“Craving” is a strong desire when unfulfilled, produces a powerful physical and mental suffering. Every person has experienced this suffering at one or another, but when these feelings endure or recur frequently, they can be the source of much misery. Understanding of how and why we crave is very much important. If craving was just an innocuous thought, you could simply wait for another thought to take its place, think about something else, or distract yourself and it would pass like any other thought.

Three major reasons cravings should be managed effectively. First cravings are correlated with relapse. People who crave more are more likely to return to the craved substance or behavior. Second, cravings are distressing and uncomfortable. People who have severe cravings will often describe them as maddeningly uncomfortable. And finally cravings matter because they can be affected, they can be improved, they can be relieved. But for you they are most important because they are yours. They are deeply personal. If you want to manage your cravings, first you have to understand what your cravings are. They matter because you alone are experiencing them, they are influencing your behavior, and your actions can directly influence them. You are not hopeless when it does not come to your cravings, nor you are destined to experience them forever.

Craving and urges are time-limited, that is, they usually last only a few minutes and at most a few hours. Rather than increasing steadily until they become unbearable, they usually peak after a few minutes and then die down, like a wave. Urges will become less frequent and less intense as you learn how to cope with them. If we never acted on cravings, they would simply be unpleasant, extraordinarily uncomfortable experiences.

When life is not going well for people in recovery it can mean also having to deal with cravings. The usual way that the individual will have coped with problems in the past will have been to run to the bottle or the drug. When things go wrong in recovery they may feel this same urge. Because they still are under the influence of their diseased mind. It is not only the bad times that can produce these cravings though. If things are going well for the individual they might also find that this produces thoughts of relapse. This is because in the past they will have associated celebrations and the good times with substance abuse.

What you believe affects what you want. Even more so, what you do affects what you want. When what you want is out of reach, you actually want it less. By taking simple actions, many of them seem irrelevant, can affect your cravings. Removing access to the object of craving is, of course, critical, especially early on in your process. What you believe about your cravings can also predict whether you will act on them. Your own interpretation is what matters the most. You just have to be very clear about your urges and cravings, and keep giving yourself positive messages that this is not going to last forever. It is just a matter of minutes.