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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,



  1. Betsy Cromwell May 1, 2018 at 12:05 pm #

    Triggers & Actions
    1. Restaurants – read the menu at home and know what I’m going to order, don’t sit and peruse the menu once I get to the restaurant
    2. Airports – have the food with me that I will need for the day. Lots of prayer and call people. Good book. Walk the hallways looking at the people, ignoring the food places.
    3. Starbucks – don’t go
    4. Convenience stores – whenever possible, don’t go. If necessary for bathroom, pray, and think of everything in there as poison – bc it is to me.
    5. Boredom – I need to get around other people or to immerse myself in an activity – walking, sewing, knitting, even TV, make calls, write, garden, get outside
    6. Going to my brother’s at Christmas – talk to new people if there are any there, stay away from kitchen and dining room table, make sure I’m not extremely hungry – eat my scheduled meals
    7. Christmas season – remember this holiday comes every year and the foods I associate with it are available all year long, nothing is ever as good as I think it’s going to be, any food with sugar or flour in it will begin the hell of food addiction cravings again, remember the misery of the 8 months leading up to my surgery

    • H. Theresa Wright May 1, 2018 at 12:53 pm #

      Wonderful! Great suggestions, Betsy! Thank you!

  2. Cari Heumann May 1, 2018 at 12:50 pm #

    Hi Theresa!
    I really get so much out of reading your blogs! When I think about my most common triggers, I come up with these:
    1. Severe stress
    2. Illness
    3. Parties & family gatherings (they usually put me into a position of where I wish I was “normal”)
    4. Being around binge foods or grocery shopping when I am already actively hungry or upset about something
    5. Vacations
    6. Holidays
    7. Family situations
    8. Certain relationships
    9. Uncomfortable feelings

    The actions that I can and do take to deal with these situations include:
    1. Increasing my self-care in times of stress or illness
    2. Having a list of alternative safe foods for when I am ill
    3. Bookending parties & family gatherings by calling someone before and after these events
    4. Eating my planned meal prior to grocery shopping
    5. Praying and asking angels to protect me from my binge foods when I am upset
    6. Carefully planning out my vacations by either packing my own food or knowing where to go to get the foods that I need
    7. Focusing on the special parts of the holidays that do not include food; doing something special for myself around the holidays that does not include food (maybe a day trip to somewhere fun or getting a massage)
    8. Learning what it is about certain relationships that trigger me: is it my stuff or theirs? I might need to create some distance with someone. I might need to learn how to create boundaries with another. I might need to remove a toxic person from my life entirely.
    9. Working with a good therapist who validates my feelings and my truth, who points me inward so I can see and strengthen my own self-esteem, independence, and abilities to keep myself centered and grounded.
    10. Learning meditation techniques that work for me
    11. Learning multiple ways to connect with my Higher Power
    13. Learning how to let go

    I hope my experiences here can perhaps help someone else who is reading this blog. There is always hope and always a light. We are all warriors and we are stronger than we realize. My strength comes from within, for within myself is where my Higher Power resides. I send love and blessings and many thanks to you, Theresa.

    • H. Theresa Wright May 1, 2018 at 1:32 pm #

      Great ideas. Thank you, Cari!

  3. Felicia Sussmam May 11, 2018 at 3:48 pm #

    Hi Theresa
    When I think about my most common triggers, I come up with these:
    1. Financial Issues
    2. Illness
    3. Parties and social Gatherings
    4. Anything involving family
    5. Mothers day
    6. All other holidays
    7. Work Stress
    8. Vacations
    9. Grocery Shopping
    10. Trauma stuff coming up
    11. Therapy

    The actions that I can and do take to deal with these situations include:
    1. Calling my sponsor
    2. Bookending parties/gatherings/social situations with phone calls
    3. Bookending parties & family gatherings by calling someone before and after these events
    4. Eating my planned meal prior to grocery shopping and bringing my husband or one of my children with me. Having a list of items and amounts of what I am purchasing planned out.
    5. Praying and asking the God of my understanding to protect me from my binge foods and lift my cravings
    6. Carefully planning out my vacations by either packing my own food or knowing where to go to get the foods that I need
    7. being of service during the holiday
    8. Working with my therapist to make a plan to keep contained and centered
    9. My daily prayer and meditation routine
    10. Meetings
    11.Step work
    12. Calling and checking in with my dietician when things are rough
    13. Self care – get a mani/pedi or take a warm shower with a special sented gel

    Still working on mothers day this weekend

    • H. Theresa Wright May 12, 2018 at 1:09 am #

      Wonderful ideas! and pay attention to smells, too.
      Trauma does come up, but we do not have to live in it or allow ourselves to ruminate on it. I know this is the very hardest part.And it happens every time. We’re going to have a blog and a retreat on trauma soon. I hope it will help you.

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