When you decide to quit using cocaine, it takes your body some time to catch up with your decision. While the body still believes it "needs" the drug, you will likely experience cravings. These cravings are not permanent, and you will have them less and less over time, but what are you to do until then? You have to have a plan to cope.
Physical vs. Psychological Cravings
All cravings start in the brain; they are not physical in nature. When you are going through withdrawal, you might have some physical symptoms, like shakiness, chills, and pain, but these are not physical cravings; they are symptoms of the body detoxing from the drug. Cravings are in no way connected to your physical health, and it is very rare to need medical attention when detoxing from this drug.
Making the conscious decision to work through your cravings is something to be proud of. Although this will likely be difficult, it should get easier over time.
Step One: Look to the Root of Your Cravings
It's likely your cravings don't just occur out of the blue. They are triggered by persons, places, situations, thoughts, and feelings.
When you have a craving, write down:
- Where you are
- Who you're with
- What you're doing
- How you're feeling
If your trigger is a person or place, avoid them for now as much as you possibly can. If it's a situation like having extra money on hand, think of ways to prevent being in that situation. For example, direct deposit your paychecks and don't pull out cash. You can also try:
- Spend some time journaling about how you are feeling. People often use cocaine to relieve painful feelings temporarily. Gently begin acknowledging your emotions and with time, they will seem less overwhelming.
- Speak with someone you trust and talk out why your craving has come up for you. Connecting with another person can help immensely when it comes to feeling supported during this challenging moment.
- If you can, spend some time processing how you are feeling in the company of a pet. If you don't have a pet, see if it's okay to borrow a friend or family member's. Animals can act as quiet, non-judgmental support systems while also providing you with plenty of comfort.
Step Two: Ride the Craving Out
If your craving is triggered by a thought or feeling, it can be tougher to avoid. Recognize the craving when it comes and think of something to do besides using cocaine. For example, if you're tempted to use when you're tired, go for a walk, take a nap, do yoga, write a gratitude list, have some green tea, or call a friend or support group member. You can also think about trying:
- Eat a healthy snack. Sometimes cravings can block out other bodily needs like hunger. If it's been several hours since you've eaten, try making yourself a snack.
- Practice some deep breathing exercises that help your mind and body relax. With your hand on your stomach, close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose. Hold for a few seconds and release through your mouth. Try to focus your attention to how it feels to breathe deeply.
- Try to incorporate mindfulness into a physical activity of your choosing. To do a mindfulness exercise, engage all of your senses and focus on the present moment. If anxious thoughts come up, acknowledge them and imagine them floating away.
Start brainstorming all your options. Write them down. Your craving will peak, and you may think you have to use, but it will also subside. You will be okay. Do not use other drugs of abuse, such as alcohol or cigarettes, to cope. It can actually make your cravings worse.
Step Three: Remember the Bad Stuff
When you have a cocaine craving, the brain tends to focus only on positive feelings associated with the drug. It conveniently "forgets" the negative consequences of using.
Remind yourself of all the trouble the drug has caused you. Write down the reasons you quit using cocaine and carry them in your wallet. Read through them whenever a craving hits. You can also try:
- If possible, speak with someone who has been sober for several years. Most likely, they will be able to give you a unique perspective about what you are going through while providing helpful support.
- Write a list of motivational phrases that are meaningful to you and leave these next to your bed. Be sure to read through them every day and especially during intense moments.
- Set automatic reminders on your phone during your typical times of cravings. Come up with a go to phrase that helps you feel motivated and supported. Examples include, I can do this and you are loved.
Step Four: Get Medical Help
If you are having a really hard time with your cravings, even after attempting the steps above, talk to your doctor or recovery counselor about prescription drugs designed to help (such as Neurontin, Sabril, and Gablofen). You can also try taking NAC, an over-the-counter amino acid supplement.
Ask about potential side effects of these drugs before you take them so you can make an educated decision. You can reach out to:
- A therapist who specializes in addiction. They can help you figure out the core reason behind your addiction while providing support and coping techniques.
- An outpatient rehab center. These programs usually provide psychotherapy, drug education, and drug testing to help you stay on track.
- A support group for those recovering from cocaine addiction. These are typically led by a licensed therapist or social worker and provide drug related education as well as the perspectives of highly motivated peers.
Don't Give Up
If you give in to one of your cravings and use cocaine, it doesn't mean that you failed at your recovery. It is simply a setback. Don't let the shame of relapse destroy all the hard work you've done so far. Just pick yourself up, call a supportive person, and try again.