When Will the Urge to Use Subside?
You’ve made the decision to get sober. You’ve done what you had to do to get through detoxification and you have taken recovery seriously. You go to meetings, share your experience, strength and hope with others. You ask for help. You don’t drink or drug no matter what.
But you still have the urge to use. How strong and how often the urge comes back may vary, but if you’re like most people in recovery, there’s a good chance that you will still experience the desire to use from time to time. When can you expect the urge to go away?
Compulsions and Cravings
The compulsion to turn to alcohol or drugs is nothing new to you. During the time that you were actively addicted, the compulsion to use pretty much dictated your behavior each day. Chasing your next high was the most important thing in your life.
You expected your cravings to go away once you got out of rehab. But unfortunately, when it comes to recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction, there is no graduation date. Part of the recovery process involves recognizing what might trigger the urge to use.
One of the most important things to learn in addiction recovery is the realization that having the urge to use doesn’t mean you have to actually pick up. You need to learn to manage your cravings without acting on them.
Why You Still Feel the Urge to Use
When you are completely committed to recovery, why do you still feel the urge to go back to your old ways? On an intellectual level, you know that picking up a drink or a drug is the worst thing you could possibly do. You don’t want to pick up, but you feel a compulsion to do so, and you don’t understand why cravings still happen.
Alcoholism and drug addiction are habits, and habits are hard to break. For a long time, addiction was your solution to stress and your path to escaping from anything unpleasant that you didn’t want to face. Escapism became a habit, and being high became the most natural thing in the world to you.
While you were actively abusing alcohol or drugs or both, you were able to numb your pain. It became second nature to reach for mind-altering chemicals. To change that habit and face reality sober is to go against your natural impulses once you’ve crossed the line into addiction. This is especially true in early sobriety.
The Nature of Cravings
The urge to use may happen frequently in early sobriety. When you’re newly sober, you haven’t yet learned coping skills for dealing with the ups and downs that life presents each day. It’s important to hang in there through the discomfort.
Cravings often occur when your recovery is on shaky ground. They may happen when you are going to fewer meetings or choosing to isolate rather than reaching out. You may not even realize that you aren’t doing what you should be doing to stay sober and serene.
How strong and how often you feel the urge to use varies from one individual to another. It may be affected by what your drug of choice was and how long you were addicted. There are no hard and fast rules about what to expect or when cravings will go away.
Progress Not Perfection
As you spend more time going to meetings, facing your past and working through your emotions, you will start to get stronger. The urge to use will occur less frequently as your build your support network and learn to cope.
For some people, cravings periodically come back, often when least expected. The journey of recovery is ongoing. When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, you may feel the urge to go back to a time when you didn’t have to feel your feelings. You can learn to think it through and not pick up even when you feel compelled to do so.
The important thing is not to be too hard on yourself for experiencing cravings. You can learn how to handle them so they don’t lead to a relapse.
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