It’s a fact that a craving has to strike before a person uses drugs or alcohol, and that’s why they can be terrifying for service users. A common technique in dealing with cravings is to distract the individual from their desire to ‘use’. Yet, if someone avoids something the result is often a sense of fear, and from fear comes powerlessness. The substance user must be able to face their fear!
A craving is like a salesperson. Its purpose is to sell the thought of using to the customer and make it look attractive. It sells the idea of pleasure and euphoria.
It doesn’t talk about comedowns, or any other side effects, as that information would get in the way of the pleasure. The salesperson reminds the customer that if they use the product, it will change the way they view the world immediately, and that they will be stress and problem free.
In the break-up of a relationship, even if the decision to part was the right one, the parties will continue to yearn for one another, and the loss they experience will be extreme. This could be said of the service user’s relationship with substances, as they will miss their drug of choice and experience longing and desire as well as grief for the loss. Cravings – the salesperson – will fully understand this and will know how to target those feelings, either blatantly or silently, to keep selling the product.
When we help service users to look at their relationship with a drug, it is important to acknowledge the yearning they may experience and the grieving process they are going through. Rather than distract them from these feelings, give them permission to be honest about the craving, so they can be aware of the sales pitch that is being used on them. This recognition will then inform the craving that it has been exposed, so it will have to become less blatant, more subtle, more silent, more devious, to make the sale. Again the worker’s job is to help the service user to investigate these devious cravings so they can understand their sophistication.
Equipped with this information, the service user then has the tools to communicate with their cravings, stand up to them and say: ‘I see you, I know your agenda, and I am no longer afraid of you!’
Chris Robin offers treatment and training at Janus Solutions, www.janussolutions.co.uk