One of the most difficult aspects of recovery from an addiction to alcohol is controlling the cravings. Cravings are triggered by cues, such as sights, sounds, time of day, people, locations, stress, advertisements, songs, holidays, good times and bad times. Because alcohol activates the same brain circuitry as that which is “hardwired” in the human brain to assure our pursuit of the pleasures/rewards for food and sex (survival activities that insure the human species continues) AND the structural and chemical changes in those brain circuitries caused by the addictive use of alcohol, these cravings can be even more powerful than those “hardwired” for food and sex. This explains, in part, why alcoholics will go to any length to find, consume, hide and recover from drinking, including lying, cheating and stealing. It also explains that the person you love is not in their “right mind” when they are in the throws of their addiction. It is not the “ you,” the person they profess to love to whom they are lying or cheating or stealing from, rather it is part of the insanity of their addiction. They have no alternative - NONE - for these behaviors until they stop drinking alcohol and allow their brain to begin its recovery because their cravings are that powerful.
Which is the point of this post. ONE aspect of recovery is learning to control the cravings. Anna Rose Childress, Ph.D., has an excellent description of cravings and offers the following suggestions in her article, “ Let’s Talk About Cravings.”
“When you have an episode of craving: 1. Try to view the craving in a matter-of-fact way. Having a craving does not mean that you are unmotivated - or that you are doomed to relapse. 2. Learning about your craving triggers, and how to manage them, will be an important part of your recovery in addiction. 3. Try anti-craving behavioral strategies, such as the 5-minute contract (making a contract with yourself not to act on the desire for the next five minutes, and then engaging in a distracting activity in the meantime.) Many urges are short-lived - you will find they are weaker if you can “surf through” the first few minutes. 4. Call upon the guidance of a trained treatment professional may be needed for successfully implementing any of a number of well-described behavioral techniques that can be helpful in managing cravings. Treatment manuals detail these strategies. 5. Consider an anti-craving medication. Craving can erupt quickly and feel overwhelming, making it difficult to put to use behavioral anti-craving strategies, even well-learned ones. “Â [Anna Rose Childress, Ph.D]
Additionally, there are three drugs that are FDA approved that may also prove helpful. 1.Â Antabuse - causes a severe reaction if alcohol is consumed - really makes you feel rotten. 2. Naltrexone (Revia) - blocks the “high” of drinking. 3.Â Acamprosate (Campral) - reduces the craving. Read this article, “ Campral - Treatment for Alcoholism,” for more information.
For those who love an alcoholic, understanding the power of cravings associated with addiction can help you appreciate that all of your efforts (whether they be bargaining for when and how much they’ll drink; arguing; blaming and shaming; trying to find all of the hidden bottles and throwing them out) will not work. As such, the best thing you can do for yourself is l earn more about addiction (alcoholism), talk with your loved one about the facts when they are sober and learn what it means to set healthy boundaries for yourself (and talk to you loved one about those, as well - when they are sober). [ Check out some of the posts in this section for this type of information.]