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Photo of the back of a lady wrapping her arms around and hugging herself. The caption reads embrace crave episodes

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.

As nicotine addicts, we conditioned our subconscious as to when to expect replenishment of our bloodstream's constantly falling nicotine level. The cue that triggers the crave could be a time, place, person, activity, event or emotion during which you normally smoked, vaped, dipped or chewed.

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 intentionally says "no."

Crave epsiode timing chart showing the average number of craves experienced per day.

The good news is that despite time distortion making time feel longer, the triggered crave anxiety episode will peak within a couple of minutes. The good news is that there is a huge reward at the end of each crave episode, the return of another aspect of life.

The good news is that the anxiety power of your crave generator fizzles a bit with each passing day. And with each encountered crave there's 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 healing and 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 promotes cancer by both angiogenisis (growing new blood vessels that nourish existing tumors) and by inhibiting apoptosis (preventing the natural death of diseased cells). It induces DNA damage, hardens arteries and foster diabetes.

But what about a crave? Can a crave that peaks within a couple of minutes disease 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 does arrive, will a nicotine starved mind immediately begin breeding additional anxieties? Will it pour gasoline atop these glorous moments of cue extinguishment and healing? Will panic activate your mind's fight or flight pathways, transforming the ground upon which you stand into a raging emotional 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 that's 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. Don't fight back. Don't try to run, find a distraction, reach for food, or hide.

Instead, feel your breathing rise and fall as you take slow, deep and deliberate breaths into the bottom of healing and thankful lungs. Just this once, elevate yourself above any crave related chatter, worries, fears, emotions or thoughts. Allow them to come and go, to rise and fall, without interference or struggle. Instead, inside your mind, watch, sense and appreciate healing's anxiety turmoil.

A loving observor, there's no problem that needs solving. Strive to transcend and accept what's happening, not control it. It's good not bad.

Continue taking slow deep deliberate breaths as you slowly and totally drop your guard. Then, inside your mind, reach out and "touch" your crave. It won't injure you.

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.Rise above your fears. See yourself reaching out to the crave's raw energy. Touch, feel and sense it. Doing so won't make it any more intense than it otherwise would have been. It is what it is.

It's okay to feel afraid. But try to be brave here and now. In your mind, picture yourself wrapping your arms around the crave's anxiety energy.

Strive to clear your conscious thinking of as much chatter as possible so that you can feel and sense the true anxiety of your healing.

You are witness to the most frightening part of most amazing healing your mind and life will likely ever know. Yes, there is anxiety present. But for the very first time, it's not being fed and fueled by you. Now, continue to watch as you begin to sense the crave's intensity peak and then slowing begin to decline, fizzle and die while within your embrace.

Allow yourself a smile. Savor and feel pride in your healing. Strive to embrace and welcome each and every recovery opportunity. Enjoy coming home as you reclaim and take back life.

For there is a calm and quiet mind up ahead. It's 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 more than 800 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 January 30, 2016 by John R. Polito