“In the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity, a chance to find a way to resolve it and learn from the experience.” – Albert Einstein, 1955.

Perhaps under present circumstances “Don’t Panic” from Dads Army may be more meaningful for you!

When talking about substance misuse one key point is to remember who’s ultimately in control … you or your substance of choice. This might sound unoriginal if you are stressed, anxious, fearful; wanting to emotionally escape.

However, we hope this blog may give you insight into yourself or perhaps a family member who is struggling with a dependency whether this be alcohol, cocaine, cannabis or any other upper, downer, hallucinogen etc.

Ok, so let us set the scene. None of this is magical just good, well-evidenced common sense.

Here is the model of change developed by Prochaska and DiClemente. We are going to consider the stage of pre-contemplation in the first instance.

Stage 1: Precontemplation


  • Denial
  • Ignoring the problem


  • Thinking about your behaviour
  • Self-assessment
  • Assessing risks of current behaviour

The earliest stage of change is known as precontemplation. During the precontemplation stage, people are not considering a change. There is a belief that a particular behaviour is not a problem.

If you are in this stage, you may feel fixed to your current state or believe that you have no control over your behaviour.

Sometimes, people do not understand that their behaviour is damaging or are ill-informed about the consequences of it.

In self-assessment, you can ask yourself some questions:

  • Have I even ever tried to change this behaviour in the past?
  • How can I recognise that I have a problem?
  • What would need to happen for me to consider my behaviour a problem?

Ouch. Perhaps, you have never engaged in this kind of self-assessment. Let us be clear, this is not about telling you to change but perhaps giving you the opportunity to reflect especially in this current situation where you may be running out of your drug of choice, have dwindling finances and believe these craving will never stop.

In order to stay ‘sober’, it’s important that you know how to beat your drug cravings.

Here are 8 ways to stop the urge to use (referenced in the link).

Cravings are a normal part of addiction recovery. No matter whether you haven’t used in months or you just stopped using this week, you’re likely to experience an urge to use at some point.

Urges are relentless, finding you at your weakest point and trying to convince you that you don’t really want the change that you have worked so hard to accomplish. Drug cravings can quickly lead to a relapse if not handled appropriately.

1. Self-Talk

When a craving arises, resist the urge to use by talking yourself out of it using logic and reason. Because a craving can often be “myopic” and prevent you from seeing the big picture outside the immediate moment, you can prepare a list ahead of time and have it handy to read to yourself when a drug craving comes on.

This list may contain all the reasons that you’ve chosen to quit in the first place as well as all of the negative consequences that could occur if you choose to use.

2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) provides a myriad of techniques to use to cope with cravings when they arise. These include redirection, distraction, and visualisation.

When a craving arises, you may choose to redirect your attention to something else or distract yourself until the craving inevitably passes. Visualisation techniques can also help you relax during a craving as you may imagine yourself in a relaxing setting.

CBT techniques can help you to spot cognitive distortions in your thinking. A common cognitive distortion that occurs during a drug craving is called catastrophising. When you are experiencing a drug craving, you may catastrophise the situation by thinking things like “I’m never going to be able to make it through this” or “This feeling will never go away if I don’t give in and take this drug.” CBT techniques can help you to de-catastrophise the situation and see it more objectively.

3. Get a Hobby

Hobbies not only build character and encourage joy, but they can provide an excellent means of distraction during a drug craving. Many times, cravings arise out of boredom as the mind tries to find a way to fill a “void” or empty space. A hobby provides something else to engage in other than drug use.

Some hobbies you might try taking up include sports, cooking, arts and crafts, dancing, hiking, fishing, or video games.

4. Surf the Urge

Rather than trying to stop the urge all together, surf the urge instead. Urge surfing is a mindfulness technique that rests on the principle of accepting a craving for what it is rather than resisting it and wanting it to go away.

To practice urge surfing, when you feel a craving coming on, stop and acknowledge it. Accept it completely for what it is and don’t try to make it go away. Sit down, close your eyes, and observe the thoughts in your mind and sensations within your body. It helps to verbally acknowledge the thoughts and feelings during the experience.

For example, you might say to yourself, “I feel uncomfortable and I am thinking about using drugs,” or “My palms are sweaty, and my heart is beating fast.” Describe as many thoughts and sensations as possible until you no longer feel the craving. Urge surfing can help you realise that cravings come in waves and will eventually pass.

Basically, rather than trying to push them away, accept that they are there and ride them out.

5. Self Care

Practicing good self-care such as eating healthy and exercising regularly can help promote physical health and emotional well-being, which will not only make you less likely to want to use drugs but will make you more resilient and better able to deny a craving when it does arise.

6. Know Your Triggers

During recovery, certain people, places, and things will inevitably make you want to use drugs. Knowing what your triggers are can help prepare you for the possibility of a craving and allow you to avoid it when possible.

Try making a list of your triggers and consider which ones you can honestly avoid. Recognize that there will be some triggers that are unavoidable, so come up with strategies for dealing with the cravings that may arise when you are triggered.

7. Reach Out to Others

If you feel a craving coming on, attend a support group where you can talk with other recovering addicts about your conflicting desire to use and commitment to stay sober. Consider calling your sponsor when the urge to use arises—he or she may be able to talk you out of it. If you don’t have a sponsor, check with your group leader about possibly getting one.

8. Remove Bad Memories

Many therapists offer what’s called memory reconsolidation, which helps treat cravings by consolidating and removing memories that are associated with drug use. By eliminating these memories, it can help you experience less cravings triggered by environmental cues that may be associated with memories of drug use.

Pre-contemplation is followed by contemplation, which is up next in this blog series.

For more information about the support we can provide, contact us at aquariuslife@aquarius.org.uk.