Have you recently decided that it’s time to overcome that opioid addiction? Maybe you’ve tried before, but the cravings were just too powerful to resist. Perhaps several failed attempts at self-recovery have finally led you to professional treatment or you’re trying to break the chains of opioid dependence on your own. Regardless of how you do it, managing your opioid cravings is a mountain you’re going to have to climb, whether you like it or not.
There’s a lot to consider when you’re ready to quit, and climbing that mountain without preparing for the hardships ahead would just be setting yourself up for failure. There’s quite a bit you can do, both physically and psychologically, to help you subdue those cravings and not give in to temptation.
Change Your Environment
You don’t have to sell your house, retreat from the world, or confine yourself to a log cabin nestled in the woods, but a few changes are definitely in order. Overcoming opioid cravings is not as simple as just ignoring the discomfort, especially if your surroundings are encouraging your addiction. So what can you do to change your environment so it can’t manipulate you?
First, remove easy triggers. Even something as simple as moving opioid medications from your medicine cabinet or nightstand can help. When you know that your drugs are readily available for you, they’ll be the coping mechanism you run to first. But when they are inconvenient—or temporarily impossible—to access, that may help slow your natural impulse to take them, buying you enough time to rationalize and choose a healthier alternative.
Making efforts to change your environment also means avoiding enabling atmospheres. Even walking into a particular restaurant, bar, or friend’s home can trigger intense cravings. Make a list of any locations that you think could jeopardize your sobriety and avoid them, for now, at least.
Change Your Lifestyle
Warding off cravings is more than just a mental game. Making adjustments to your daily routine and lifestyle can play a vital role in how you manage cravings. Lifestyle choices often affect your mood, and your mood influences how you make decisions from day to day. While you may not think you can simply change your mood throughout the day, there are some steps you can take, including:
- Get a good night’s sleep. Studies have shown that recovering addicts reported higher than usual drug cravings when deprived of sleep. Naturally, others reporting adequate sleep did not experience as many cravings.
- Change your diet. Some of the most important nutrients for your mood are protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients improve brain health by helping repair neurotransmitters and receptors which can be damaged by substance abuse. If you’re a picky eater, you can get both of these as supplements at many retail stores. It’s also important to eat at regular intervals throughout the day.
- Exercise. Feeling good in both mind and body is critical. Complementing your new diet with a regular exercise routine will help balance your mood and keep you in good health overall. In addition to improving your mood, exercise is a great way to distract your body during the onset of opioid cravings.
Other elements of your lifestyle can be just as critical in managing cravings. The friends and family you choose to spend time with can increase or decrease cravings, as well. It’s often one’s friends that can influence drug use, and spending time with the same crowd of enablers will surely tempt you to regress in your recovery journey. Choose to involve yourself with friends who will support you and empathize with you when you’re struggling.
Sometimes, it’s family or stress factors at home that can lead to opioid use. While it may not be feasible (or healthy) to avoid family matters completely, choosing healthy mechanisms to cope with your stress is a great method to distract you from harmful alternatives. Pick up a new hobby, try some deep breathing exercises, or choose another activity to keep your mind occupied in times of stress.
Recovering from addiction can be an isolating experience and you may feel like you’re going through it alone. Consider asking someone who knows you well and supports your recovery to hold you accountable when you’re faced with temptation.
Participating in a support group can be a great way to meet new people who are going through the same struggles you are. Many times, you may find a sponsor who can guide you and be your first contact when you’re experiencing cravings.
There’s no guaranteed method to get you through this time of your recovery. Even former addicts who have been sober for years still battle through cravings occasionally. What’s important is that you’ve taken the first step.