Remember This One Thing to Overcome Your Next Craving

overcome your next cravingRemember the last time you felt a strong craving to drink, use, or to act out sexually? I do. It actually was just a few months ago.


Cravings Come “Out of the Blue”

I was vacationing with my wife and son, visiting my family for a week in my home state of Michigan. It was a wonderful time; for a week, we enjoyed the wonder of a Michigan summer: thunder and rainstorms, visits to the local ice cream shop, grilling steaks, and laughing together until late at night. Everybody was drinking except for me, but I didn’t really think about it much.


Then someone brought to the cottage where we were staying a bottle of good bourbon, and around dinner time, when everyone else was enjoying a glass of wine or a rum and coke, suddenly it hit me. HARD. I wanted a glass of bourbon. Right. That. Second.


At first, I was really surprised. A few years ago, I cut back on my drinking and managed it by drinking less (I didn’t always do this well, but that’s for another time). But about a year ago now, I stopped drinking altogether and haven’t looked back. I had cravings for maybe a week and then, poof. No cravings. No desire to drink.


Mindfully Reflecting on My Urge

That’s why my urge to drink was so surprising and strong. Why was I having this urge now? I almost always drank to relieve anxiety. As I reflected on my urge, I realized it wanted me to believe that a glass of bourbon would help me connect with family, to feel closer to them. I really wanted that as I don’t see my Michigan family very often. This was precious time for me, and I wanted to make the most of it.


And instead of acting on the urge without thinking, I practiced what I often share with clients: I continued to think about my urge. I tried to listen to what it was telling me. I asked myself some questions to help me consider my options.

  • Would drinking that glass help me?
  • Is that really what I need right now?
  • How would I feel after I drank it?
  • Would I be able to stop at one glass?


By the way, if you want a great meditation to help you “surf” your urge in this way, check out this link.


Remembering This Helped Me Get Through My Urge . . . And It Will Help You Overcome Your Next Craving

All of this was and is well and good. It’s really helpful to have tools like mindfulness in your toolbox so that you can manage your urges and cravings when they come. They’re going to happen. You need to be prepared. I’m glad I was.


But sometimes in our efforts to marshal our internal resources to fight off or manage our cravings, we forget that urges are just feelings. That’s right. An urge is just a feeling.


It’s nothing more than your brain saying, “Hey, I want this,” or “Let’s do that right now.”


And that’s the thing about feelings. They change. In Michigan, there’s a saying: If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes; it’ll change. Urges and cravings are just like the weather in Michigan in that way. An urge is just a feeling. Find a way to bear it out and eventually it will change and go away.


And that is an encouraging thought.


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Jeremy Mast

Jeremy is a licensed marriage and family therapist (CA LMFT90961) in private practice in Ventura, California. He helps those struggling with drugs, alcohol, and out-of-control sexual behaviors awaken to new possibilities for their lives. He lives with his wife, son, and cat in beautiful southern California.

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