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Learning to Cope with Addictive Urges

The process of learning to handle addictive urges and the temptation of our addictions is much like learning to handle our difficult emotions. We have to become better able to sit through the discomfort and the anxiety they can bring. We have to turn off our default instinct to run from the unpleasantness. We have to essentially learn how to ride the wave. Here are some useful pointers for learning how to cope with addictive urges when they arise.

When we’ve managed to stop using our addictive substance or giving into our addictive behavior, the temptation doesn’t simply disappear. We can find ourselves still fixated on and obsessed with the subject of our addiction. As a result, we can feel afraid and anxious that we’ll relapse. We might doubt our ability to stay the course of our sobriety. In these moments of fear, take some deep breaths and remind yourself that these urges are your tests. Your strength, willpower and determination are being put to the test. You might feel impatient with yourself that you’re still having to deal with these feelings. You might think that if you’ve done all this work in recovery, you shouldn’t still be faced with so much temptation. Our chemical dependence on our substance or behavior of choice, however, takes time to heal from. The habits and patterns we’ve developed have been years in the making and will take us time to undo. We will have to retrain our minds to create new, healthier patterns rather than resorting to our addictions. Encourage yourself to rise to the challenge and meet your test with courage.

Practice mindfulness to help you move through the urge without acting on it. Notice what feelings come up. Maybe you feel anxious, restless, panicked or irritable. Pay attention to how these feelings present themselves physically. Maybe you start to sweat, or your heart rate accelerates and your breathing becomes quicker and more shallow. Anchor yourself in the present moment by focusing on these physical sensations. Rather than spinning to worries of the future and fears that you’ll relapse, return to the present moment that you’re in right now. Return to your breath. As you sit with your feelings and physical sensations, they will start to recede like waves on a shoreline. When we react to them with panic or try to avoid or deny them with our resistance, we give them more power over us. Let the urge ride itself out while you sit with it, allowing it to move over you.

Our treatment plans at Riverside Recovery include mindfulness-based relapse prevention education, to help you learn to manage the addictive urges that are a natural part of the recovery process. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.