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Embracing Crave Episodes

John R. Polito - March 11, 2001

Our body's fight or flight response has preprogrammed us to either stand and fight or turn and run when faced with challenge. If a brand new quitter (a newbie) then chances are that there is another nicotine feeding cue waiting around the corner that will soon spark a crave, a short yet possibly powerful anxiety attack.

The cue that triggers the crave could be a time, place, person, activity, event or emotion during which you had previously smoked, vaped, chewed or dipped nicotine so many times that you conditioned your subconscious to expect replenishment of a constantly falling blood serum nicotine level.

The good news is that the vast majority of subconscious cue triggers are extinguished and silenced by a single encounter during which the conscious mind says "no." The good news is that the triggered crave anxiety episode will normally peak within a couple of minutes (but keep a clock handy as cessation time distortion is real and can make the minutes feel like hours). The good news is that there is a reward awaiting you at the end of each crave episode, the return of another aspect of life. The good news is that the anxiety power of our crave generator fizzles a bit with each passing day, and with each encountered crave there is one less triggering cue to extinguish. The good news is that entire days where you never once encounter an un-extinguished cue are fast approaching. The bad news is that if you're a newbie then there is probably another crave episode just around the corner. But is reclaiming life bad?

So what approach are you using? Do you duck or run when you sense one coming or turn and fight? Is your game plan working to your satisfaction? Our recovery objective is simple - NO NICOTINE HERE AND NOW - but our natural instincts on how best to achieve our objective may not be the easiest path to travel.

A distressed lady putting up her hand as if saying noCan we hide from our craves or will they find us anyway? Can we run away 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? I think not.

Meeting, greeting and silencing all of our mind's subconscious crave triggers is a very necessary part of recovery. Encountering and extinguishing each is good not bad. Why fear taking back life? Why fight being rewarded with a gift or prize, the return of another aspect of life? It's true healing in every sense!

The natural insecticide nicotine is known to promote cancer by both angiogenisis (growing new blood vessels that nourish existing tumors) and by inhibiting apoptosis (preventing the natural death of diseased cells), to harden arteries and to foster diabetes. But what about a crave? Can a crave that lasts less than 3 minutes harm or 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?

How much of the anxiety associated with your recovery will be self induced? Why agonize over the anticipated arrival of your next crave? When it finally arrives, will your mind immediately begin breeding additional anxieties, anxieties that pour a gallon or more of gasoline atop a simple burning wooden match, panic which quickly transforms the ground upon which you stand into a raging inferno?

The anxiety associated with a craving for nicotine is as real as the nose on our face. But how much of that anxiety is self induced? Why not find out?

Be brave during the next episode. Instead of feeling a tremendously inflated experience driven by fear, fueled by anticipation and possibly tense due to a history of prior relapses, just once, resist the urge to fight or run. Don't be defensive. Instead, drop your guard while taking slow deep deliberate breaths, and then reach out inside your mind and "TOUCH" your crave. It won't injure you.

It's okay to be afraid but try to be brave just this once. In your mind, wrap your arms around the crave's anxiety energy. Clear your mind of all chatter for just one moment so that you can feel the true anxiety of your healing. Feel your tummy rising and fall as you take slow deep deliberate breaths into the bottom of both lungs. Briefly clear your mind of all chatter, worries, fears and thoughts so that you can sense and appreciate exactly what this crave is like.

Image of a calm and clear mind that is not trying to avoid, hide from a smoking urge, crave and use cue but instead manage, controland minimize the self inflicted anguish, stress and turmoil heaped upon it.Touch it, hug it, 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 your mind and life may ever know. Yes, there may be anxiety present but for the very first time it isn't being fed and fueled by you. Feel it's intensity peak and then slowing begin to decline. Take pride in your healing. It cannot hurt you. Only you can do that.

Savor your healing don't fear it. Embrace and welcome each and every opportunity to take back your life. Enjoy coming home. There is a calm and quiet mind up ahead, one that will go days, then weeks and then months or even years without once having an urge or crave to introduce nicotine into your bloodstream. But don't take my word for it. Read the accounts of those you came before you.

For additional crave coping tips read Chapter 11 of Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home. Baby steps, just here and now, these next few minutes, yes you can!

Breathe deep, hug hard, live long,


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Created July 11, 2014 and page format updated June 14, 2015 by John R. Polito