First Segment - SMART Recovery Handbook - Chapter 4 - Part 3
- Same as last week, 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.
- Move beyond avoidance - When you're in the early stages of recovery, it's wise to stay away from places that trigger urges whenever possible. Avoidance, however, is not a realistic long-term strategy. Eventually, you'll be in a situation in which someone will offer you a drink, drugs, etc. You need to have the confidence to resist such offers.
It may help to bring along a trusted companion for support and guidance.
- Put yourself in a situation that may trigger an urge, such as a restaurant that serves alcohol.
- Use whatever basic strategies (1-14) have helped you resist urges. Practice refusing offers of your addictive behaviour so that you can handle peer pressure. Visualise:
- Someone trying to persuade you to use, or making fun of you if you refuse.
- Yourself confidently refusing.
- Someone who stirs strong emotions in you and is intent on getting to you to use.
- Keeping your focus and managing your responses.
- Bring out your urges - After you develop some mastery of coping with urges, you may want to confront them on your terms rather than wait for them to happen. It may help you gain confidence in your ability to cope with them. To bring out urges:
- Visualise a past situation in which you had a strong urge.
- Allow yourself to feel the urge and visualise giving in to it. Let it pass.
- Now, visualise the same situation again, only don't give in to the urge this time.
- Do this for as many situations as you need to.
- Using the same technique, rehearse a situation that may happen in the future.
- Role-play / rehearsal - SMART meetings are safe places to role-play. Other people act the parts of the people you anticipate will challenge you in high-risk situations. The meeting facilitator can help set up a role-play. Here's a sample:
- Show your role-play partner how you think a difficult person will behave.
- Your partner plays the difficult person while you play yourself in the situation.
- Once you finish the scenario, swap roles, and do it again.
- The people watching the role-play can then show you how they might handle the same situation differently by playing your part.
Consider role-playing challenges associated with events like holiday parties, weddings, and other special events.
- Refuse to use in social situations - There will always be occasions to use or act out. How do you deal with them? Here are some ways:
- Talk with a fellow recovering or recovered person about an upcoming event that you think may trigger an urge; a party, for example. Update them afterward.
- Bring it up in a SMART meeting.
- Rehearse or role-play the event with a SMART group and by yourself. Role-play or visualise the whole event. Prepare answers to the questions people will ask. Visualise getting a soft drink. Do it in your mind until it becomes natural.
- If the host is a friend, tell them before the event that you aren't drinking. Enlist them as an ally.
- Take a more experienced non-drinker or a friend with you who knows your situation.
- Eat something before the event, especially if you don't know when, or if, you'll be able to eat again.
- Arrive late; leave early. Prepare and use an escape plan. If necessary, prepare reasons for leaving early.
- Upon arrival, immediately get something non-alcoholic. You can then socialise with a glass in your hand not feel like you're standing out. This forestalls the "Can I get you something?" awkwardness.
- Remember, your drinking or not drinking is less important to others than you think. It's unlikely anyone is watching you or focusing on you for long.
If someone insists that you use:
- Make eye contact. It shows you're serious.
- Speak in a firm, unhesitating voice.
- Don't feel guilty. You have the right not to use.
- After you say no, change the subject. You only have to say no once.
TOOL: Destructive Images and Self-talk Awareness and Refusal Method (DISARM)
In the same way that your addictive behaviour is only a behaviour and not "you," an urge is merely a feeling or an impulse you experience, not the essence of you.
Some people find it helps to cope with their urges if they give them a name, as if the urges were another being or something outside themselves.
Give your urge and its voice a name that describes what it feels like when the urge comes on. SMART participants have used names like, "The Inner Brat," "The Lobbyist," "The Whiner," or simply, "The Enemy."
Naming your urge may help you recognise it sooner. When you hear the first whispers of its voice, address it by name, and firmly refuse it. Tell it to get lost or that it's no longer welcome: laugh at it. Then visualise it getting smaller and weaker, and disappearing.
Personifying your urge helps in two ways: It serves as a reminder that you are not your behaviour; it defines something that, until now, may have felt amorphous and shadowy. It puts you in a power position over the urge and your addictive behaviour.
- Visualising your addiction:
If your addiction was a person, what would he or she look like?
If your addiction was a person, what would his or her characteristics be?
What could you learn from this addicted person?
Give the one question you desperately want to ask your addiction and how would it answer?
