, the craving can become overwhelming to the point where it can dictate a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior, which may prove devastating and self-destructive.

So what exactly is a craving? A craving can be a biological, psychological, or social response (or a combination of all three) to satisfy perceived or depleted chemicals, stimuli, or quite simply… pleasure. In a nutshell, a craving is a powerful desire for something. That something varies greatly from person to person, but is commonly prompted by the need to escape from one’s feelings.

Failing to deal with or ignoring cravings can quickly lead to relapse, which may cause devastating consequences such as health issues, emotional instability, incarceration, familial wreckage, overdose, and even death.

The first thing a person should remember when experiencing a craving is that it can and will subside if the right steps are taken, and does not need to be satisfied in order to pass! A craving longs for instant gratification, which is the demise of many addicts, as it initiates reckless and impulsive behaviors that often come with dire consequences. 

There are many ways to cope with a craving. 12-step support is an excellent way to relate to others who understand and can offer hope and practical solutions from their own experiences. Intrapersonal skills or techniques such as prayer, meditation, mindfulness, thought and perception-flipping, and behavioral deviations are all highly effective in combating cravings. Other coping skills can include stimulation diversion techniques such as walking, cooking, and finding alternative methods for diverting the obsessions and compulsions related to cravings. One may also find healthy ways for rewarding one’s self for not acting on the craving. Development of a consistent schedule and a healthy routine is also very helpful. In addition, pharmacological supports may be available if needed. Ultimately, it is a combination of all of these methods that yield the most effective results.

Many addicts may feel shame around experiencing cravings. If you are struggling with addiction and even if you are already on the road to recovery, remember that a craving is not a weakness, it is a natural process that occurs while your neurological and biological chemistries are healing, and environmental factors are stabilizing. With each craving that is overcome, a new strength and awareness is developed. Think of cravings like push-ups… just as they are an exercise that strengthen your muscle tone, dealing with cravings is an exercise in strengthening your recovery!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Recovering From Shame of Holidays Past

recovering shame holidays past"With it being the season for giving, this brings up many different issues that those in early recovery may wonder and even stress about.  As addicts and alcoholics, the daunting thoughts remain of taking for many years, never able to fully being able to give themselves to anything other than drugs or alcohol. So when opportunity comes to be sober and give, it leaves people feeling overwhelmed at years past, which were most likely filled with drama, fights, tears, and sadness. The common memories that fill their heads of years past are when they were late for holiday dinner, huge family blowouts, being completely belligerent, not having enough money to buy presents, spending the money they had on booze or drugs, not showing up at all, stealing from people on those holidays, or the worst feeling of all- an older relative's last holiday, and they weren't there to spend it with them. Really the list goes on, and ignites the shame and guilt of a newly recovering person who is experiencing their first sober holiday. These feelings of guilt and shame are the very feelings that push addicts and alcoholics to want to numb out the pain by self-medicating with drugs and alcohol over the holidays. The person may experience overwhelming thoughts of knowing there have been many years of dysfunctional, addicted holidays where they have been the focus. It's hard to slip into a new role of being "newly recovered." So one must ask themselves- how do I move beyond this?  

Well, the best way to move past these types of feelings is to first give yourself credit for this being a holiday that you are clean and sober. With recovery being a process, you may also have to make amends- not only verbally, but through an ongoing process of living amends as well. Just saying you are a different person today honestly just isn't enough. Action will always speak louder than words. For instance, if you tell family you will be there at a certain time, get there on time, maybe even early. If you feel a family blowout is about to occur, remind yourself of the coping skills you have available today and call your sponsor, friend, pray, or just take a moment to yourself. Do your best to remain calm, and try not to react or respond negatively. Remember, there have been years filled with dysfunction and addiction, and it may take some family members longer then other to fully trust you and not be resentful for holidays that have come and gone. Today you are sober and get to be the man/woman you've always wanted to be. This year you most likely will have been working a job and will be able to buy presents and show up differently, and this will speak volumes to your family members. BUT the greatest gift, even if others can't see it yet, is your sober presence and being available to be a member of the family. Don't get discouraged if people guard their purses/valuables around you as I promise there will come a time when people will be fully trusting of you and comfortable leaving those items out with you around. If Grandpa Joe comes in and wants to play chess, sit down with him and do so, even if you don't like it. If Aunt Cindy comes in and wants to take a ton of selfies with you to show off her amazingly talented and sober niece/or nephew, do it. If your mom wants you to help her cook and you can't seem to not burn a piece of toast, help her anyways. The memory she has of you in that moment won't be about the food, but about the moments she got to celebrate your life with you.

The point is, allow your family to love you up close and personal, as they've had to love you from a distance for a while now. There is always a way to make things different and better than they were before. For some of you it will take years to mend a family that has been destroyed by addiction. But that doesn't mean giving up is an option. You get to be the pillar of change and growth today, and I promise you that stands for something. Acceptance, love, tolerance, giving, forgiveness, and patience are all things you should take along with you this holiday season. Remember to slow down and know that you are enough and that you are fighting the good fight.

Happy Holidays!"