The phrase “once an addict, always an addict” can often be heard when describing those who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. This statement can conjure multiple images in a person’s mind. In some settings, this statement may seem negative and off-putting. It can give the feeling that a person who is addicted will always relapse and will always have an addiction of some sort. It can feel discouraging to read those words without context, but this message is not meant to convey that addiction can never be overcome. Instead, this statement highlights the reality of what role addiction can play in many people’s lives over the years. It is meant to help those in recovery keep a healthy, realistic perspective on their own journey in recovery and keep in mind that we are not always immune to negative influences.
“Once an addict, always an addict” does not mean that sobriety is unobtainable for those in recovery. Instead, this statement is more a reflection on the potential for relapse in the future. Those who have struggled with addiction in the past are more prone to using drugs and alcohol in the future than those without a history of substance abuse and this may be due to a number of circumstances. But, being at risk for substance abuse does not necessarily mean that it is a big risk. In fact, with the proper skills and support, the risk may be minimal, although, still present.
Overcoming addiction requires holistic care to ensure that all aspects of a person’s life is adequately addressed. Failure to help a person develop coping mechanisms, healthy relationships, and ways to manage triggers can put a person at greater risk for relapse. Recovery that focuses on the entire individual and not just the addiction itself can produce better outcomes.
Ways to Self-Regulate Cravings
No matter where you are in addiction recovery, cravings and temptation will eventually reappear. Feeling these urges is normal, but it is important to be prepared for when these moments surface. Cravings can quickly lead to relapse if they are not addressed appropriately. No matter how much work someone puts into their recovery and no matter how many years they have been sober, there is always the risk that relapse can occur. It is important to keep the journey in recovery in perspective and remain realistic concerning potential pitfalls they may face in the future.
As much as treatment focuses on achieving sobriety, it also works to help individuals develop healthy coping mechanisms and ways to address roadblocks in the future. The strength of someone’s sobriety is often contingent on how well they are equipped to handle challenging times in the future.
Some methods of coping with the inevitable development of cravings may include:
Talk yourself through it
Experiencing cravings is a very in-the-moment feeling that tends to ignore the bigger picture. It can be hard to keep your bigger recovery journey in perspective when battling those feelings. Having the ability to talk yourself through these episodes can prevent relapse and encourage you to consider the consequences of using. Use logic and concrete examples when talking yourself through these situations and be sure to keep your journey and achievements thus far at the top of your mind.
Techniques learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you cope with cravings through a variety of methods. Some techniques include distracting yourself with something else until the cravings pass, visualizing yourself elsewhere, or redirecting your thoughts elsewhere. When dealing with cravings, it is easy to embellish the situation and justify using. You may try to tell yourself the cravings will not go away or that you cannot overcome these feelings, but CBT techniques can help you keep perspective and stay grounded until the feelings pass.
Engaging in Hobbies
Having hobbies or interests you enjoy can help fill the time and space that usually allows relapse to occur. Cravings often surface when experiencing boredom. Many find that upon achieving sobriety, they have much more free time and not a lot to do to fill it. Find things that interest you and occupy your time so there is less opportunity for cravings to manifest.
Taking care of yourself physically and mentally can help prevent the risk of relapse. When you are in a good state of physical and mental health, it can reduce the influence of cravings and make you better able to deny them. Having a balanced healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly can improve your overall well-being. When you feel better, you are less likely to want to use drugs.
Knowing what your triggers are can prevent cravings from developing. If you know that certain people, places, or things make you want to use drugs or alcohol, it is best to avoid them. Some triggers are avoidable and you should evade them whenever possible. For triggers that are unavoidable, it is important to develop ways to cope with them in a way that does not lead to relapse. Some of the strategies you develop in therapy can help address triggers.
Ask for Help
Addiction is difficult and successful recovery is rarely achieved alone. Staying connected with the sober community and having supportive people in your life is critical to long-term success. Engage in support groups to discuss your concerns with others in recovery who may be able to provide valuable insight. Seek out a trusted friend or sponsor or consider moving into a sober living home if cravings become too much to bear.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 310.403.1032 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.