Dealing with discomfort
Discomfort of any type, emotional or physical, can go hand-in-hand with urges. As we explained in chapter 1, it's our beliefs about an event and our resulting discomfort that can influence our addictive behaviours.
Your beliefs can be a major source of discomfort. At some level, you may believe that you can't survive discomfort or shouldn't have to tolerate it. Thinking about it in this way may actually cause your discomfort to get worse.
Abstinence will be difficult if you refuse to accept mild or temporary discomfort as a normal part of life. If you've spent years escaping from discomfort through your addictive behaviour, you've built up powerful habitual responses to it. Now you have the opportunity to accept and deal with discomfort in healthy ways. Remember, before your addictive behaviour began, you dealt with discomfort without the behaviour. You can learn how to do this again.
Some situations are not what you want them to be. Discomfort can be a useful feeling that tells us something is not right and motivates us to change the situation, or our thinking about it. Discomfort is not always "bad"; it is sometimes just part of the human condition.
What is discomfort?
Distress and discomfort manifest themselves in the body in different ways:
Physical pain - It's not just the pain but our demand that such pain must not exist that leads to additional discomfort.
Withdrawal and rebound - When you stop an addictive behaviour, you may experience withdrawal or rebound. For example, if your addictive behaviour gave you relief from stress or feeling down, you may experience despair or depression. The discomfort may feel intense for the first few weeks; however, be confident that it will eventually decrease.
Anxiety - Sometimes people experience anxiety after withdrawal and rebound. This type of discomfort may be what propelled you into your addictive behaviour in the first place. Evolution tells us that we may have inherited some anxiety or uneasiness from our ancestors. It kept them vigilant against the dangers of a wilder and more uncertain world. Anxiety is stronger in some people than in others, but it's natural in all of us. We add to our anxiety and discomfort if believing that the world must be safe and that we must control everything.
- Do you know that how you feel is not who you are? What are your reflex reactions to feeling good or bad? Can you be more mindful of how you are feeling and less reactive?
Depression - Biology and heredity can be a major contributor to clinical depression that requires medical treatment; however, much sadness and situational depression is a result of the demands we place on ourselves, on others, and on the world. If you believe that you must be loved or must be successful to be happy, you will likely find yourself unhappy much of the time. Others may believe that they don't deserve happiness because they are unworthy of it. You don't have to get the things you demand to be happy.
- What are your attitudes about happiness? Do you feel entitled to it? What about today - how do you expect to feel today? Do you feel useful? Do you have a sense of purpose? Does being useful make you feel better? To what extent does your attitude dictate your feelings? Can you change your attitude?
Frustration and anger - If you see yourself as doing things badly, doing things that aren't in your best interest, or see others as treating you unfairly, you're probably going to feel some discomfort. Dictating the way others should act can inevitably lead to frustration when they choose not to act the way you want. You will feel all shades of frustration, anger or even rage when these demands are not met or you think they won't be.
- Do you feel better or worse after you express anger? If you feel better when you let it all out - great. What if you feel worse afterward? What angers you now and do you need practice and training to express yourself?
Second Segment - Topic of the Week
Topic - The Dreamworld of the Compulsive Gambler
- When you were gambling, did you find yourself caught up in a dreamworld? If so, did you believe that you would stop once this had been achieved?
- Now that you’re in recovery, have you been able to fully let go of any fantasies that were created by the addiction, or has this left a void in your life? If so, how are you dealing with this void?
Third Segment - Zen: The Art of Simple Living
- Line up your shoes when you take them off
This will beautify your life
Disorder in your mind shows in your feet
It has long been said that you can tell a lot about a household by looking at its entrance hall, especially in Japanese homes, where we remove our shoes upon entering. If the footwear is perfectly lined up, or if it is all in a jumble... you can know the state of mind of those who live there by just this one detail.
In Zen Buddhism we have a saying that means 'Look carefully at what is under your own feet.' It has a literal meaning, but it also suggests that those who do not pay attention to their foot-steps cannot know themselves, and cannot know where their life is going. This may sound like an exaggeration, but such a small thing really can have a tremendous influence on the way you live.
When you come home, take off your shoes and line them up neatly by the front door. Just this one thing. It takes only seconds.
Yet by cultivating this habit, everything about your life will be inexplicably sharper and more orderly. It will beautify your life. This is human nature.
First, try turning your attention to your feet.
By lining up your shoes, you are taking the next step towards where you are going.
- Do you pay attention to your own footsteps? Do you know yourself? Do you know where your life is going?