Dealing With Cravings and Boredom in Early Recovery

Reviewed May 12, 2017

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Summary

  1. Learn more about addiction and recovery from others who have been there.
  2. Get on a schedule as soon as possible. Include fun.
  3. Talk to those you trust when you are craving or feeling bored.

Early recovery can be tough. Changing friends and finding new and healthy activities takes patience and planning. These qualities are not often found in people who are actively overusing substances. Some of the biggest problems of early recovery are cravings and boredom.

Cravings

The desire to use drugs or alcohol is easily triggered by sights, sounds, smells, people, and certain places. This is called craving. Craving is not a weakness. Craving is the result of the effect of alcohol or drugs on your brain’s chemical balance. It’s a physical condition. The best way to understand craving is hunger. When we are really hungry and smell good food we have a physical reaction in our brain. Our mouths will actually water and our stomachs will growl. The desire to eat is very intense. The part of our brain, called the pleasure center, is where we experience a hunger or thirst for drugs or alcohol. So the trick is to avoid getting hungry by staying away from the things that trigger craving. This is easier said than done.

For some, driving down a street where they used to buy drugs can cause an intense craving. Others report that certain movies or beer commercials tempt them. The most common mistake people in early recovery make is hanging out with people they used to drink or get high with. The pressure here can be too much. Physical craving, boredom, and social pressure to fit in and have a good time make it harder.

Boredom

It is often said that a person overusing substances organizes their life around drugs and alcohol. Getting drunk or using drugs become a high priority. This is because the brain has learned that good feelings now come from drugs or alcohol. Also getting high or drinking is perhaps the fastest way to change your mood. It seems to work every time. Other activities can seem boring. Even those things you used to enjoy. For example, Juan used to love skating and playing basketball. Once he began using marijuana on a regular basis these things were not as fun anymore. He became easily bored. So Juan gave them up. The high from the drugs had replaced the joy of real life activities.

Boredom can be a huge problem in early recovery. The brain has to learn how to feel good without drugs or alcohol again. This takes time. How long? It depends on many things. People addicted to cocaine report boredom and intense cravings for up to six months after they have quit; some even longer. Those who use marijuana get bored very easily for several weeks to several months. It also depends on you and your willingness to recover.
 
Tips for dealing with craving and boredom

  1. Learn more about addiction and recovery from others who have been there. A 12-step sponsor is one good choice. Recovery support specialists are another option.
  2. Get on a schedule as soon as possible. Include your recovery group plans and healthy social activities. Planning is a great tool to use against boredom and craving. Call friends and plan in advance. You can get through it knowing that you have some healthy activities to look forward to.
  3. Try something new. Schedule something fun; include safe excitement in your recovery.
  4. Talk to those you trust when you are craving or feeling bored. A sponsor, friend, or family member can walk you through the hard times. But they can’t read your mind. It is your responsibility to let others know when you need help.
By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Trenda Hedges, BS, CRSS, Recovery Team Manager, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  1. Learn more about addiction and recovery from others who have been there.
  2. Get on a schedule as soon as possible. Include fun.
  3. Talk to those you trust when you are craving or feeling bored.

Early recovery can be tough. Changing friends and finding new and healthy activities takes patience and planning. These qualities are not often found in people who are actively overusing substances. Some of the biggest problems of early recovery are cravings and boredom.

Cravings

The desire to use drugs or alcohol is easily triggered by sights, sounds, smells, people, and certain places. This is called craving. Craving is not a weakness. Craving is the result of the effect of alcohol or drugs on your brain’s chemical balance. It’s a physical condition. The best way to understand craving is hunger. When we are really hungry and smell good food we have a physical reaction in our brain. Our mouths will actually water and our stomachs will growl. The desire to eat is very intense. The part of our brain, called the pleasure center, is where we experience a hunger or thirst for drugs or alcohol. So the trick is to avoid getting hungry by staying away from the things that trigger craving. This is easier said than done.

For some, driving down a street where they used to buy drugs can cause an intense craving. Others report that certain movies or beer commercials tempt them. The most common mistake people in early recovery make is hanging out with people they used to drink or get high with. The pressure here can be too much. Physical craving, boredom, and social pressure to fit in and have a good time make it harder.

