On Addiction and Recovery

OK, I understand that the first few days/weeks/months of recovery from drugs, alcohol, or whatever addiction are the worst. But what about people who have been clean or sober for ten/twenty/thirty years? Do these people still, you know, jones?

A lot depends on the drug. People addicted to benzodiazepines (the Valium, Xanax, Ativan family) can have prolonged withdrawal symptoms for up to two years. People coming off high dose opiate abuse can have fatigue and insomnia (a brutal combination) for up to a year.

After the first year or two, when all the physical problems have resolved, the frequency and intensity of cravings usually diminishes markedly. Not many recovering people I know say the cravings went away and never returned. Most have intermittent cravings, especially likely when triggered by a situation similar to their using past or a scene depicting use of their drug of choice in the media. Once you get past the hard part though, a drug/alcohol craving can be quite similar to, say, a chocolate allergy. You may wish you could eat that chocolate bar, but don’t, because you know it would not be good for you.

Of course, YMMV.

I’ve been clean & sober for well over a decade. And cravings aren’t really a problem. They never go away completely, but for me, they have become very infrequent, and far, far less powerful. Now when I get one, it’s a sign to tighten up my recovery program, and look around and see what’s going on in my life that I’m not dealing with. But it took about 2 years to get to that point. The first 6 months were the worst.

And I never, never want to go back to using and drinking. It was horrible.