I’m in the middle of a 10-hour drive and I’m standing in line at Burger King. The problem is there is no line. There is a tall lanky guy in a Burger King outfit staring at me. He’s smiling, but I know. I know I’m holding up a line – it just is a line that doesn’t exist. I know in my heart of hearts that I have to rush and make a decision on what I’m going to get. The thing is I’ve truly come in for a large diet Coke. I truly believe that. I think.
Another competing truth is that I could’ve gotten a diet soda at any of the gas stations that I passed. But, somehow, I wound up at an establishment that just happens to also have cheeseburgers and extra-large order fries that I would just love to have. But again…that’s not why I am here. But I have been standing here staring at the menu for more than a few minutes. I mean I kind of have to order something now, right? Or else the 16-year-old kid (who I will never see again) is going to think, “Hey! What’s wrong with this guy?” It is definitely worth eating at least 1600 calories worth of food that I don’t need so this kid doesn’t think less of me.
I literally have what I would call have a mental brain freeze for a moment. I don’t know whose voice it is, but there is a voice inside my head that goes: “What the hell are you talking about!”
I shake my head, as if I got hit really hard in the face, walk up to the 16-year-old kid who holds my self-worth in his hands. When he asks me what I’d like to order, I say, mustering up the most courage that I have, “I’ll take an extra-large Diet Coke.”
To my surprise there’s no rebuttal. There’s no sneering, laughing, pointing. No covering his mouth and eyes squinting. He doesn’t turn and ask the other Burger King employees to come over so he can say, “Do you believe this guy? He stared at that board for at least 10 seconds and he’s just getting a Diet Coke! Who is he trying to kid?”
The thing about craving is that we take it personally. We take craving personally because it hurts. It hurts because we see it as a reflection of our self-worth whether or not we give into the craving or whether or not we are courageous enough to use our will is a shield against it. Neither is the case. We don’t need to inflate cravings’ role in our lives. We don’t need to assign it an evil mustache or an angelic halo. It holds one or the other or both sometimes. Broken down, it’s a wiry, itchy, under-your-skin feeling that demands that you act before you think. The urgency of craving is shoot first and ask questions later.
Out of all of our emotions it withstands rationalization, creates a fictitious storyline (hence my over-concern about the judgmental 16-year-old Burger King attendant), and refuses to except no for an answer by creating uncomfortability until you give in to it. The reason why we give in to cravings, is because, while we’re craving whatever it is that we’re craving, we forget that there are actually two possible outcomes:
One – we give in to our craving and we feel relief. We feel satiated. We may lose a little bit of dignity, self-respect or self-worth, but we no longer feel uncomfortable so there’s that.
Two – We don’t give in to our craving, allow for the uncomfortable feeling for the moment, and we remember that there is such a thing as time. What the hell does that have to do with anything you might be thinking.
Time is the antidote to cravings. You may not kill it. You may not be able to bury your craving in the ground after a considerable amount of time. But, rest assured, if you can out last you’re craving, you’re craving will get smaller, and you will gain confidence that you can handle your next craving. Haven’t you ever gone to bed at night wanting carbs, sugar, ice cream ( a gigantic root beer float with sprinkles on top of it!) and you were able to hold off and go to bed and wake up the next morning without any craving for it whatsoever? No, I’m not guaranteeing that the next night you didn’t want your root beer float, I mean who wouldn’t, but it might come at you a little less hard. You may find after one victory against craving that it’s easier to face it again. Why? Your memory is just a little less hazy on that second out-come now. It knows even though it’s feeling pretty darn terrible that it’s not going to feel that craving for the rest of its life. You now know, through your own experience, that a craving has a shelf life at best, and that it can be minimized over time. This self-knowledge is the kiss of death for a craving.
As the words Diet Coke left my lips I immediately felt better. Not 100% better. I still want my large fries and burger, but better. By the time I got out to the car, I was barely feeling the craving. The next emotion that had slid into its place was pride. Maybe a little bit of self-worth. There is no alternate universe where I believe that I will never put myself in that same position again, but in this universe, I now have the knowledge that cravings are only feelings and therefore finite. That may be all I need when I get to my hotel. I know there’s a Wendy’s across the street.