November 27, 2015

Managing Cravings

Cravings

Cravings have fascinated me. I’ve always thought that if you are wrestling with cravings when you try to break a habit or addiction, you’re pretty much doomed to fail. But I think it’s possible to overcome an addiction without cravings.

MY EXPERIENCE

Smoking cigarette

When I was in my twenties, I smoked 50 cigarettes a day (I know! I never do things in halves). It was a serious habit. I used to watch the clock to wait 15 minutes between cigarettes — you could smoke at your desk in those days.

One day I went to the doctor to get a prescription for the pill. He asked me if I smoked. When I said “yes”, he cited statistics around my risk of cervical cancer … smoking and being on the pill.

Hit between the eyesWham! It hit me between the eyes and I decided right there and then that I would stop smoking. I didn’t give up immediately but planned to stop a week or so later. I did as I planned.

But the thing I remember most about that experience was that I did not have any cravings. I felt terrible … for months, sort of fuzzy in the head.  I admit, I ate a lot of lollies but I never once wrestled with the “will I” or “won’t I” have a cigarette. I just stopped.

I’m not an expert in neurology and realise my lone example is not an adequate research sample, but it seems to me there must be some way to engage the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain we use to exercise judgement) such that the brain overrides its own cravings. Of course the brain still needs to adjust to not having the drug, but I see that as a different experience to a ‘craving’.

Hope

In my experience, it seems if your motivation is strong enough, you can stop … just like that. I guess the secret is … finding that motivation. The good thing is, it happens. I met others with similar experiences when I researched Mind Minders.

I wonder if you have had a similar experience?

P.S. Marc Lewis blogs about this here. He calls it ego depletion or ego fatigue.

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