How to Kill a Craving


2 of series of 3 posts on cravings

The good news first: that intense, physical craving will generally last only 30-90 seconds unless you start moving toward drug use. If you can wait it out, or counteract the craving, it will pass soon enough.

Say, you are triggered and then have a pleasurable thought—what’s called a “euphoric recall”—about your using days. Almost always it’s only the pleasurable part of the high recalled. The disease doesn’t want you to remember the whole story.

The sequence is almost always: triggerthought – cravingusing. As we explored in the previous post, the best place to interrupt this process is at the initial thought level, before an actual emotional or physical craving can take hold. But that’s not always possible. Sometimes a craving will arise so quickly, you’re just an audience member at your disease’s movie and, presto, the thought is suddenly a full-fledged feeling, and every cell in your body aches to use and use now!

Here are several ways to counteract a craving that I list in my book, Quitting Crystal Meth: What to Expect & What to Do:

Keep Your Feet Moving. If you can get through the moment, the desire to use will pass. Don’t sit there stewing in the feeling/craving. Get up and get your feet moving. Move physically and you will move emotionally. Here’s a short list of things you can do to take your mind off a craving: go to the gym, go to a coffee shop, force yourself to talk to a stranger, see a movie, play a highly-interactive video game, go dancing with a friend, take a brisk walk. The point is to get up, get moving, and distract your mind with a new behavior—those moving feet—instead of allowing that feeling/craving to turn into the old behavior of using.

Play the memory forward to the bitter end. Don’t just think about the euphoria of initially getting high. Jump ahead and play the memory forward to the bitter end. Remember how you felt at the end of your run. Remember those unsavory people with whom you were partying by the final days. Remember the desperation and loneliness. One recovering addict told me, whenever she had a using fantasy or craving, she immediately remembered that last week of using before she quit. Instead of having euphoric recall, she had “horrific recall.” Remembering and re-feeling the horror of that last week of using was enough to bring her mind back into right thinking.

Tell someone about it, now. Don’t wait till later. Pick up the phone and call your “besty” or sponsor now. Get a phone list from a CMA or NA meeting and start calling until someone answers. They will probably be happy to be of service and listen as you “talk out” your cravings.

Get Support: Go to a CMA, AA/NA Meeting, or any Sober Support Group ASAP. Don’t wait till later. Get support. You don’t even have to be a member or CMA or NA to go and just sit there quietly in the safety, or share. The main thing is to surround yourself with sobriety, as soon as possible. If there isn’t a CMA meeting near, try NA. Also, in most cities, there is an AA meeting happening somewhere within the next two hours.

These are just a few ways to counteract a craving. The main goal is always to truncate the craving—interrupt it with some learned, new behavior—before the desire to use becomes overwhelming and you’re off to the races.

Try these strategies. One will usually work better for you. But I advise you keep them all toward the top of your toolkit, in easy reach.  Kill that craving before it can turn into actually using.

Next blogpost: a favorite trick of mine I’d use whenever I had a strong craving that wouldn’t seem to go away.