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SMART Recovery Tools for Coping with Cravings

At AToN Center, one of the things we stress in recovery is finding some kind of community meeting to connect with. SMART Recovery is just one kind of meeting. In SMART, people focus on learning tools to help them through recovery by maintaining their motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts and emotions, and balancing their life. For coping with urges, SMART Recovery teaches people to “defeat urges with DEADS.”

This means to Deny or Delay acting on the urge; to Escape the trigger; to Avoid, Accept, or Attack the urge; Distract yourself; or Substitute for healthy over addictive thoughts. Urges and cravings come and go like waves. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. So if the urge is not given in to, in time it will pass. If an urge is intense, it might make sense to leave the situation.

For instance, if you are having cravings at a get-together where alcohol is being served, it could make sense to just say you have to go. This means changing your situation, but acceptance is also important – an urge is arising, it can be accepted without being given in to, and it will also pass. Distraction can also be a great way to get through this: getting some exercise, walking the dog, calling someone, or organizing the office.

When people are mindful, they often notice that their urges and cravings subside using these tools. Coming out the other side skillfully, then, can feel motivating and add stability to sobriety!

Kirsten Helgager, PsyD
AToN Center   888-535-1516