Here's the worst time for cravings to kick in: 1 AM. Here's why: I'm trying to sleep. My whole job at 1 in the morning is turning my brain off and somehow slipping across that boundary from awareness to dreaming. This is very easy if I just let it happen, and impossible if I'm trying to make it happen.
At 1 AM all the justifications and rationalizations for relapse sound reasonable. This is a hard fight because I am literally fighting both sides. I want to stay clean, but I also really, really want to give in.
The side in favor of giving in is still me, and has heard all the reasons for staying clean before. So the “give up” monologue sounds like this:
Yeah, I know, I know. If I give up and get really stuck this time I'll lose my family and probably my job and live in a crappy apartment working some dead end job and using all my money on rent and food and video games and the addiction. I'll end up a fat, loser, loner slob and die alone but you know what? Good. I'm tired of trying to live the “good life”. I'm ready to just give up and sink into addiction entirely and just. Stop. Trying. It's too hard and using takes the pain away. I'm done with the pain.
And in the middle of the night there is a certain appeal to this.
But I didn't fail this time.
Here's the response that worked this time:
I thought about the people I love. Not just like, a list of names. I thought about their actual faces, their actual personalities. One by one. I thought of what would happen to each one of them if I just gave up. Spoiler alert: It never ended well. If I give up it will hurt people.
And in that half-dream state I imagined each of these people, and I imagined my bond with them as a physical thing, a golden chain. I took that chain between me and them, and I tied it around the cravings. Chain after chain, person after person, wrapping those cravings tight, constraining them, removing their power. I know it was just a semi-dream, just my brain making a metaphor for itself, but this time it worked. This time it was enough. Eventually I rolled over and fell asleep.
I'm still feeling the cravings this morning, but in the daylight I can deal with them. When I'm up and active I have developed a number of strategies to dodge the cravings. I hope they will have dissipated by bedtime tonight. Or I hope that I'm tired enough to fall asleep before they make themselves heard in the dark of the night. But if I not I have one more tool to deal with midnight cravings. I have a new metaphor to help me remain strong, and a new mantra: If I give up it will hurt [the name of one specific, real person], repeated, cycling through people I love, fighting back for them.
Wish me luck.