One of the most significant issues that those in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction face is cravings to use again. Cravings can continue for many weeks after a person stops drinking or taking drugs, but for some, these cravings can last much longer. Addiction is different for every person, and so too is recovery from addiction. Most people will experience the compulsion to drink or take drugs while in recovery, and it can take up to a year for these cravings to loosen their grip.
Most addiction recovery experts will say that cravings need to be dealt with as soon as these arise or they can take over and become impossible to ignore. In the early days, cravings can be like a constant feeling while after a few months they may arise a few times per day. However, one thing is certain; it is important that cravings are dealt with immediately before they become so strong that they overcome the individual.
Dealing with Cravings
In recovery, addicts are taught how to identify and deal with compulsions to drink or use again. What works for one person may not work for another but with the help of a professional counsellor or therapist, most patients can develop a strategy that works for them.
Some will call their sponsor or counsellor as soon as they experience cravings while others will head to their nearest meeting. Distraction is another firm favourite with recovering addicts as they know that the cravings will subside if they concentrate on something else instead.
Nevertheless, researchers now believe that prayer is an effective tool for fighting the cravings experienced during recovery. Academics conducting a study at the New York University have been working with members of Alcoholics Anonymous to analyse their cravings after they have read a variety of texts.
Stimulating the Brain
The study showed that parts of the brain that are responsible for emotion and attention are stimulated by prayer, which can help to minimise cravings for alcohol. Those who participated in the study were shown images known to encourage cravings for alcohol. Nonetheless, after reciting a prayer, they reported less desire to drink.
According to senior author Marc Galanter, attendance at AA meetings left recovering alcoholics with the ability to use prayer as an effective tool in minimising alcohol cravings. He said, “Craving is diminished in long-term AA members compared to patients who have stopped drinking for some period of time but are more vulnerable to relapse.”
Power of Prayer
The study analysed twenty AA members who all reported having had no cravings for alcohol in the week before the test. After being presented with images designed to induce alcohol cravings, all reported some degree of compulsion to drink. Every participant said their desire to drink had diminished after reciting an AA prayer.
The idea behind the study, according to Dr Galanter, was to find out how alcohol triggers affected the brains of AA members. By using MRI scans, researchers were able to see that prayer led to increased activity in the part of the brain responsible for emotion and attention. He added, “his finding suggests that there appears to be an emotional response to alcohol triggers, but that it’s experienced and understood differently when someone has the protection of the AA experience. Our current findings open up a new field of inquiry into physiologic changes that may accompany spiritual awakening and perspective changes in AA members and others.”
Meditation and prayer have long been tools used by those in recovery to help beat addiction. Reading AA materials can be an excellent way to relax and take the mind off the cravings, and the fact that the AA has already helped millions of people around the world to overcome alcoholism is proof of its effectiveness.