It's the 4th quarter of the NFL Super Bowl. There are 10 seconds on the clock, it's 4th down, on the 10 yard line, and the Dolphins (sorry, but I'm a Dolphins fan so I'm using them as an example) are down by 5 points. The opposing teams fans are screaming their heads off as the Dolphins try to decide on the next play. The most important play of the game. They come to an agreement, they all take a serious look at each other almost to say "this is what we've been waiting for! It's our turn to take the trophy home." They line up opposite their opponents. They are shaking with anticipation and almost look as if they are cars revving their engines at the starting line of a NASCAR race. The quarterback yells "hike!" The receivers take off to the end zone with their arms flailing to catch the quarterbacks attention. "Im open! Im open" one yells. The quarterback scans the field yet disregards their cries to pass them the ball. He can see they aren't actually open and realizes he has to make a decision as the time clock fades. He's running it himself! He takes off towards the end-zone and the defense quickly realizes what is happening. They all start gunning for the quarterback, to take him down and to earn what they feel is rightfully theirs. The quarterback doges one tackle...8-yard line...jukes another...5 yard line...hurdles over a defender, making an attempt to dive towards the goal line...he lands and both teams pile up on him. Did he make it?? Did he score?? Did he cross the goal-line?? The referees manage to clear away the battling teams. The crowd is silent awaiting the signal from the ref. The referees arms go straight up in to the air...TOUCHDOWN!!!!
For days after the big game, once the trophy has already found its new home for the year, all anyone can talk about was that quarterback's daring run to the end-zone. "He did the impossible. What luck!" the sports announcers say. "How did he do that" or "It was a miracle!". With all of the hoopla and opinions of that day, the only person that knows what really happened that day is the quarterback himself. He knows it wasn't a miracle. It wasn't luck. What the outside world is failing to realize is the effort he put into training himself to react the way he did during that stressful situation. He was able to think clearly under pressure because he's practiced that exact situation thousands of times, over and over again, in his head. He ran drills for years, trained his body, taught his mind to adapt. The big game may have come down to one moment for the world, but for him it was about years of training his body and mind to do exactly what he accomplished that night.
At this point, you are probably wondering "what does this have to do with recovery?" There's no doubt that was an exciting sports story but why did I take the time to write that. Let me explain...
If anyone has ever experienced a craving, they know it can be debilitating. I'm not talking about a fleeting thought of your favorite drink or drug of choice. I'm talking about a real craving. An urge so powerful it takes the wind out of you. Something or someone triggers something deep within your subconscious and suddenly you can't think of anything besides drinking or drugging. These happen in recovery, especially early on. How do we deal with that feeling? What do we do?
From early on in recovery, we typically are taught to follow various sets of rituals, whether they be call a sponsor everyday, frequently attend support meetings, find a home group, develop a support group and stay in contact with them, pray daily, etc... We are "trained" to do these actions daily. We are told to call our supports even when we have the slightest thought of using allowing the process of reaching out for help to become an easy practice to accomplish. I like to look at these practices as putting deposits in the "spiritual bank". All of these rituals are put in place for a reason though. It's not just to manage the instability of early recovery. The main reason we practice these daily rituals is so we can be ready when that massive craving hits, that's our "big game." We won't have time to think rationally about the consequences of using. We aren't able to "play the tape all the way through." We have to act on our trained instinct during that time. All of the practice of picking up the phone and calling our sponsors or supports. All of the times we've prayed for a minor craving or obsessive thought to be removed. The repetitive efforts in our recovery, the deposits to the "spiritual bank" all now protect us during this difficult time. We are able to utilize our tools that we've engrained in ourselves day in and day out. Our past efforts have allowed us to adapt our body and mind to react in a positive way to the powerful phenomenon of craving.
Eventually, the craving will pass. It may not have taken more than a few moments to overcome the craving, but it was the effort put into your recovery before the craving happened that we can actually accredit it's passing to. We will have survived "the impossible" still being able to pass a breathalyzer test or urinalysis! Not because we got lucky and not because some miracle happened but because we put time and effort into training ourselves to react in the way we did on the day when the "big game" happens.
Now take the trophy home, you've earned it.