These tips should help you as a sort of ‘first defence’ against the cravings that you might encounter as part of your ongoing recovery.

A few things to bear in mind first, though. It’s important to remember that cravings are a completely natural part of recovery – it doesn’t mean that your recovery is about to collapse, and it’s in no way a sign that you’re ‘failing’ to recover properly. It’s just how the body works when recovery is happening.

If you can accept that cravings will happen, you’ll be in a better state of mind to deal with them.

Cravings can be linked to ‘triggers’ – that is, mental or emotional situations that can cause a craving to happen – but they’re not the same thing. Cravings can happen for no apparent reason, and can take you by surprise.

Just remember – cravings won’t automatically break your recovery. They’re natural. You can overcome them.

Slow, Deep Breaths

A bit of a cliché, but it can genuinely be a good place to start. Stopping for a minute, and breathing slowly and deeply helps you ‘recalibrate’ – take stock of what’s happening and be in a calmer, more stable position to do something about it.

It also means that you’ll be more likely to think straight, and feel in control, making it harder for the cravings to get a foothold. You can then think about what to do next.

Keep Busy

It sounds simple, but providing yourself with a distraction can be surprisingly simple against low-level cravings. Cleaning is a common one, because it’s a purposeful, meaningful activity, and requires both mental and physical energy.

You might want to use your ‘keeping busy’ time to work on something that you feel is important – working ‘towards’ something is a good way to distract your mind. Learning to paint, for example, or practising an instrument.

It needn’t be particularly constructive, though. Whatever works is good – try different things and find one that fits.

Diversionary Activity – ‘Break The Cycle’

Cravings can be linked to place, to time, to certain memories and sensations that are tied up in your daily routine. These areas of your routine act as a ‘trigger’ points to your brain – your mind and body think it’s time for them to receive the substance they got used to previously, so the cravings kick in.

Break the cycle. If you’re aware of when in your day or week the cravings kick in, change your behaviour or routine, if you can, to avoid the trigger.

If that’s not possible – because your substance use is tied to somewhere you absolutely have to be, for example – then even changing elements of the routine around it could help. Try a different route to get there, for example; anything that helps the brain differentiate between ‘then’ and ‘now’ could make things a little easier.

‘I don’t think these are going to work’

If your cravings are severe and you feel you’re at risk of damaging your recovery, contact your keyworker at the last service you engaged with, or if that’s not an option, see the details for DAN 24/7 or Recovery Cymru on our 'Help for Me' page.