Three Things

Posted on April 11, 2016

Part 3: Prepare and Plan for Urges

By Jim (GJBXVI) Braastad


StrategyScientific research shows that people who have recovered successfully (regardless of the method used) all have three things in common, those being: 

  • Commitment to sobriety; 
  • Change in lifestyle; and 
  • Prepare and plan for urges.

In prior posts, I’ve provided why I strongly believe a commitment to sobriety is so crucial in the path to recovery, and how a change in lifestyle will be needed to be made as well. In this final post in the series, we’ll talk about the last of the “Three Things”, to prepare and plan for urges.

This final task to take on is a key player in the whole process as well, because those “urges” can, will, and DO come! However, if you have prepared for them and have a plan in place to deal with them, they won’t catch you off guard… something that can set one up for a lapse or relapse.

Urges are often pushed on us by our Destructive Self-Talk (DST), or as I call it “Damn Stupid Talk”. Over the course of time, I’ve likened my DST to many different things including a nagging ex-wife (sorry gals), a pesky neighbor, along with a slew of others that often included some rather choice expletives!

Urges can take on other forms as well. They can come in the form of a thought or an image we see. One doesn’t have to look very hard to find a television commercial, a newspaper or magazine ad, a billboard or something else advertising some type of liquor, beer or wine. It seems that no matter where you go, the bars and liquor stores seem to be “front and center”. Many grocery stores also have liquor and wine sections, and most gas stations and convenience stores also sell beer.

We’re not safe from the radio either! Not only do they have advertisements, but there are the songs as well. Remember “Tequila” by The Champs? How about “Straight Tequila Night” by John Anderson, or “Tequila Sunrise” by The Eagles, or “Ten Rounds of Jose Cuervo” by Tracey Byrd? There’s also “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” by John Lee Hooker, “Whiskey Girl” by Toby Keith, “Two Pina Coladas” by Garth Brooks, “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” by Joe Nichols and the classics “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett and “Jose Cuervo” by Shelly West.

The list goes on and on… “Strange Brew” by Cream, “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, “One for My Baby” by Frank Sinatra, “I Drink Alone” by George Thorogood, “I Love this Bar” by Toby Keith, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett, “I’m Gonna to Hire a Wino to Decorate Our Home” by David Frizzell, “Hey Bartender” by The Blues Brothers, “Why Don’t We Get Drunk?” by Jimmy Buffett and “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks.

Many of these are “oldies”, but apparently we’re not safe from new music either. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine studied the lyrics of hundreds of popular songs and found that one in three mention alcohol or drug use. (  ONE IN THREE!!! Are they out to get us, or what???

Places and activities can trigger an urge, too. Summer at the beach, a round of golf, bowling, a friendly game of cards at the hunting shack, weddings, graduations, family reunions… this list also goes on and on. You name it and it could very likely be an activity which was once enjoyed that may also have drinking associated with it. So what are we supposed to do, hole ourselves up from life to protect ourselves from all the external forces?

Early on, I found it necessary to put “blinders” on, so to say, as I couldn’t expect the rest of the world to change just because of my problem with alcohol. I was not going to quit listening to the radio; I was not going to quit going places or doing things or seeing people. I wasn’t going to quit doing things I like, with the people I like, at the places I like just because alcohol would be present. My desire was to continue living my life much as I had been, only WITHOUT the drinking. In order for that to happen, there was a need to plan and prepare for urges and the temptations that I knew would be there.

Putting oneself in the direct path of temptation may not be the best route or choice for everyone. It really depends on how confident you in your convictions and the strength of your commitment. But again, I realized the temptations were ALWAYS going to be around and that the urges DO occur.

For me, facing them head and purposely “playing with the devil” gave me an added strength to continue on my forward path. I also learned that just because the temptation is there doesn’t mean I have to succumb to it! (Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks???)

By preparing and planning for urges and the temptations you’ll encounter, you’ll have the upper hand in your recovery efforts and keep those urges at bay.

What do you think? Make any sense?

Jim has been active in SMART since 2009 in various volunteer roles. He’s currently the Program Coordinator for the SMART Recovery Distance Training Program.

3 thoughts on “Three Things

  1. Richard Pelto

    Offer some advice to,
    Have a toast to the proud parents.
    Awe common, just one ain’t gonna’ hurt non.
    If you say your with us then, drink with us.
    WTF you got your nose so high up there ya’ can’t celebrate with the folks who made you?
    Here have a shot, I’ll never tell a soul.
    Hey man, it’s vodka, no ones gonna’ smell it and non of us ain’t sayin’ shit about a drink with best friends.

    I don’t have an addictive personality I just choose not to drink so I have comebacks to fit the antagonist with no urges to contend with. And I’m a good size past scrapper so how I respond usually goes unchallenged. But and a BIG BUT for those doing the good self talk to be challenged by the the good buddy contrary talk, has self control seeds of doubt planted and nurtured. There are many ways to to no. I gauge answers to the personality from which they come. No need to feel bad for saying no to an action that may have you feeling bad. The way I see it saying no might make the wanna’ drink with me buddy feel bad but then ask yourself who I prefer to feel bad, me or him/her feel bad. No brainier here given I have the choice for might feel bad. Give some thought to situations that could arise and some person to personality answers ready and don’t explain an obvious answer because your friends don’t need the expatiation and your enemies won’t believe you anyway.

  2. Mark

    I’ve been sober 6 years and I still turn off the radio (or change the channel) if certain groups come on. I just associate that music with drinking in far too intimate a way. I feel the allure so I turn it off.
    Music is meant to tug at our emotions.

    That is the only thing that I do differently nowadays. I also didn’t want to be an recovering alcoholic who hid from the world. I have overcome or created work-a-rounds for all the rest, but not that.

    Maybe I should try some desesitizing activities. Like listening to the group but not to the songs that I associate with drinking. I would need to think about that more before I attempted it. If I already recognize the danger, maybe listening to it in any capacity could be my way of preparing for a slip. As you know, most slips are planned.

  3. FreeFallingSober

    Thank you for this! I really resonate with the article and the fact that you decided to meet those urges head on. I have taken that approach as well and so far, so good. Otherwise, I would never be able to leave my house! Even to go to the grocery store! I do plan when I go out and have found that if I get to a social gathering where there’s alcohol (where isn’t there?) I immediatly get a ginger ale. It really helps! And I also go through a whole mental picture of what drinking would involve-and all of the baggage that would come with it. That is a great deterrent for me!

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