How to Survive Addiction

Gabrielle Applebury
Recovery sign

Going through an addiction can be an incredibly debilitating process. In addition to seeking professional help, there are a few activities that can assist those experiencing addiction cope in healthy ways.

Types of Professional Help

Finding the right type of help will depend on what you're looking to get out of treatment. If you're coming off of prolonged drug use, and are experiencing highly distressing and physically draining withdrawal symptoms, finding professional help is a good place to start so you can come down as safely as possible.

talking with therapist

Talk Therapy

This is known as traditional therapy, and it usually takes place in an office. Your therapist will help you identify why your addiction began, what your triggers are, as well as healthy coping techniques to replace your drug use. Most talk therapists have been trained in drug and alcohol abuse, but you can always find one who has a specialty in addiction.

Trauma Therapy

Trauma commonly co-occurs with addiction, with research suggesting early trauma serves as a predictor for drug abuse and addiction later in life. Trauma based therapy can help you identify and work through the root cause of your addiction. Common trauma techniques include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. EMDR helps you process specific and painful memories in a healthy way, instead of dissociating. During Equine Assisted Psychotherapy clients work through traumatic issues with the horses acting as biofeedback systems. You may be asked to do planned activities or symbolic challenges with the horses that help you release intense emotions and memories.

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehabs are large facilities where you will stay for a given amount of time depending on your needs. Often times these rehabs also provide professional detoxing services to help those who are just starting the withdrawal process. These programs usually have several drug counselors, therapists and other professionals who can assist you through this difficult time.

Outpatient Rehab

These facilities usually have several therapists on staff, as well as drug counselors, program directors and sometimes drug testers. Depending on your needs, you will spend up to several hours a day at these programs working on healthy copings skills, trigger identification, and drug psychoeducation. You may be drug tested by a professional on a daily or weekly basis depending on your drug of choice.

Doctor and patient

Detox Center

These centers are run by medical professionals and are usually housed in private facilities or hospitals. There you will be closely monitored and your vitals will be taken to make sure you are detoxing without becoming too sick or dehydrated. If you do end up losing a lot of fluids, they may administer IV fluids to keep you hydrated.

Non-Medical Interventions

If you have detoxed but are still experiencing some cravings, there are several activities and behavioral shifts you can try to stay on track. Experiment to see which work best for you and get yourself into the habit of engaging in that activity on a daily basis.

Mindfulness

This activity can help you reconnect to your body when your triggers or cravings feel out of control. Start off by deciding which mindfulness activity you'd like to try as this can translate to almost anything. For example you can do mindful eating, walking, sitting, sewing, painting, surfing, and stretching. To do mindful sitting:

  1. people meditating
    Begin by seating yourself comfortably on the floor or in a chair.
  2. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. If that feels relaxing, take a few more deep breaths.
  3. Focus your attention on what each part of your body is feeling and is in contact with beginning with your feet.
  4. Notice what it feels like for each part of you to be sitting. Are parts of you uncomfortable, stiff, or relaxed and loose? Try to engage all or most of your senses during this exercise if you can.
  5. Simply acknowledge what you are feeling without judgment and continue to move up your body, checking in with each part of yourself.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This exercise is great for those who feel very disconnected from their bodies during cravings. It is easy to do, and it not only grounds you but can help you get to a more peaceful state. This can be done sitting or standing although sitting with your feet firmly planted on the ground may be more comfortable. To begin:

  1. Find a comfortable chair and sit up straight with your feet planted.
  2. You can keep your eyes open or closed, whichever feels more comfortable to you.
  3. Beginning at your feet, gently squeeze your toes to tighten your muscles and hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Acknowledge what it feels like to release and move up to your calves, then to your upper legs, stomach, chest, forearm, upper arms, back and neck holding at each zone for 10 seconds.
  5. Once you reach your head take a few deep breaths and check in with yourself. Do you feel more relaxed? Do you feel more or less in touch with your body? How intense does your craving feel now?
Woman jogging

Exercise

Some people find it helpful to exercise and get their bodies moving when they feel triggered to use. If you are not much for exercise, you can try going for a walk or light jog for a few minutes to see if it helps decrease your cravings. As you exercise, pay close attention to your body and try to stay attuned to how you are feeling. You can ask yourself:

  • What emotion am I feeling?
  • Where do I feel that emotion in my body?
  • How intense is that emotion on a scale from one to 10?
  • How intense is that emotion on a scale from one to 10 once I'm done exercising?
  • Was it more helpful to do a gentle exercise (walking) or more intense exercise (running)?

