Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lesson #41: Craving Relief (Part 1)

For awhile now, I've been feeling that my morning coffee was poisoning me. It used to be fairly harmless: eight ounces of half-caf, with a little milk and sugar. No biggie, right? Then I started using those frightfully unwholesome creamers that contain high fructose corn syrup ( the crack-cocaine of sweeteners), titanium (a no-nonsense "whitener"), and tons of artificial flavors and other unpronounceable ingredients. The next thing I knew I was drinking fourteen ounces of strong coffee with another couple ounces of syrupy creamer.

I knew I should get off the stuff, but that wasn't working out, so two nights ago I put my coffee pot away and decided to go cold turkey. The next morning, predictably, my monkey mind started screeching and jumping about wildly in its cage. The fact that I had gone to the trouble of hiding the coffee maker served as distressingly irrefutable evidence that I had an "issue."

I started looking for a loophole. Maybe I could have the coffee without the creamer. Or the creamer without the coffee (Aaacckk!!!). Maybe I could have the coffee with raw honey or stevia extract for sweetener. Or I could switch to decaf and still enjoy the heavenly sweet titanium. Perhaps I could have the usual, but in a smaller cup. Embarrassingly, this went on for awhile, as if it were a reasonable problem-solving session. But then I had an epiphany.

In that moment, I realized that no matter what I decided to do about the coffee, (even if I never touched the stuff again) it wouldn't solve the craving that lurks beneath it. The coffee is not the problem. The caffeine and the sugar are not the problem. The carbs and the fats are not the problem. We can ban one food, substance, or behavior after another, but trying to control ourselves will never address the inner cravings and the outer compulsions, and until we face them adequately, they will keep acting themselves out in our lives.

These cravings represent a cry for help from within. We may be stressed out, angry, lonely, depressed, frightened, emotionally overwhelmed, bored, etc., but we don't always know how to address or manage these thoughts and feelings, so we ignore them in hopes that they'll just go away. But they don't, and they keep surfacing over and over again, in the same or different form until they are properly addressed.

Please join me here next week when we continue this discussion. I will share a couple great techniques for getting to the bottom of the cravings and compulsive behaviors. The most important thing, perhaps, is recognizing that our old ways of denial, avoidance, and control no longer work, and we need to be courageous enough to take a look at what's operating below the surface.

(Note: this morning I didn't think about coffee at all. Miraculously, the monkey was off my back, at least for today. How did this happen? I believe the realization that coffee was just coffee, and not an emotional life raft, caused it to lose it's power over me).