Those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol will have a strong urge to abuse these substances. Even when it becomes obvious that such behavior is destroying their life, they can still find it hard to ignore such compulsions. The addict is so enthralled with their drug that they can no longer show self-control around it. They may make promises to themselves or others to quit, but this compulsion is strong enough for them to break their promises. This is why those who are battling addiction need to learn urge control.
Not everyone who abuses alcohol or drugs will develop a strong urge to engage in this behavior. Some people will have a short period of their life where they might drink too much or use recreational drugs. This does not necessarily mean that these people will have problems with urge control. If they are given information about the dangers of continued abuse, they may be able to stop without having to overcome a strong compulsion.
It is only when people develop a chemical dependency that urge control becomes a bigger issue. Their body now depends on alcohol or drugs to function and will enter physical withdrawal when these substances are not in the blood stream. This means that when they are not using, they will have the urge to obtain their drug. Their thoughts become obsessed with satisfying this need and will remain that way until they drink or use again.
Even when the addict has made it into recovery, they will still have to deal with urges. If they are not careful these thoughts can cause them to relapse. As the months go by, these thoughts of using again become rarer, but for some people they never completely disappear. The reason why these desires continue to arise is that the body retains the memory of addiction. The mind may deep down continue to associate substance abuse with pleasurable sensations like relaxation and having a good time.
The urge to return to substance abuse is strong when the individual’s recovery is on shaky ground. Perhaps they have lost a bit of motivation and are not doing the things they need to in order to develop in recovery. Getting sober is on ongoing process and standing still can be dangerous. This is particularly true during the early months and years of sobriety. If people are dissatisfied with their recovery, it leaves the door open for these addiction urges to return. The individual who is strong in their recovery will have little trouble dealing with such urges; but the person who is floundering can become shipwrecked because of them.
The relapse process begins with feeling stuck in recovery. If the individual tries to ignore their lack of progress, they will find that life gets more difficult. In order to escape these difficulties, the person might turn to maladaptive behaviors which lead to further stress. When this is happening, the urge to relapse will become more intense, until the individual feels helpless to resist. The individual can escape this downward spiral at any time by getting unstuck and practicing urge control.
Boredom can be dangerous in recovery because it means that life will feel unsatisfying. If the individual is disappointed with recovery, they can begin to remember the good times of addiction. Romancing the drink or drug is lethal because it can easily lead to a strong urge to relapse.
There are many techniques that can work well for urge control. Individuals will usually find that certain tools will work better for them than others. The most common urge control techniques include:
* Mindfulness meditation can work particularly well when dealing with urges. Mindfulness involves observing the internal and external world without getting caught up with it. So when the urge to use again arises, the person will just acknowledge this as just a mental event. It means that urges are viewed similar to passing clouds in the sky which will soon pass.
* Support groups can be a great resource for people who are experiencing urges to relapse. Here they will be able to share their thoughts and feelings and get support. Sometimes just talking about how they feel will be enough to prevent a relapse. The most famous of these groups is AA. Members will know all about these urges and should be able to offer useful advice about how to deal with them.
* An AA sponsor can also be of great benefit when people are dealing with urges to return to substance abuse. This person is usually only a phone call away, and they can be depended on at any time of the day or night. A sponsor will be able to offer advice, but most important of all they will be able to listen. The worst thing that an individual fighting strong urges can do is not talk about it with somebody else.
* Hobbies can act as a distraction when an urge to relapse arises. It can also remind the individual of the benefits of staying on the recovery path.
* Exercise can help people deal with urges. Just a walk around the park can be enough to change the way people are feeling. Those who avoid physical activity in recovery are likely to not feel comfortable in sobriety and will therefore be more likely to relapse. Too much exercise is not the answer either as this can be a way to avoid life and responsibilities.
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