Category Archives: Coping With Urges

Defeating Addictive Urges

Posted on August 24, 2016

Anatomy of an Urge

by Farmgirl68 (Connie)

While taking the facilitator training, I watched a video with Joe Gerstein where he showed the ABC relationship with a lapse and how it often involves a belief (B) or a consequence (C) turning into another activating event (A) thus creating a cascade of ABCs.  This intrigued me, and putting it together with the way I had noticed my own urge experiences, I realized most of the time there is a basic pattern an urge takes on for me.  Being a very visual thinker, I began to formulate on my computer screen a picture of how my urges occur. Continue reading

Relapse Justification: A Normal Part of Change

Posted on July 19, 2016

relapse_justificationYou have made some pretty big changes in the past few weeks. You’ve cut down or stopped drinking and using substances, you’ve tried to reach out to friends and family to build up a support network, and you’ve worked to align your daily life with your values and goals for yourself. Overall, it’s been a huge success, and you’re feeling great about yourself. That’s when a little voice in your head starts to speak, a little voice that says, “You know what, I have done a great job! Things are so different right now, I could totally go out and drink and not over-do it! I’ve got this all under control!” That little voice is yours; it’s your brain doing a little something called relapse justification, and it’s a normal part of any behavior change process.

Continue reading

Brain Re-Training

Posted on June 28, 2016

mrs_d
When I first stopped drinking I knew that one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was my own brain – specifically my hard-wired thinking around alcohol.

I knew that after twenty-plus years of drinking I was locked into a mindset that regular consumption of alcohol was a good thing. I deeply believed that alcohol was a vital ingredient in life. I had been introduced to that way of thinking by my society as a teenager and had reinforced those messages to myself through years and years of regular booze consumption.

Continue reading

Managing Your Feelings Without Substances

Posted on June 21, 2016

Does having a cigarette make you feel more energized and focused? Does having a drink make you feel less depressed, less anxious or help wind down tension at the end omanaging_emotions_1f a long day? The reality is, people use substances because they have an effect that they appreciate. The problem for some, however, is that the effect of substances is inherently short term. Once the effect has passed, you may find that you want to feel those effects again because the underlying state of being is uncomfortable in some way.

Continue reading

You have the power to choose

Posted on June 14, 2016

Change or Continue Suffering: The Choice is up to You
by Hank Robb, PhD, ABPP

Discover the Power of Choice!I think the title of this article is a good description of SMART Recovery®’s philosophy. Individuals can continue as they have been, or they can change, and they get to choose. Perhaps they can change their circumstances, perhaps not. They can always change the way they relate to their circumstances. Even if we cannot immediately change the frequency, intensity, and duration of urges, for example, we can choose not to act on them. As a practical matter of fact, when urges are not acted on, then over time they tend to reduce in frequency, intensity, and duration, such that they may not occur for months or years. So, urges can be changed eventually, if not immediately. Continue reading

Spring Has Sprung, Should You be Worried?

Posted on May 17, 2016

Spring has sprung! The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and birds are singing. While you are replacing your boots with sandals and pants with shorts and skirts, you can feel the energy buzzing in the warm spring air. Sounds great, right?

As you work to cultivate a life of mindfulness and present-moment attention, you may start to notice another side of spring. The change of season can bring on a whole new set of challenges which may come as a quite a surprise for those trying to change their use of substances.

The sidewalk cafes are bustling with brunch-goers drinking wine and laughing. You may find yourself wondering, “Why can’t I have just a glass? It feels so good to finally get back outside after a winter of being cooped up indoors.” “Perhaps smoking a joint would make me feel even better?” “How can I go to a baseball game without a beer to go with my hot dog?” You may find that the impulse to pair fun, social, or just outdoor activities with the use of substances can grow much more intense as the weather heats up.

For people who do not struggle with substances, the decision to use a substance (including alcohol) or not can carry about as much weight as whether to have the steak or the fish for dinner. However, for people working on changing their relationship with substances, situations like these can be challenging, difficult, intimidating, and even overwhelming. External triggers (sidewalk cafes, concerts, sports, beaches, longer days) and internal triggers (feeling good, memories of warm weather past, relaxation) can become more apparent with the change of season.

So what can you do if you are looking to make changes? What can you do if you find yourself wrestling with these thoughts and feelings? How can your loved ones best support you? Improving your Awareness and Coping skills and well as building your ability to Tolerate is a threefold approach to relapse prevention which can be applied to coping with the change in the season.

To start, try to increase your awareness of the high risk situations, people and feelings that might increase ambivalence about your goals in this season of change. This will allow you to prepare yourself and plan for ways to stick to your goals. For example, you might take some time to think through your triggers and identify that seeing people at a sidewalk cafe drinking is triggering to you. Then you can plan your route home to limit the number of cafes you pass, or perhaps you make sure that you have an alternate form of decompression ready for you when you get home. Either way, your awareness of what triggers you allows you to prepare yourself in advance.

Next is coping. How does one cope with all of the new “triggers” brought about by the spring? One action for this might be making the decision to avoid certain events. Is a backyard BBQ full of beer too tough for you right now? How about planning a massage or lunch with a friend you don’t strongly associate with drinking? Another strategy might be to reduce the time you spend at these events and/or to bring a safe friend along. Maybe you can go late to the concert just for the music you want to hear and leave as soon as it’s over? Maybe you can bring a supportive friend or family member to the beach, since there is no need to do it alone. Find a way to have a (non-alcoholic) drink in your hand and partake in the food that is available in order to avoid people pushing drinks or craving a drink because you are hungry. Finally, if you find that your emotions start running high or your capacity to stick to your goals is weakening, have an exit strategy planned in advance. You can also book-end events with healthy people or things on either side of a potentially tricky situation.

And what about the all-important role of tolerating? What exactly does this mean? In this case what might be most important to remember is that cravings and feelings (both negative and positive) are time limited and they do pass. In the moment of intense cravings or feelings, it may seem as though the desire to use will never end. The reality…is that cravings always end.

If you are trying to really change your relationship with substances, it’s important to build up your ability to tolerate cravings and feeling of ambivalence without doing something that goes against the goals you set for yourself or makes things worse. Here are some suggestions to increase your ability to tolerate these tough moments…

  • Have a friend to call who can remind you that you will get through this moment and that you have before.
  • Make a note and put it in your wallet to remind yourself of your reasons for wanting to change and ways you have tolerated these moments in the past.
  • Create a mantra that you say to yourself over and over until the feeling or craving passes.
  • Cheerlead yourself with positive, supportive feedback. The way you “talk” to yourself really matters!
  • Practice meditation on a regular basis.
  • While none of these suggestions are a quick, easy fix, that all will build your capacity to tolerate difficult situations that may arise.

If you are new to making changes, getting through this change of season can seem a little daunting, but if you embrace and use these skills you can get through! If you’re a seasoned veteran of behavior change, it’s good to remember these skills! Each experience you have for the first time may challenge you in unexpected ways. Some things may be easier than you expected, some may be harder, and some may be just what you anticipated. Whatever the case, your decision to change is admirable and inspiring. Using these skills can help you achieve and maintain your change goals.

Julie Jarvis, Ph.D.

Reprinted from the Center for Motivation and Change at http://motivationandchange.com/cmcs-blog-for-individuals-and-families/