When the most powerful things in your life are not love, family, career, security, and health; but instead using is the most powerful, it is past time to say “enough.”
As you know, I call “enough” the magic word because once you say “enough” and really mean it, then enough is enough. When that happens, you can truly change from what the most powerful thing became back to what you want the most powerful things to be. You will go from being someone using as soon as you get a craving to someone who learns to deal with a craving without using.
The good news is that cravings do diminish. The bad news is that it takes time and patience and programming and practice. More bad news is that it is not just enough to decide that enough is enough—you actually have to do something. More really good news is that this is a winnable battle, even though you must deal with cravings.
Many things can cause a craving, such as a place, a person, an aroma, a song. But there are other things that trigger a craving, such as boredom, too much time doing nothing, disappointments, and relationship problems. The list can be endless. Another difficulty is being uncertain you can actually live without drugs and wondering if you are strong enough.
I am here to tell you that you are strong enough. I am here to tell you that all people in recovery do not have some secret ingredient that you are lacking. You have every single ingredient that is needed to stay clean.
Say that out loud right now: I have every single ingredient that I need to stay clean.
In the beginning days and weeks, expect cravings to be strong and even appearing with some frequency. What makes a craving diminish is not giving into its demand. Soon, your very smart brain starts to get it; it’s not going to get what it wants! Like a spoiled child, it backs off—not happy, but resigned.
As time passes, cravings do indeed diminish, and you feel stronger because you are stronger. You are regaining control day by day, one day at a time, winning one battle at a time.
If you haven’t already started a journal, please do so. Starting today, keep track of your cravings. In your journal, answer the why, who, when, and where about the craving. After a while, a pattern will probably emerge. You can use that pattern as your personal blueprint about what to avoid, whom to avoid, where to avoid, when to avoid, and why to avoid.
A good way to design your journal is to make columns. Make five columns.
The first four are quite narrow. Label them at the top as follows:
First column: Date
Second column: Location and a.m. or p.m.
Third column: Whom you were with
Fourth column: Craving? Y or N
The fifth column should be the widest. It should be labeled simply as Why. This column’s writing will be longer, of course. Try to be specific as to why you feel the way that you feel.
Always leave room at the bottom of the page to write anything that needs to be included. Remember this is your own detective story, so don’t be stingy with clues. In this space, at the bottom, you can include the additional suggestions for journaling found in chapter 2. Do not reread your entries until one month has gone by. One month is a decent amount of time to flesh out some clues, some threads of sameness. These emerging clues can be critical in helping you stay in recovery. If you ask anyone what they had for dinner two nights ago, most people cannot recall. It is apparent then that journaling regarding your cravings can give you a true blueprint of warning signs. This personal history keeps you in touch with yourself in ways that would be lost. Your journal needn’t be worthy of a Pulitzer Prize because the prize here is much more valuable. Just write.
Some things that help to keep cravings in check are as follows:
1. Learning stress management techniques
2. Developing something new in your life like a hobby or finding a place to volunteer, such as an animal shelter, a hospital, a food pantry
3. Mental habit development, such as repeating the mantra “I control me”
4. Exercise is great—you’ll feel better about yourself, not to mention you’ll look better
5. Meditate, breathe, and calm yourself by focusing on your breath
6. Do some of the visualizations in this book
7. Call someone
8. Speak to yourself in silent positive words and phrases and remind yourself you can do this
9. Believe the craving will pass because it will
10. Get to a meeting! Get a sponsor! Get into treatment! Now. Go.
You have much to look forward to—health, pride, self-confidence, control, and the diminishment of cravings, all coming.
Untold numbers of people have faced down their cravings and have stayed in a lasting recovery. Many people have shared with me the tough cravings they faced, fought, and beat. Even though the thought of using was tempting, even overwhelming, they reminded themselves that cravings are to be expected. They stubbornly stood their ground and let the craving pass. The relief of feeling the craving subside made them feel better, able to face the battle the next time. Some of my clients were surprised at the sudden onset of a craving, seemingly out of nowhere. But bottom lining it, they knew—just as you know—that you can wait it out. Train your brain with the repetition of your new discipline to not lose this battle.
Remember a craving cannot make you do anything. Time and patience. Be patient. Chill.
In time, even when cravings hardly bother you, you must never be cocky.
Here’s a little story for you.
A client of mine from some years ago with over two years of clean time was to be the maid of honor at her sister’s wedding. She was going to give the toast to the bride and groom. She called to tell me she had decided she could drink the glass of champagne with the toast because she was completely respectful of her addiction. She said she was positive that she could have that one glass of champagne because of the great respect she had for the power of her addiction day by day. She told me the reason she never put the glass to her mouth after all was due to something I had said to her that popped into her head as she was about to take her first sip. We laughed and cried in remembrance. It is not original with me, and I wish I knew where I heard it so I could give proper credit. I had told her that the cobra will bite you if you call him cobra or Mr. Cobra. So much for respect.