Those that struggle with addiction to cocaine and crack often experience very intense cravings for their drug after they have been on the road to Recovery for some time. This is especially true for the first ninety to one hundred and twenty days of Recovery.
As part of their Relapse Prevention Plan recovering cocaine addicts must make the subject of how to handle craving a very important focus of their recovery plan. If they fail to plan to deal with cravings, they will in reality be planning to fail, and relapse will be the inevitable result.
About five years ago I had the privilege of taking a home study Course by Terence Gorski, called Managing Cocaine Cravings. I found the course very informative and most helpful in my work as a Program worker at the local Detox Centre. At the Centre we often have cocaine addicts and helping them to recognize the episodes of intense craving that they will face can be very helpful in their Recovery.
Much of what I have to say to these clients can be garnered from an excellent on line article called Cocaine, Craving and Relapse by Terence T. Gorski http://www.tgorski.com/gorski_articles/cocaine%20craving%20&%20relapse%20010523.htm
Recovering cocaine addicts will find that they may have very intense cravings for cocaine even though they have been clean and drug free for some time. The Craving Cycle is actually made up of three stages.
1. Set up behaviors, which are the feelings, and thinking that the addict experiences that may well be setting him up and getting him ready to go back to active use of cocaine again. One’s feelings and one thoughts are so very important. If one does nor watch his or her feelings or thoughts, they can become ensnared again and find themselves relapsing.
It is important to remember that addiction is actually a three headed dragon. It has three heads on it- The using head, the thinking head and the feeling head. So often people in recovery willingly cut off the first head of the dragon, the using head and believing they have overcome their addiction. The problem is that the dragon of addiction has three heads. If the addict fails to deal with his thinking and his feeling, he will find himself set up, and so often re3lapse is the result. We must cut off all three heads of the dragon. If we don’t we are being set up for the cravings to come back and the ultimate result could be relapse.
2. The Second stage of the Craving cycle is triggering events. Triggering events are events that activate the physical, mental, emotional and social responses in the brain that accentuate the cravings and desires for cocaine.
3. The Third stage of 0f the craving cycle is the development of the cravings themselves. It is the last part of the cycle and once they arrive they can be very difficult to deal with. These cravings can be so intense that the addict often reports a sense of been overwhelmed. They say they can actually taste the drug even though they have not touched it.
Everyone one of these stages of the craving cycle is strong and powerful. They have physical aspects to them, which can often be caused by brain damage due to cocaine use; poor diet; lack of healthy exercise, excessive use of sugar and caffeine and failure to properly deal with ongoing stress and strife in one’s life.
Each of these stages of craving have a strong psychological attachment with them. . So often addicts recall the good times they had when using the drug. They remember the highs and the parties and the so called good times. They also find themselves minimizing the benefits of recovery and begin to think stinking thoughts about how hard recovery is and how much better they thought they were when they were using. They often begin to feel that cocaine was magic and how it helped them with all their problems.
Thinking such thoughts leads to strengthening the cravings and will make them harder to deal with. Addicts will often tell themselves they cannot do without the cocaine. The addict will find him or herself denying they have a problem with cocaine, and will begin to feel they do not need a Recovery program. Their humility will disappear and arrogance and pride will raise its ugly head.
The set up behaviors will lower one’s resistance to cravings, and the cravings will develop and intensify and ultimately one will give in and relapse will be the result. Cravings allowed to develop and not dealt with will weaken one resolve and will lead to relapse. This will result in the addict becoming obsessed; with cocaine. The addict will be possessed by a compulsion for cocaine, resulting in drug seeking behavior.
Cocaine cravings can be very intense and are triggers to relapse. It therefore behooves the addict to recognize the importance of knowing about cravings and have a concrete plan to deal with them, or the result will be, not maybe, relapse.
It is important for cocaine addicts to have a Recovery Plan in place. This plan must include things to do when cravings begin to develop. The addict must know what his triggers are and have a plan in place to deal with them. They must know what behaviors and circumstances set them up. They must have a plan on how to avoid the set ups and find a more appropriate way to deal with those set ups.
The addict must be realistic about his past experience and not celebrate the good times he had with the drug but rather honestly look for and recall all the negatives about his drug use. The addict must stop thinking about how hard and awful recovery is but look for the positives of Recovery and remaining clean and sober.
There are numerous things one can do to lessen cravings for cocaine and remain strong and free, and not relapse. Among these things are these:
a. Recognize cravings as they are happening. Acceptable as a normal part of Recovery but do not give into them. Learn to deal with them constructively so they will dissipate and not lead to relapse.
b. When a craving comes, distract yourself. Go for a walk. Go swimming. Ride your bike. Distraction can take your mind off the gnawing desire inside you.
c. Talk about your cravings with another trusted individual- a sponsor, a spouse, a Pastor, a close friend. Talking about the craving weakens the craving. We need support.
d. Exercise. This creates positive brain activity and works to lessen the desire and compulsion for drugs.
e. Eat a healthy meal. Eating can lessen the cravings for cocaine.
7. Meditation. This gets your mind on something else and off the drug.
8. Prayer. Allows you connect with Your Higher Power and makes spiritual help available to help you overcome the cravings that are confronting you.
9. Attend a 12 Step Meeting or a Church Worship Service.
10. Write in your journal
These are just some of the simple things one can do to handle the craving for cocaine. Cocaine cravings can be very intense. But it is possible to handle them and remain on the road of recovery instead of being victimized by relapse.