Saturday, 20 June 2015

Cravings & Tantrums

Day 111, and this is my 100th blog post.

I remember, when I started writing this, thinking that I mustn't post too often or I'd run out of things to say. But here I am, 99 posts later, and still warbling on about booze.

I do love the hour I spend (almost) every morning typing away on the laptop in the kitchen. It makes me feel like Carrie Bradshaw, but with fewer Manolos and Cosmopolitans.

(And I bet Carrie didn't type with one hand while removing dried on crusty Rice Krispies from the table with the other. Still).

It struck me the other day that dealing with cravings is much like dealing with toddler tantrums (Carrie would never use child rearing analogies either). Here's why:

Entry level:  Give in.

Give toddler what they want and they shut up (for a while). But this only teaches them to kick off even more frequently, and with more volume.

That's what I did for decades with the booze. Feel like a drink; have one.

Level one:  Distraction.

Toddler has tantrum. You bring out favourite toy and start making up a story. End of tantrum (for a while).

This is a great technique when you first quit drinking too. Feel like a drink; go for a walk, have a bath with bubbles and candles, eat cake, blog/read blogs, do the gardening, clean the house - whatever works.

I've been on level one for the last 3 months. Then, I suddenly realised that I am starting to use level two. Not always, but often.

Level two:  Deal with the root cause.

After months, or years, of trial and error, you start to realise that, inevitably, toddler tantrums are not about what they think they are about.

For example, toddler has tantrum because they want to watch another episode of Peppa Pig. It is totally out of proportion. They yell until they're red in the face. Then blue. They go rigid. They've actually forgotten what the issue was in the first place, but can't get out of the funk.

Here's the truth: it's not about Peppa Pig.

They are, almost certainly, hungry. Or tired. Or bored. Or overstimulated.

What they need is a rice cake and a nap. Not more Peppa Pig, or distraction with another game (they'll still be hungry and tired, and there'll be another tantrum later - but worse).

The same is true of cravings. You can give in to them (v bad idea). You can distract yourself (it works but, in the end, it only delays the problem). But really what you need to do is to see the craving as a warning signal. It's like the light flashing on the car dashboard.

That warning signal isn't actually saying I need a drink. Your body does not need a drink. After a matter of days (or weeks at most) you are not in the slightest alcohol dependant. We have just got used to dealing with any warning signal by drowning it in alcohol.

What you actually need to do is to find out what the warning signal is really telling you. What is the tantrum actually about?

In my case, the flashing light is usually anxiety related.

There's no point ignoring it and going off for the long bath, because the root cause of the anxiety won't go away.

You have to breathe deeply, work out what the problem is and how to fix it, then put a plan in place. Like a grown up! Then you can go and have the long bath with the problem sorted.

And seeing the cravings as your friend means that you can deal with all those niggly issues early, and discover that your life is suddenly all calm waters and smooth sailing.

But if this is true, and cravings really are our internal toddler tantrums, then that means there is a...

Ninja level:  Avoid the tantrum.

By the time I got to child #3 I was a ninja. She hardly ever had tantrums because I could see well in advance if she was getting hungry or tired. I had routines. I always had healthy snacks. I had prevention strategies and contingency plans.

I didn't let the fear of tantrums interfere with what I wanted to do, and nor can, or should, you avoid any situations which will trigger an alcohol craving BUT you can plan in advance and make your life easier.

For example, I've learned to take my own AF beers with me if I'm staying with friends for a weekend.

I know that anxiety is a major trigger, so I write endless lists and try to get stuff done before it becomes urgent and more stressful.

If I have a tough evening coming up I try to catch 45 minutes sleep during the day so my batteries are re-charged.

And I guess that, over time, I'll develop more and more of these strategies until eventually....

......I'll be a proper grown up. No more tantrums. No more cravings. (Or hardly any. Let's face it, even grown ups have tantrums from time to time).

Have a great tantrum free weekend!

SM x


  1. You're getting rather good at psycho-alco-analysing. Pat on the back for another great blog! In the words of Westlife (desperately trying to think of a more street cred group?!?), #You lift me up, so I can stand on my own feet# x

  2. I'm such a bad Westlife fan (slap my wrist!). It's #you raise me up#. x

  3. I love this post. I love the levels.... so accurate.....

  4. This post is so timely - I am working at a clients home at the moment, and she has a one year old with a laugh that melts your heart and a shriek that pierces your brain. In desperation yesterday, I bounced her on my knee, and split screen the laptop so she could watch baby Einstein and I could look at business accounts. My client was busy washing poo out of her hair. Great post as alway! x

  5. Brilliant post very well explained.

  6. Perfect analogy.
    And it's important to remember that even as kids grow older, the triggers remain, and it is not a sign of weakness to be prepared with healthy snack or an afternoon nap.

    Sometimes I think I should (yikes the should word) be better able to cope now. But really, that's saying I should make my life harder on purpose just to prove I can. Not the gentle, loving choice!

  7. Forgot to also congratulate you on your 100th Post!! And YES, 63,000 views is amazing - I expect that number is higher - imagine how many people you are helping!

  8. Simply brilliant sm - you and the blog !

  9. Found you a few days ago. Loving your blogs. This one is very insightful & has offered me a great way of thinking about this. Thank you & Well done you.

    1. Welcome JoJingles, and thank you! Do stay in touch! x

  10. I am SO going to remember this for next time I have a stress craving. Maybe picture a toddler in my head, also the idea about preventing tantrums... something in that, anticipating the disaster before it occurs.