First Segment - SMART Recovery Handbook - Chapter 4 - Part 4
STRATEGY: Defeat urges with DEADS
You can knock down urges DEADS! This is an easy way to remember strategies when faced with an urge. Urges can muddy your thinking, making bad decisions more likely. DEADS can help you think clearly about how to deal with the urge, no matter how intense.
D = Deny / Delay (Don't give in to the urge) - Remind yourself, repeatedly if necessary, this urge will pass. Refuse to give into it - no matter what!
- How long do urges last if you don’t give in? How bad do they get before fading? What can you quickly do that will help you deny them?
E = Escape the trigger - If you know what is causing the urge, leave immediately.
- What triggers can you get away from? What can you do to escape a trigger’s influence?
A = Avoid the trigger - You can keep track of when you get urges using the urge log. Urges can occur routinely as part of your daily pattern. If you know you will be in a situation that triggers an urge, plan to avoid the situation. The earlier in your recovery that you identify high-risk stimuli that trigger urges, the earlier you can avoid those situations or escape when unexpectedly faced with them.
- What can you do to avoid urges?
A = Accept the urge - Tell yourself the urge will pass soon and that if you don't give in to it, the next urge will be less intense, and they will become less frequent. You may want to sit quietly by yourself to surf the urge: feel it build then fade while you acknowledge your thoughts and feelings about the urge, the present, and your future. Remember, don't turn the urge into a bigger issue by pretending it doesn't exist.
- What techniques or strategies have helped you “to be” with the urge until it passes without giving in? How do they make you feel and think that it is different from how you think and feel when you’re not having an urge?
A = Attack the urge - Dispute irrational beliefs and obsessive thoughts, or do an ABC, Practice relaxation or meditation.
- What tools or words can you use to attack the urge?
D = Distract yourself with an activity - Do something: go for a walk, read a book, or watch TV. If you're putting your mind on something else, then it can't focus on the urge. Simple activities, such as counting objects or saying the alphabet backward also can fill up your attention. Do something, even if you don't want to (clean the fridge, walk the dog). Motivation may follow the action.
- What activities have you considered, written down, or done to take your mind off the urge and to fill the time that you used to spend on your addictive activity?
S = Substitute for addictive thinking - Send in healthy substitute thoughts to squeeze out the urge: Replace an irrational belief (This urge will kill me) with a rational one (This urge is bad but it won't kill me and it will pass). Substitute feeling down and alone by going to the gym or stopping by the SMART on-line community.
- What thoughts can/have you developed to dispute the illogical thinking that comes with urges? What healthy activities can you do to replace down thinking and feeling?
TOOL:The ABC for coping with urges
Dr. Albert Ellis addressed the above distress-producing beliefs in his book A Guide To Rational Living. He suggested that people feel the way they think. He later developed the ABCs of REBT. This is a technique that can help change the emotional consequences of situations in our lives by changing the way we think about them. By learning and using this technique, you will develop a life skill that will help you think and feel better, and act more consistently with what you desire for yourself long-term.
An ABC will help you identify and work through your beliefs and feelings about a specific issue or event that causes you discomfort. Doing an ABC takes effort and can be difficult at first. You may want to do your first one in a SMART meeting to get the hang of it.
An example ABC of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy.
- Think of an event and apply the ABC of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy to it. We will go through each section and break it down and discuss it as we go along.
A - Activating event: An event in your life that is the starting point of your discomfort. For example, your partner treated you unfairly. A cues B.
B- Beliefs about the event: You hold an irrational demand and low-frustration tolerance - I can't stand it-itis - belief about the way your partner treated you. "My partner should treat me better than this and because they didn't it is unbearable and I can't stand it."
C- Consequences of your beliefs: Because of your beliefs about the event, you feel unhealthy anger or rage. This anger or rage is unhealthy because you feel you want to act in self defeating ways like wanting to yell or engage with addictive behaviours to calm down.
This unhealthy emotion is the consequence of the absolute demand at B- "they should treat me better than this" - not being met. The unhealthy anger is further made worse because you believe this situation to be absolutely unbearable.