Boredom

It is often said that a person overusing substances organizes their life around drugs and alcohol. Getting drunk or using drugs become a high priority. This is because the brain has learned that good feelings now come from drugs or alcohol. Also getting high or drinking is perhaps the fastest way to change your mood. It seems to work every time. Other activities can seem boring. Even those things you used to enjoy. For example, Juan used to love skating and playing basketball. Once he began using marijuana on a regular basis these things were not as fun anymore. He became easily bored. So Juan gave them up. The high from the drugs had replaced the joy of real life activities.

Boredom can be a huge problem in early recovery. The brain has to learn how to feel good without drugs or alcohol again. This takes time. How long? It depends on many things. People addicted to cocaine report boredom and intense cravings for up to six months after they have quit; some even longer. Those who use marijuana get bored very easily for several weeks to several months. It also depends on you and your willingness to recover.
 
Tips for dealing with craving and boredom

  1. Learn more about addiction and recovery from others who have been there. A 12-step sponsor is one good choice. Recovery support specialists are another option.
  2. Get on a schedule as soon as possible. Include your recovery group plans and healthy social activities. Planning is a great tool to use against boredom and craving. Call friends and plan in advance. You can get through it knowing that you have some healthy activities to look forward to.
  3. Try something new. Schedule something fun; include safe excitement in your recovery.
  4. Talk to those you trust when you are craving or feeling bored. A sponsor, friend, or family member can walk you through the hard times. But they can’t read your mind. It is your responsibility to let others know when you need help.
By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Trenda Hedges, BS, CRSS, Recovery Team Manager, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  1. Learn more about addiction and recovery from others who have been there.
  2. Get on a schedule as soon as possible. Include fun.
  3. Talk to those you trust when you are craving or feeling bored.

Early recovery can be tough. Changing friends and finding new and healthy activities takes patience and planning. These qualities are not often found in people who are actively overusing substances. Some of the biggest problems of early recovery are cravings and boredom.

Cravings

The desire to use drugs or alcohol is easily triggered by sights, sounds, smells, people, and certain places. This is called craving. Craving is not a weakness. Craving is the result of the effect of alcohol or drugs on your brain’s chemical balance. It’s a physical condition. The best way to understand craving is hunger. When we are really hungry and smell good food we have a physical reaction in our brain. Our mouths will actually water and our stomachs will growl. The desire to eat is very intense. The part of our brain, called the pleasure center, is where we experience a hunger or thirst for drugs or alcohol. So the trick is to avoid getting hungry by staying away from the things that trigger craving. This is easier said than done.

For some, driving down a street where they used to buy drugs can cause an intense craving. Others report that certain movies or beer commercials tempt them. The most common mistake people in early recovery make is hanging out with people they used to drink or get high with. The pressure here can be too much. Physical craving, boredom, and social pressure to fit in and have a good time make it harder.

Boredom

It is often said that a person overusing substances organizes their life around drugs and alcohol. Getting drunk or using drugs become a high priority. This is because the brain has learned that good feelings now come from drugs or alcohol. Also getting high or drinking is perhaps the fastest way to change your mood. It seems to work every time. Other activities can seem boring. Even those things you used to enjoy. For example, Juan used to love skating and playing basketball. Once he began using marijuana on a regular basis these things were not as fun anymore. He became easily bored. So Juan gave them up. The high from the drugs had replaced the joy of real life activities.

Boredom can be a huge problem in early recovery. The brain has to learn how to feel good without drugs or alcohol again. This takes time. How long? It depends on many things. People addicted to cocaine report boredom and intense cravings for up to six months after they have quit; some even longer. Those who use marijuana get bored very easily for several weeks to several months. It also depends on you and your willingness to recover.
 
Tips for dealing with craving and boredom

  1. Learn more about addiction and recovery from others who have been there. A 12-step sponsor is one good choice. Recovery support specialists are another option.
  2. Get on a schedule as soon as possible. Include your recovery group plans and healthy social activities. Planning is a great tool to use against boredom and craving. Call friends and plan in advance. You can get through it knowing that you have some healthy activities to look forward to.
  3. Try something new. Schedule something fun; include safe excitement in your recovery.
  4. Talk to those you trust when you are craving or feeling bored. A sponsor, friend, or family member can walk you through the hard times. But they can’t read your mind. It is your responsibility to let others know when you need help.
By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Trenda Hedges, BS, CRSS, Recovery Team Manager, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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