Have you been quit for a while — maybe even a few months — and you still get strong craves on occasion? Do you wonder if maybe there’s something wrong with you, that you’re still having such strong cravings this long after you quit? Do you ever question if maybe you’re just not strong enough?
I read something at QuitNet many years ago; I can’t recall the name of the person who posted it, or exactly how they put it, but the idea has stuck with me all this time, just the same:
Addiction is not about weakness, and recovery is not about strength:
Addiction is about self-deception, and recovery is about being honest with yourself.
Craves Are a Normal Part of Recovery
Of course you’re going to have cravings occasionally; you’re a recovering addict, and cravings are a normal part of recovery. In the early days of your quit (and, realistically, anything less than a year is early days), they’ll be relatively strong and fairly frequent, but the longer you go without feeding them, the weaker and the less frequent they’ll become.
You should be aware that you may have cravings off and on for as long as you live: addiction is permanent, so be prepared. I relapsed after nearly 3 years of freedom in my early 20s because I chose to feed a craving, and it took me another 25 years to finally quit again for good.
Learn to Respond to Craves Appropriately
The key is to train yourself in the early days to respond to cravings appropriately:
First of all, recognize that resistance is futile; an addict’s cravings are like the ocean: relentless, and ultimately, irresistible. And, while you can’t hold back the ocean, you can learn how to sail.
Craves Are No Big Deal
When you get a craving, tell yourself, “Oh; having a crave.” Totally ho-hum; no surprise, no drama. Accept your crave the same way you would accept that the face that’s looking back at you from the mirror is your own. No big deal; it is what it is.
Then, remind yourself that you’re choosing to accept this moment of discomfort as a sign of your recovery, and reaffirm your commitment to staying free.
Finally, just get on with your life: don’t dwell on it or stress over when the next one might come; it will come when it comes, and you’ll choose how to respond to it when it gets here.
Craves Are Necessary and Useful
The bottom line is, the only time you can choose not to smoke, and have it mean anything, is when you’re craving a smoke. Because the only time an addict ever relapses is when they’re craving a fix.
The more you practice choosing not to feed your addiction in response to a crave (especially when the craves are at their strongest), the more ingrained that response will become, until it becomes second nature.