About the Big Craving: a Favorite Trick That Always Worked For Me

3 of series of 3 posts on cravings

In my first six months of getting clean, I had lots of using thoughts and many full-blown cravings. And though I employed the various tricks to “stop the thought” or “kill the craving” that we looked at in the previous blog posts, sometimes with a particularly strong craving I found myself overwhelmed. I was a hair’s breadth away from using.

You know the moment: your mind already knows exactly how to find the drug, which hotel to use at, the excuses I’d give my friends so as to drop under the radar for a day or two, and so on—all elaborately planned out in detail. (Sometimes this plan took less than a second or two to formulate; it was that fast.) Whenever this happened, I knew I had to bring out the big guns, so to speak.

I’ll share with you a favorite “trick” that worked, for me, every time. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but I promise this one works without fail–or, at least, it does for me. And, for what it’s worth, no one has ever notified me that they used because of it. Always the opposite. They didn’t use.

Here’s how it works:

When a craving would be so strong that the next breath would find me headed toward the ATM machine, I’d make the following promise to myself. “I will not use for the remainder of this day. I will go to bed clean. But I promise that if, come tomorrow morning, I still want to use, I’ll let myself party without hesitation or guilt.” That was the bargain.

The key here was to be sincere. Always. I had to know I would keep my word. It had to be a real promise, with teeth. So I was dead serious whenever I’d make this promise. It was the only way I could keep myself from using at that particular moment.

Here’s the catch. Every single time, every new morning when I awoke, I felt only one thing: immense gratitude that I hadn’t used the night before. Never failed me. By morning’s clear light, using was the last thing on my mind, the craving long past.

But, I had to be serious about the promise to myself. I had to be willing to let myself use without guilt if I still so desired the next morning.

This always worked for me when I had one of those big cravings that would get out of control. Without fail. For those of you in your early sobriety, or maybe even not so early, it may just work for you too.

  • HiddenKitten

    OK, so I have tried this, the thing is, I tend to wake up craving, (I didn’t realize previously). I guess I need to find a different way to deal with my huge cravings. They get bad at three and a half to four months clean. I have not made it passed month four and its been a year now! I don’t know if I can. Got any more ‘Big guns’ so to speak?

    • Ouch. You’re the first, but I don’t doubt you at all. Yes. This is not the trick for you. A pleasure to hear from you btw. I will give this some thought and get back here hopefully with an idea that can actually work for you. So am I reading this correctly that you have made it past the year mark this time? If you have a year, there’s a whole different set of likely triggers, diminished in power thankfully, that you will want to prepare for. Let me know if I’m reading this correctly about you having a year clean. (One reason that months 3-4 are high relapse months is anedonia, the inability to experience joy. Most of us hit”The Wall” around that time and we start feeling bored,depressed and emotionally flatlined. It’s all brain chemistry. What’s important to understand is this crappy feeling is actually a sign of your brain healing. Anhedonia means you are getting clean neurochemically; it’s actually a great sign and usually lasts less than a month. But if you don’t know to expect that empty emotional flatline, it’s easy to say: If life is going to be so miserably awful, why not just buy an eightball and feel really good for a change? Anyway, that’s the wall. Hopefully you’re way past it by now. So you have a year?

      • HiddenKitten

        I’m sorry i should have been more clear. I’ve been about a year and a month in “serious recovery.” Consecutive Clean Time I have, well, recently relapsed and made it passed 30 days again. I have read your blog from start to current and your book, so I know very well about “The Wall.” It seems…like I’m trudging in a deeper trench then anyone else, alone on those bad big craving days and everything seems dull and overbearing at once. I understand its pure brain chemistry but WHOLE FUCK MAN it sucks! And its hard to re-lay this same feeling of, ‘I’m craving.’ to the people I trust and are my support network, ’cause secrets kept inside lead to relapse for me too… but, they start to doubt if I really want recovery. Anyway I was hoping there are some more tricks for cravings and the like? Thanks for being awesome. -HiddenKitten