What has more influence over how you feel and want to act, the activating event or your demanding and intolerance beliefs about the event? If you chose the beliefs (B), you're right! If you think about it, if you don't 'demand' that they must treat you better and accept that you can't control how your partner chooses to act, then it is unlikely you would feel rage - although you may still feel annoyed! This is the essence of REBT. You may not be able to change what happens (A), but you can change your beliefs about it (B). If you change how you think about A, you'll change how you feel about it and how you want to react.
D- Dispute your beliefs: Identify your irrational demand and low-frustration tolerance beliefs at B and dispute them by asking if they're true, make sense or helpful to you: Where is the evidence my partner must treat me more fairly? Can I control how others choose to act? This feeling is difficult but is it really unbearable; will this feeling kill me?
E- Effective new belief: You can replace irrational beliefs with rational beliefs. Identify what you really want that you have turned into a rigid demand and add to this that the demand does not make sense. Also identify that not getting what you demanded will not kill you so it's not unbearable: I really want my partner to treat me better but I don't need them to. My life does not depend on this. I accept I cannot control how others people choose to treat me and that includes my partner. It's unpleasant and uncomfortable to be treated like this, but it won't kill me. I can stand it and it isn't unbearable.
If you work hard on adopting these new and effective beliefs until you feel that they are true, it is possible to change the unhealthy anger - which can lead to wanting to use to calm down to the emotion of healthy anger or annoyance. Feeling annoyance rather than rage will help you be assertive rather than aggressive, your discomfort will decrease and the urge to drink / use will be less intense or not occur.
We pointed out a few ideas in this chapter. First, urges will be part of recovery for most people. In the past, you may not have thought that acting on an urge was a choice. Now, you've learned that urges are opportunities to make choices - engage in an unhealthy behaviour to make the discomfort of the urge go away, or choose to deal with the urge in ways that will help you achieve your long-term goals.
We dispelled some common myths around urges that may have locked you into bad choices because you didn't have any better information. Now you do. We also explored some tools that can help you deal with urges when they arise and even build up your resistance by exposing yourself to controlled urges - much like a vaccine builds your ability to fight disease.
If you practice and rehearse the strategies that work for you - at home and at meetings - you will succeed at not giving into urges. Try them all and use the ones that work best for you. When you defeat an urge and not give in to it, you will know the next time you get one that you can do it again.
Making the choice to not use when you have an urge is an important step in learning how to manage your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours - which we will look at more in the next chapter.
Second Segment - Topic of the Week
- Rank the importance of the following three aspects of your recovery.
- Solving financial problems
- Amount of time not placing a bet
- The elimination or modification of character defects
Discuss each one individually and their importance in your recovery and explain the reasoning behind your personal ranking.
Third Segment - Zen: The Art of Simple Living
- DISCARD WHAT YOU DON'T NEED
It will refresh your mind
Part with old things before acquiring new ones
When things aren't going well, we tend to think we are lacking in something. But if we want to change our current situation we should first part with something before we look to acquire something else. This is a fundamental tenet of simple living
Discard your attachments. Let go of your assumptions Reduce your possessions. Living simply is also about discarding your physical and mental burdens.
It's amazing how refreshed we can feel after a good cry. Crying clears out whatever weight you were carrying in your heart. You feel energized to try again. I have always felt that the Buddhist concept of the ‘enlightened mind' - the Japanese characters for which depict a 'clean mind' - refers to this 'refreshment’ of the spirit.
The act of discarding, of detaching from mental and physical burdens, from the baggage that weighs us down, is extremely difficult. Sometimes it can be accompanied by real pain, as when we part with someone who is dear to us.
But if you want to improve the way things are, if you want to live with a light heart, you must start by discarding. The moment you detach, a new abundance will flow into your life.
- During your recovery have you discarded your attachments? Let go of your assumptions? Reduced your possessions? How difficult was it to do this? Are there still mental and physical burdens you haven’t detached from? What are you planning to do about these?