The Recovering Gamblers Podcast: LIVE

Episode 24

July 26, 2021



First Segment - Chapter 4: Coping with Urges - Part 2


EXERCISE: Identifying your triggers


What is a trigger?


Triggers are the things that lead to cravings (I want to), which can lead to urges (I need to). They may be your emotions; something you've done, are doing, or want to do; a time of day, week, or year; something you touch, hear, see, smell, or taste; or anything else that leads to urges. Each of us has our own triggers.


They are not excuses to use and they are not unpredictable.


Addictive behaviour teaches your brain to associate some things with the pleasure or relief you feel when indulging in the addictive behaviour. Even when you stop, your brain will be reminded about the addictive behaviour when you encounter your triggers, or allow yourself to conjure up triggers.


Your brain can unlearn this thinking reaction (I want to) to a trigger. These reactions may last a while but will eventually decrease to be the briefest (milliseconds) of unhelpful thoughts.As humans, brief, ridiculous, and unhelpful thoughts come into our heads all the time about things. we quickly dismiss for what they are - silly thoughts and no more. The more serious urges (I need to) usually subside in a few days, weeks, or months.


  1. To identify your triggers, think about the substances or behaviours that stimulate your senses: Sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. Make a list. You may not be aware of how many there are. How many can you identify? Be honest and list them all, even if they seem insignificant.

Example Identifying Triggers


Addictive Behaviour

Trigger Examples


Seeing Needles and drug paraphernalia


Provocative ads, perfume, certain hairstyles


Any white powder, tin foil


Grocery shopping, certain aromas


Adverts, sound of a can opening, certain times of day


Lottery adverts, seeing scratch games in shops, football pools


Certain music, skate parks, seeing rolling papers in store


Meals, smell of cigarette smoke, stress, coffee or alcohol


Identifying my triggers

Addictive behaviour

Trigger examples



Trigger risk


Once you identify your triggers (and you may identify more as you continue your recovery), keep track of how likely the triggers are to spark an urge. The highest-risk triggers are those that most often spark an urge for you.


  1. Rate each trigger from 1-10 (10 is the riskiest or most likely to trigger an urge). This will help focus your efforts so you can work on the hardest triggers first.


Example Trigger risks.


Rate risk on 1-10 scale

Unpleasant emotions: Anger, frustration, grief, etc.



Pleasant emotions: Joy, peace, anticipation, etc.



Unpleasant physical sensations: Pain, cold, heat, etc.



Stress: Peer pressure, work issues, general fear, financial concerns, etc.



Conflict with others: Spouse; co-workers, boss, children, parents, etc.



Physical place or time: Restaurant, park with friends, car, work, summer, evening etc.







  1. Now that you rated the risk of each trigger, apply the triggers to you addictive behaviour. For each addictive behaviour, list every situation you can think of that triggers your urge to use. Follow this example:


Example Trigger worksheet

My addictive behaviour: Cocaine


Risk 1-10

Fighting with my spouse


Hanging out with mates


Driving by the corner where I used to buy


Dancing at a nightclub





My trigger worksheet

My addictive behaviour:


Risk: 1-10




Identifying your triggers is an important part of your recovery. Awareness gives you the power to understand and deal with urges; however, even with awareness and planning, you will experience urges. It's a normal and natural part of recovery.


An awareness and understanding of urges is crucial to recovery. You identified what triggers them, but do you know how long they last? How intense they are? How frequent? Most people with addictive behaviours don't realise that urges usually last only seconds to minutes and then pass.


EXERCISE: Urge log


One way to understand your urges is by recording them in an urge log. An urge log is a table in which you record specific information about your urges. After a few entries, you may notice patterns and similarities about your urges. The log then becomes a road map that will help you anticipate situations and emotions that may trigger urges. You also may notice certain thought patterns associated with your urges, which are helpful in self-management and problem solving (Point 3).


You may find that you can create an urge log in your journal, if you're keeping one. If you're not, use the Urge Log. Keep it with you so you can immediately log each urge before you forget it. At first, you may need to write in it many times a day. When you identify urges triggered by certain times, places, or situations that you encounter regularly, you can plan ways to avoid those triggers or distract yourself from the urge until it passes.


Distracting yourself


Although it may be difficult at first - especially during intense urges - distracting yourself is one of the best ways to get through an urge. When you’re actively doing something, you’re thinking about that and not the urge.


The more you refuse to give in to urges, the less frequently they occur; and the more quickly they pass. They also will become less intense. Here are some examples of activities you can use to distract yourself from an urge.


Identifying distractions.




Clean, cook, wash dishes, iron, garden, laundry


Walk, run, swim, yoga, Pilates, ski, weights, inline skate


Computer, board, chess, puzzles, darts


Draw, paint, write, photography, sculpture


Knit,embroidery, leather work,scrapbook, wood work

Martial arts

Aikido, judo, karate, tai chi, tae kwon do, jujitsu

Outdoor activities

Bird watch, walk, hike, bike

Performing arts, music

Sing, play, practice music, mime, dance

Personal growth

Read, attend a meeting, career development

Read, listen

Fiction, nonfiction, music performance

Social activities

Invite a friend out, attend a MeetUp, group or club


Go to a movie, live theatre, watch TV, old movies

Team sports

Table tennis, hockey, soccer, softball, kickball


Art, history, language, math, science, humanities

Trades and crafts

Paint, build, work on car, tinker in your garage

Vent feelings

Talk, journal, draw, cry, throw eggs at the ground


Soup kitchen, hospice, church, SMART


Consider using the Weekly Planner to document your interests and activities. Plan activities for times you know you may get urges. Check your urge log or trigger worksheets for times when urges tend to strike.


