Ex-addicts will likely continue to have cravings well into the future, or even for the rest of their lives if they were using for a long time and at high doses, or where the addiction was particularly severe.
However, as time goes on, cravings will become less and less frequent, and less and less intense, as long as the conditions, recovery skills and the right motivations are adequate enough for maintaining sobriety.
Total abstinence from all substances – if they were not the ones feeding the original addiction – is not always necessary or wanted by ex-addicts.
For example, people who got addicted to substances such as prescription painkillers or benzodiazepines may find they can still drink alcohol or even moderate other drug use and have control over their use of other drugs. But others – especially polydrug addicts (addicts who were addicted to multiple drugs and could not control any drug they took) – find that total abstinence is essential.
To maintain this, ex-addicts should always remain vigilant about potential triggers and learn how to cope or avoid them. These may include places or people that remind them of their past drug use. Going to your favourite pub, even if you aren’t drinking could be enough to trigger a desire for “one pint for old time’s sake”, which could spiral into an uncontrollable two or three-day relapse into alcoholism. Seeing that friend that you used to take drugs with, even if you aren’t doing any, could be enough to think about the drug – especially if you know they are still using and could have it in their possession.
Those with mental health issues should also be aware of any worsening of symptoms, and continue any treatments (such as continuing to take medications, if necessary) and therapy schedules into the future.
New hobbies and goals should be stuck to as firmly as possible, such as going back to school or finding employment that is both as meaningful and fulfilling as possible. This will help keep the mind busy and not thinking about drugs, alcohol or food and will also provide a sense of normalcy to everyday life.
In time, most ex-addicts will embrace the new freedom they have attained by abstaining from their problem drug (or drugs), and develop new relationships, passions and jobs that prove to be far more rewarding than the painful and harsh lives they were leading as addicts. In fact, most former addicts go on to learn and grow from their hard experiences and find that they can draw on them to develop new skills they can put towards aspects that enrich their lives. For example, many former addicts end up becoming trained recovery workers, counsellors or social workers themselves, or explore careers in holistic medicines, psychology and numerous other similar pursuits where they can be in positions where they can help others get through what they went through, often to more success than those who haven’t experienced addictions themselves.
Whatever former addicts choose to do after their recovery, there is no doubt that they often come out stronger and wiser for the experience if they adequately maintain their sobriety, which is ultimately beneficial for them, their families and the local communities they live in.
Love & Compassion