The COVID pandemic has brought new challenges to those of us struggling with addiction and recovery. Boredom, loneliness and isolation are very common triggers during quarantine. If this is true for you, here are a few suggestions.
First of all, make a plan to ride out your cravings. I recommend a 3-step approach for cravings:
Step 1: Remind yourself that cravings last an average of 10-20 minutes. Remind yourself “I just have to get through the next 20 minutes”. Say it out loud, in your head, or write it down on paper.
Step 2: Play the tape forward. This is an exercise you can do in your head, on paper, or out loud (bonus points if it’s with a support person). Here’s an example:
“I really want a drink right now. Why can’t I have just one drink? I deserve it! I’m stressed out and I’ve been so good for weeks!”
Play the tape forward. What will happen if you have a drink?
“I’ll have my one drink, then I’ll have another drink. I know that I never have JUST ONE. I’ll have a few. Then I’ll start feeling bad about myself. I’ll have a bunch of negative thoughts and feel really guilty that I blew my sobriety. I’ll start thinking ‘Well, I already screwed up, so what’s the point in stopping now?’ I’ll go on a bender and be drunk all weekend. I know that when I’m drunk and it’s late at night, I will think that driving to Whataburger is a great idea. (Spoiler alert: It’s not.) I’ll definitely have a hangover the next day. My head will hurt, I’ll feel nauseous. I will feel really disappointed in myself. I’ll have to reset my sobriety date.”
Try this exercise, and see what happens to your desire to use. The craving may pass. If not, on to Step 3.
Step 3: Have a list of distraction activities handy. You just need to distract yourself until the craving passes. Make a list when you’re NOT having a craving, of things you can do when you ARE having a craving. Examples:
- Call a friend or family member. Not sure who to call? Ask ahead of time – “Hey, can I call you if I ever need to talk through a craving?” Make a list of people you can call. You want people who can listen and let you talk through it. You DON’T want people that you once used with, unless they are also in recovery.
- Visit a forum and post about your craving. Lots of good online support communities for those in recovery – find one! Great for late night cravings when all your support people are asleep.
- Take a hot shower.
- Go for a run. Lift weights. Do jumping jacks. If you’re a masochist, do burpees. (Joking. Sort of.)
- Watch YouTube videos or browse Reddit. Watch a movie.
Feel free to add your own! The important thing about these distractions is that they occupy a lot of your mental and/or physical energy, so you can’t think about your craving.