It took long before I finally found a way of dealing with craving that felt good. For years I used what everyone in recovery says to do: make calls, be with friends, attend meetings, pray, meditate, work the 12 steps, etc.
People told me, in a thousand different ways, I need to surrender my will to a Higher Power. I grew up Christian, so I knew well what surrendering meant. And I worked at it for years. I had times, which I’m grateful for, when I did surrender. Those were great. After much agonising (ie., various forms of crying out to God), I finally concluded that I couldn’t consciously make myself surrender, and do it reliably. Given that craving, for me at least, were a very reliable, even daily or hourly, experience, I couldn’t count on my ability to surrender.
Most of the things that I used to deal with craving were typically a form of distraction. And don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying don’t use these methods. I believe they have an important part to play. What bothered me about all these methods, however, is that they always left me feeling like something’s missing, like I hadn’t really dealt with the underlying issue.
Yes, I could make a call, and that might save me from engaging my addiction, but it usually left me feeling like I had to drag myself painfully away from something I wanted (porn in my case). And that left me feeling that the craving (or something about it) was left unresolved.
Even if I managed to avoid acting out, the experience was painful, and a feeling of incompleteness often gnawed on me. It felt as if I was putting the battle off for another day. It felt like something was still there to deal with, and it would come back. And it did!
I’m grateful I found another way. So much so, I’ve dedicated a significant part of my life to teaching it. Let’s try it:
Imagine you’re feeling craving for drugs, alcohol, porn, food or whatever. Imagine the craving is really on you. It fills you, starts controlling your thinking, your desires. You start getting scared because you don’t want to feel craving. You don’t want to go where craving leads. You don’t want the shame and guilt. Imagine how craving is at it’s worst for you. Take a deep breath and really sense this.
Now, imagine you turn within yourself and you connect with something in you that’s craving. You see that there is real suffering here, that the craving and pain are very close together. This is not an understanding with your mind. You feel it. You feel within just how painful it is, how it really hurts to feel this craving.
Now, imagine you turn again toward yourself and you hold the craving and pain very gently, as if you holding a small, frightened child in pain. You might, in fact, gently fold your arms over your chest as if you’re holding yourself in compassion.
There is no judgement here, no condemnation. You’re just holding yourself (and the craving) in a loving way, with compassion. And you really feel it. It feels healing. If you’ve gotten this far and you’re still tracking with me, take your time here.
This is how I like to deal with craving now. It feels like a real connection. It feels like the piece I’ve been missing in my own healing. It feels like I’ve connected to something deep inside, and to the Universe or God. It leaves me feeling open and alive. And the craving either feels resolved or reduced. Either way, this deeper connection feels real, and strong enough to match the most intense craving.
Did you try the exercise? How did it go? Please let me know in the comments.
Also, I teach this way of working with craving. I call it Recovery Focusing. I offer a complimentary session of Recovery Focusing where you can try it. There’s no commitments or obligation for further sessions.