Cravings are sign that the addiction is dying. Well done for getting to this stage!
If you’re reading this post then it’s likely that you’re in the middle of stopping a habit. It may be a drug habit, gambling, binge or comfort eating or cigarettes. Whatever it may be, ‘giving up’ a habit by going ‘cold turkey’ sometimes comes with powerful cravings that seem almost physically painful.
I’ve used hypnotherapy in Reading, Oxford, Thame, London and Wallingford to help people ‘give up’ a habit and I can tell you that cravings are a sign of progress. They’re something to be welcomed and they can be beaten.
Cravings are a good thing. They’re a sign of progress and of hope for the future.
What’s more, it’s not as if you simply have to sit there and helplessly endure them. There are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of their coming or the intensity of their presence.
You don’t have to passively wait for them to occur, as if they’re nothing but waves rolling over you.
Take charge, take control and lessen their incidence and their power.
This post will give you some powerful tips as to how it can be done.
What’s going on? Why do I have this craving?
The habit you established set up a neurological reward system. You felt bad, you indulged in the habit, you felt good. Your brain learned to release endorphins when the habit was indulged. Endorphins are naturally produced opiates. They make us feel great. You learned to associate the habit with the feel-good factor and so the habit became entrenched in your unconscious as a wonderful thing. Indulging = reward.
Now that you’ve decided to let go of this addiction, now that you’ve decided to stop, your brain is wondering what happened to the trigger – action – reward cycle.
Once upon a time you hit a trigger situation. This may have been sitting in a pub garden with a pint in your hand. This scenario triggered the ‘nicotine would be nice’ feeling and the action of smoking brought the feel-good endorphin rush as a reward.
Once upon a time you got home and went to the fridge for that bottle of wine. That first sip, that first glass, brought on that wonderful feeling.
Whatever your vehicle, the mechanisms inside your brain are the same.
Your brain is now wondering what happened to this cycle and is trying to force you to get back to the old routine. Cravings are the brain’s way of saying ‘we need this to feel good. cravings will force you to carry on with that lovely habit of yours.’
Once upon a time you enjoyed this habit. Whether it was cocaine, alcohol, biscuits or gambling, you loved the feeling it brought you. As time went on you began to realise that there was a cost to the habit. Your conscious mind knew that it would be good to stop but your unconscious wanted and wants you to carry on. Cravings are its weapon. It’s trying to whip you back into action as an addict.
You can resist. You can win. You can overcome the cravings.
You can learn to deal with cravings. You can learn to beat them. The important thing, however, is not to feel bad for having them. I’ve just met a drug-user who is experiencing terrible cravings as a result of going cold turkey. He feels bad for having these cravings because he sees them as a sign, a symbol of his weakness. This is not true.
- Cravings are a sign of your strength. You have stopped for sufficiently long in order to have these cravings. They will pass. When they do, praise yourself for getting to this stage and praise yourself for waiting the craving out.
Listen to this recording a few times before the next craving comes along (never whilst driving) and listen to it during the next craving episode. It will help you to focus on other things and to learn how to observe cravings impartially. I see clients for chronic pain. I see clients for tinnitus. With such clients I encourage them to use these techniquesin order to learn how to observe cravings in a neutral fashion. Observing it (rather than fighting it or telling yourself that you’re terrible for having it) will help you to let it pass.
3. Give your craving a face. Give it a name. Give it a personality. Don’t make it too demonic. Make it cuddly. After all, it’s trying to help you. It thinks it’s getting you back to something worthwhile. When the next craving happens, be aware of the feeling, the thoughts, of everything else discussed in point 2’s recording. Then conjure up the image of the craving and talk it down. Comfort it, tell it that it doesn’t need to be there anymore, that you can and will live without the addiction.
Cravings are trying to be helpful. Welcome them and thank them for being there.
4. When the craving passes it’s time for you to reward yourself for surviving the experience without giving in. It doesn’t matter what the reward might be, it could simply be self-praise, but give yourself a symbolic pat on the back. Every craving is a sign of your addiction dying. You deserve to feel good about this.
5. As you lie or sit there, experiencing these cravings in an impartial manner, picture the benefits of life without this addiction. Visualise and feel how good life is going to be once you’re free. List the benefits. Imagine yourself experiencing them. Imagine how good it will be to feel proud as a person who has freed themselves from the grip of this habit.
6. Exercise! Exercise before the cravings, exercise during the cravings. Even a brisk walk will do. Exercise will install new behaviours and exercise will create endorphins and dopamine in a healthier way.
7. Breathe! Breath through the cravings whilst allowing yourself to observe the craving impartially, as described in 2′ recording. Take some deep breaths and wait them out. Cravings may be powerful but they will always pass.
8. If cravings continue or if you feel as if you really can’t work through them then seek some help. It isn’t a weakness to confess that you need a little extra support. It’s a sign of strength. Find a good therapist in your local area and you could quickly find a way of coping with cravings and dealing with any other psychological factors which stand in the way of freedom from addiction.
9. Focus on your reasons for stopping the habit. Cravings are more intense when you’re not feeling so completely committed to overcoming that habit. Sometimes cravings are the sign of a divided mind. If you’re feeling ambivalent about stopping the habit, if you feel sad that it’s done with then stop indulging in those ‘that used to be nice’ way of thinking. Focus your imagination on how good it’s going to be free to be completely free of the habit. Focus on the benefits. Refuse to miss the habit and the cravings will weaken.
I’d be glad to help you if you live in or around Thame, Wallingford, London, Oxford or Reading. If you do and if you could use a little support then feel free to call me on 07786 123736 / 01183 280284 / 01865 600970. Alternatively you could email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form below.