A recent article on I read discussed dealing with cravings through the use of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is the technical term used for exposing a client to the thing that gives them anxiety or fear or leads them to drink alcohol or use drugs. One clinician, Dr. A. Tom Horvath, explains his experience with clients that have been to treatment before and relapsed. He talks about how he took one of his patients to the bar where he would relapse to sit inside the bar and overcome the craving.
Exposing the anatomy of a craving is essential to helping individuals understand their own demons and get them to experience the craving but not take action on it. In the case of Dr. Horvath he goes with his client, Carl, to the bar and helps him confront his craving. They sit at the bar and the client starts sweating and needs a second diet Coke and keeps fidgeting because the craving is so great. The doctor talked with him about his past, the positive parts, about family, about sports - anything he could to fill up the time. It took about 20-30 minutes before the craving had passed and the client realized that his craving had disappeared.
I thought this was so fascinating and so true, they just waited out the craving and then Carl was able to deal with it effectively instead of succumb to it as he had in the past. Dr. Horvath told him three facts that were helpful in dealing with cravings. The first fact is that the craving will not last forever, so if you can wait it out, it will eventually pass. The second fact is that cravings are very distracting, take up a lot of energy and can be both physically and emotionally uncomfortable. This is important to know so that you can be conscious of what your body and mind are doing during the craving period. The last fact is that the craving itself cannot make you drink or use. If the person is paying attention to what his body and mind are saying then they still have another moment where they have the power of choice to not relapse.
Even still, Carl had another extremely strong craving only minutes after driving away from the first liberating craving experience. He had to sit still and wait it out, but since then he hasn’t had such as strong craving and finds that it is easier to deal with cravings than ever before. It is not always so straightforward; for people who have had very severe trauma, the first goal is to help the person have the confidence that they would be able to cope with a craving if one were to come up. Further, clients need to always remain safe and the treatment centers and therapists work diligently to make sure that is the case.
Photo courtesy of: pixabay
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.