All your life you have been conditioned to either stand and fight or turn and run when faced with challenge. If you are just commencing nicotine dependency recovery then chances are there is another subconsciously conditioned trigger waiting around the corner that will soon generate a short yet powerful anxiety attack that we call a crave. The trigging cue could be an emotion, time, event or place where, or during which, you used to suck warm nicotine laden saliva into crying gums and stomach in order to replenish your blood’s rapidly falling nicotine level.
The good news is that most triggers are reconditioned and discarded by the subconscious mind with just a single encounter. The good news is that the triggered crave episode will last less than three minutes. The good news is that the anxiety power of our crave generator is fizzling fast, and with each encountered crave there is one less trigger to recondition. The good news is that the reward of total and complete comfort and new expectations of awaking each day and not wanting for nicotine is just down the road. The bad news is that if you’re just beginning this amazing temporary journey of adjustment then there is probably another crave just around the corner. But is it bad?
So what approach do you use? Do you duck or run when you sense one coming or do you turn and fight? Is your game plan working to your satisfaction? Our objective here is simple – NEVER TAKE ANOTHER CHEW, but our natural instincts on how best to achieve our objective may not be the easiest path to travel. Can we hide from our craves or will they find us anyway? Can we runaway from them or will they catch us? It’s the same with going toe to toe in battle, isn’t it? Can we beat-up our craves and make them surrender or cry “uncle”? Can we scare them away? Encountering all of our triggers and craves is a very necessary part of recovering and normalizing every aspect of our daily lives. It’s true healing and we should fully embrace it!
Tobacco’s deadly cargo is clearly a killer but what about craves? Can a crave that lasts a couple of minutes kill you? Will it cut you, make you bleed, or send you to the emergency room? Can it physically harm you? If not, then why fear it so? How much of the anxiety associated with your recovery is self-induced? Why agonize over the anticipated arrival of that next crave? Doing so will only fuels the fire.
The anxiety of a craving for nicotine is very real and it’s ok to reach out and feel it but most are afraid to do so. Instead, what they feel is a tremendously inflated experience driven by fear, fueled by anticipation, and tense due to a history of prior relapse. Just once, stop running, drop your guard, take slow deep deliberate breaths and then reach out and touch your crave. It won’t injure you.
It’s ok to be afraid but be brave for just one moment. Wrap your arms around your next anxiety event. Clear your mind for just one moment so that you can feel the true anxiety of your healing. Make sure that you feel your stomach rising and falling as you take slow deep deliberate breaths. Clear your mind of all needless quitting chatter, worries, fears and thoughts so that you can sense and appreciate exactly what this crave is like.
Feel it, sense it! You won’t make the anxiety one bit more intense than it otherwise would have been. You’re witnessing part of the most beautiful healing that your mind, body and life may ever experience. Yes, there is anxiety there but for the very first time it’s not being fed and fueled by you. Feel it’s strength slowing and begin decaying. Take pride in your healing. It can’t hurt you. Only you can do that. Enjoy your recovery don’t fear it. Embrace your craves. Enjoy your journey home as there is very special person waiting at the other end.
© Joel Spitzer 2005
The original article has been modified to be more relevant for dippers and chewers.