The Phenomenon of Craving
I have thought a lot about the phenomenon of craving. I have battled with it from the very beginning, when I first tried to get sober at fifteen. Even when I had over two years sober I would find myself suddenly consumed with cravings so powerful they would literally bring me to my knees in desperate prayer. It would happen at work, at the beach, at home, even at meetings -there was no sure place where I could get away from it.
I used to feel guilty about craving alcohol and drugs. I know several people in the program who had a powerful, magical moment of “surrender”, and from then on they never even had a passing thought of wanting another drink. I very much wanted to be one of those people. That way seemed somehow better to me than the “slow, educational variety”.
When I would have cravings, I would usually call someone else in AA and talk to them about it. My most common response was “you just need to surrender!” This created a lot of angst within me, and more reasons to beat myself up, because no matter how hard I tried to reason with myself, I couldn’t seem to get rid of the cravings.
I’m happy and relieved to say that today I don’t remember the last time I craved a drink or a drug. I know it couldn’t have been more than two months ago, but it wasn’t yesterday or this morning. I’m grateful for that.
What has helped me to begin to release the cravings is accepting the fact that my recovery might be of the slow, steady, educational variety, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I didn’t have a metaphysical moment where all of a sudden all desire for alcohol was lifted from me forever, but I have had some incredible spiritual experiences that I believe have helped me move forward, even if it was only one step at a time.
The biggest realization that my Sponsor helped me to discover was that craving alcohol, drugs and the oblivion they eventually bring me is out of habit as well. I spent my teen years drowning my emotions in parties, booze and drugs, among other things like food and sex. Somehow, someway, I have been conditioned to react to strong emotions with the automatic desire to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Maybe this comes from my childhood, where having powerful emotions was not accepted and often used as fuel for future humiliation, whether it was sadness, happiness or anger.
But the first thing I remind myself when I feel like I want to use is the fact that I’m not actually craving the vodka or cocaine. I am long past the physical cravings. What I am really looking for is freedom. I am literally craving freedom and relief. I want the EFFECT that drinking and using once had on me: coming fully into the present moment, no fear, no paranoia, no worry about the future or what other people thought of me. Nothing mattered except having as much wild fun as possible with the people around me.
When I remember that, I can immediately turn to prayer, because while drugs and alcohol used to bring me freedom, they don’t anymore. I have been in recovery long enough now to understand that what brings me relief and happiness is connection to my Higher Power. Connection to my Higher Power means that I am living in the present and not worrying about the future or others’ opinions of me! Remembering this feels a lot like taking a bag off my head.
I spent a long time trying to fill a God-shaped hole with temporary poisons like alcohol and drugs. But ultimately, my spirit is craving adventure, unconditional love, and connection to my Higher Power.
So when you feel those cravings coming on after a stressful day, or after a big success, remember that you’re really desperate for peace, stability and freedom. Alcohol and drugs may bring that for an hour or two – but prayer and being of service will bring that for a lifetime.