Eating Healthy

Eating healthy

Although it is common for those who have an addiction to load up on sugar during cravings, sugar can also cause major crashes. These crashes can add fuel to the fire in terms of keeping your mood stable. Because of the mind body disconnect that can happen during an addiction, you may not be noticing cues you are hungry. Think about the last time you ate. If it's been several hours, your body may be feeling pangs of hunger on top of cravings which can be doubly uncomfortable. Try to eat some healthy snacks to see if that helps alleviate some discomfort. If you enjoy baking or cooking, you can spend some time making yourself something nutritious and yummy. Some healthy choices include:

  • Nuts
  • Fruit
  • Veggies
  • Complex Carbs like whole wheat snacks, sweet potatoes, rice, beans and lentils

Create a Trigger Chart

It can be difficult to know what activates you cravings. If you are past the bodily dependency phase, you may feel triggered to use if an uncomfortable emotion comes up, if you feel overwhelmed, and if you feel a loss of control. Trigger charts are helpful ways to track what activates you, how you react, and ways to prepare if a similar situation comes up in the future. To create your chart:

  • Create a spreadsheet on your phone or in a notebook that you can easily access whenever you feel triggered to use.
  • Label these categories: Trigger, Emotion, Reaction, In the Future
  • Each time you feel activated to use, take a moment to think about what happened right before and note it in the trigger section. Next, write in what emotions came up for you and how you reacted or want to react. Finally, come up with a healthy plan of action that you can use in the future if the same situation comes up again.
  • After several rows are filled in try to determine your trigger pattern. For example a person, place or activity may trigger you more often than not.

Positive Self Talk

Many people working through addiction may experience a difficult time monitoring their self talk. During this very challenging time, you may not have the energy to stay positive about your hard work. You may catch yourself saying "I can't do this," "I'm not good enough," or "I'm going to fail." Positive self talk is a good skill to begin practicing. To do so:

  1. Begin to re-frame your thoughts in a more objective way. For example, if the negative belief is I'm not lovable, or no one likes me, try to look at this from an outside perspective.
  2. Ask yourself do I have any supportive friends, family members, or professionals in my life?
  3. If the answer is yes, the re-framed thought can be, "I do have supportive people in my life and I am loved."
  4. If the answer is no, the re-framed thought can be, "I am working on surrounding myself with supportive people and I love myself."

Learning More About How to Survive Addiction

If you want to learn how to survive addiction, you will want to take time to research your addiction and learn as much as you can about it. The following is a list of common addictions:

  • student in library
    Alcohol addiction: Someone who has an alcohol addiction continues to abuse alcohol despite it causing tremendous social, financial and occupational problems. People who abuse alcohol tend to use it to cope with uncomfortable and distressing symptoms.
  • Caffeine addiction: Caffeine addiction comes with a slew of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and faintness.
  • Computer addiction: This issue has been increasing steadily over the years, as dependence on technology has become normalized within society.
  • Diet pill addiction: Abusing diet pills is an incredibly dangerous way to attempt to lose weight. Often times this type of addiction manifests out of a lack of control felt by the drug user.
  • Drug addiction: Drug addiction includes abusing substances such as cocaine, heroin, crack, meth, and marijuana to name a few.
  • Fat addiction: Research has found similar reactions in the brain of those who ingest drugs and alcohol to those who consume a lot of foods with high fat content.
  • Gambling addiction: Signs of a gambling addiction include inability to stop despite wanting to and an intense drive to continue even if it means breaking the law.
  • Nicotine addiction: Nicotine users typically begin to feel cravings after just two weeks of use, making it extremely easy to become addicted to.
  • Porn addiction: Porn addictions are born out of early childhood trauma and attachment based issues which make it difficult to connect, trust, and engage in healthy relationships.
  • Prescription drug addiction: Prescription drug addiction includes abusing codeine, vocodin, demerol, and morphine among several others.
  • Sexual addiction: This addiction is characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and behaviors.
  • Shopping addiction: People who end up addicted to shopping typically start off by purchasing items to help boost their moods.
  • Video game addiction: Those who are addicted to video games are usually unable to have healthy social lives as this dependence on playing takes the majority of their attention.
woman relaxing

Prioritizing Self Care

Deciding to work through an addiction is an incredibly brave step to take. Spend some time experimenting with different healthy coping skills to figure out which ones work best for you.

How to Survive Addiction