STRATEGY: Coping with urges


On the following pages is a list of basic and advanced strategies adapted from Dr. Tom Horvath's book Sex, Drugs, Gambling & Chocolate: A Workbook for Overcoming Addictions. You can practice and refine these so that they work best for you. The first 14 are the easiest to learn and do. The advanced strategies require deeper self-knowledge and more practice. It's important to discover which ones work for you and then practice them frequently. After a while, you won't need to practice them because they'll become part of your life; you won't even have to think about them.


  1. Talk about each strategy as we go through the list. Have you experienced them in your recovery? Did they help? Have you any opinions or views on them? Etc.


Basic strategies


  1. Avoid - Stay away from the triggers that lead to urges. Avoid situations, sensations, or stimulations that may bring on an urge. The earlier in your recovery that you identify high-risk cues that trigger urges, the earlier you can start avoiding them or escape when unexpectedly faced with them.


  1. Escape - Get away from the urge-provoking situation. If you find yourself there, leave immediately.


  1. Distract yourself - Concentrate on something other than your urge. Distract yourself with activities you enjoy, especially if the urge is intense. Simple activities, such as counting objects or saying the alphabet backward, can fill up your attention so that you have nothing for the urge. Focusing on your Hierarchy of Values is a positive form of distraction.


  1. Develop coping statements - Instead of thinking, "I deserve a drink because I have to deal with X problem," tell yourself, "Even though it sucks that I have to deal with X problem, drinking isn't going to help me."


  1. Review your CBA - It may not turn off the discomfort, but it may help you maintain your motivation to resist your urge. It may help to review it regularly, even when you're not having an urge.


  1. Rate your urge -Write in your urge log. Put it in perspective and look for exaggeration. On a scale from one to 10, rate its intensity. Are you exaggerating? Compare the discomfort of resisting the urge to other uncomfortable things, such as being boiled alive or having your fingernails pulled out.


  1. Recall moments of clarity - Think of a moment when you realised using was a problem for you, or a moment when you knew that changing your addictive behaviour was, without question, the right thing for you to do.


  1. Recall negative consequences - When you feel an urge, you may think only of the benefits of using. To create a more accurate picture, carry the thought through to include the negative consequences that follow. For example, if you've given up smoking and a cigarette urge arises, you may fantasize about how good it feels to inhale the smoke. Carrying that thought through means you also remember how badly you cough when you walk up a flight of stairs.


  1. Picture your future - Visualise yourself in the near future feeling good about resisting the urge. For example, paint a mental picture of getting up early Saturday morning without a hangover.


  1. Use the past - Recall successfully resisting urges in the past. Remind yourself that the urge will pass and how you have routinely resisted them.


  1. Ride the wave - Observe the urge and visualise that you are surfing a wave that crests, weakens, and disappears. grows,


  1. Call on role models and coaches - Talk to others who have mastered coping with their urges to learn from their experiences. SMART meetings and the SROL message board and chat room are filled to encourage and support you. with people farther along in their recovery who are willing


  1. Reach out for social support - Talk with a non-judgmental and supportive person. It's helpful to have a list of people you may call when you're feeling the discomfort of an urge. Let them know how they can help you because they may not intuitively know.


  1. Accept the urge - Recognise that it is uncomfortable and hold it at a distance. Experience it as you would any passing thought. Observe it as an outside object. See it but don't evaluate it. Acknowledge it as something that used to be a problem, then return. your attention to whatever you were doing. Don't turn the urge into a bigger issue by pretending it doesn't exist.


  1. Reflect on how you feel when you are abstinent - Once withdrawal symptoms have passed, you will be feeling physically and emotionally better than when using. Realise that using again will make you feel bad again.


Second Segment - Topic of the Week


  1. How did the Thursday meeting at Sheffield make you feel? How did you get over it? What did you take away from it? Feel free to elaborate more but remember anonymity and try to focus on how it impacted you.


Third Segment - Zen: The Art of Simple Living - Week 3


  1. Savour The Morning Air


The monk’s secret to a long life is found here


Each day is not the same




It is said that Buddhist monks who practise Zen live long lives.


Of course, diet and breathing techniques are contributing factors, but I believe that a regular and orderly lifestyle exerts a positive influence, both spiritually and physically.


I rise each morning at 5am, and the first thing I do is fill my lungs with the morning air. As I walk around the temple’s main gall, reception hall and priests’ quarters, opening the rain shutters, my body experiences the changes of the seasons. At 6:30am, I perform the Buddhist liturgy by chanting scripture, and then I have breakfast. What follows is whatever the business of that particular day is.


The same process repeats itself every day but each day is not the same. The taste of the morning air, the moment when the morning sunlight arrives, the touch of the breeze on your cheek, the colour of the sky and of the leaves on the trees - everything is constantly shifting. Morning is the time when you can thoroughly experience these changes.


This is why monks perform zazen meditation before dawn, in order to physically experience these changes in nature.


With the first zazen practice of the day, kyoten zazen - morning zazen - we nourish our mind and body by breathing in the beautiful morning air.


  1. What are your thoughts on this? Have you tried to do this before? Have you had success? Will you try it this week?

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