Last week, we talked about triggers and cravings. This week, let’s talk about how to manage them. The first piece is: they are going to happen. Accept this. You may not like it, you may even hate it, but triggers and cravings will happen at some point in your recovery.
How many times have you heard me say, “Acceptance is not approval; acceptance is to stop resisting reality.” I hate going to the dentist. But when I have a toothache, I have two choices: deny it, and let it get worse, or call the dentist and make an appointment. If I refuse to accept the fact that I have a toothache, the problem gets worse until I am forced to handle it. And that may mean a cap or a root canal, rather than just a filling. Refusal to accept and take action costs me more time, more pain, and often more money.
Triggers and cravings are like this. The sooner you take action, the faster you will be free.
But you need to recognize the trigger when it happens. For some of us, it is like an unsettled feeling in our bellies, or like a situation that runs around and around in our minds, or like dealing with a family member who just does not understand.
I have a rule for myself: one trigger means OOPS! I need to talk with someone about it NOW. Two triggers mean I need to talk about it AND pray about it; three triggers mean talk about it, pray on it, and decide how to take action, then take action.
So, when you have to visit that relative, it is going to be a trigger. Set up someone available to talk after you leave. If there is a buffet of your drug foods, perhaps you will call from the ladies’ room, perhaps you will ask HP for help, perhaps you will go sit in another room and talk with dear Aunt Tillie. If your hostess burns chocolate chip cookie dough candles while you are there, that is a triple whammy. Maybe you need to pray; maybe you need to hug Aunt Tillie and leave, making that phone call on the way home.
Sit down with me right here and right now! Make a list of a dozen of your most common triggers and at least a dozen actions you can take to resolve them. Send that to me in the comments; let’s share the ideas with others.
Now cravings are different from triggers. Always, if you ignore your triggers long enough, they will grow into cravings. But a craving can come out of nowhere, and it feels like a ton of bricks fell on you. One client described it like this:
“It is a driving force that overtakes my brain. I can think of nothing else. It involves all of my consciousness and my brain is on autopilot. I feel like I will die if I don’t get that food. The plane could be crashing, but I need to eat this. It is a visible force of nature.”
Another client said,
“When I need to eat, it’s like if you took a whole box of Exlax and tried to not go to the bathroom for 48 hours. Impossible. Overwhelming. Irresistible.”
This is hard to manage. That is why it is so important to deal with your uncomfortable feelings right away. One recovering woman told me she sat on her kitchen floor and asked her Higher Power to come get her; she waited, HP came.
Another said, “I called my sponsor; she said she’d be right over. And she came with another friend and saved me.”
Another said, “I got in the bathtub and stayed there a long time, crying, till it passed.”
A craving is a powerful urge to do the thing you are wanting not to do. A trigger is a less powerful warning that it is coming. Both triggers and cravings can be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual in origin. But believe me, they are very, very real. Take regular stock of your program. Are you maybe eating some foods that aren’t quite good enough for you? Are you allowing yourself to obsess or ruminate? Are you speaking rudely to yourself, blaming yourself, putting yourself down? Are there feelings you need to process or handle? And do you let yourself cry, or feel and express your feelings in other ways? Do you have people you trust to talk things out with? Are you working on a spiritual program? Meditation? Reading and writing? Fellowship? Do you have enough emotional and spiritual support?
Sit down with me here and make another list. What do you need to do to protect yourself, or rescue yourself? Be welcome to call or email me privately if you need to. This is hard work. It is never perfect, and not always in our control. But you can learn to manage it and live a life of joy and freedom.
Blessings to you,