This article is about a very specific and simple technique we can use to try to stop doing things we don’t want to do. Anything from going onto our phone and wasting too much time on social media, to staying away from that last piece of Christmas cake or festive chocolate treat. And, yes, we can use these ideas to help us with cravings related to drugs and alcohol. Although if we have a chemical/physical dependance, it’s worth seeing our GP or referring ourselves to free Drug & Alcohol Services to get professional and expert help.
Distractions are really simple to understand. If you try to guess what this technique is, you’ve probably got it right. It’s just diverting our attention. But the reason it’s useful is that the urges linked with compulsion pass. This might not seem true when we feel the urges come-on so very strong. If the rest of the world seems to fade into insignificance, if all other priorities and values seem unimportant in comparison to that one thing that seems to be calling to you continually. But experts agree that cravings not only pass, they even shrink and fade the more we manage to avoid giving in to them. See my previous article about online support and the free Silvercloud tool which taught me about this and the image from it below.
As explained in this article on the SMART Recovery site, 5 Ways to Deal with Urges and Cravings:
“The mental activities of cravings and urges disappear over time unless you actively maintain them with your attention. Given time, they will run their course and disappear. If they aren’t gone in 10-15 minutes, then chances are you are still exposed to the stimulus that cued the urge in the first place. “
Engage your Front Brain
Yes, you can do something that will help you ‘snap out’ of that monkey-brain fugue. Say a mantra that you’ve prepared earlier. “I’m worth more than this!”, ring a friend who understands and is supportive of your recovery. Or crank up your free digital coach (CBT app) on your phone and use it to get your feelings expressed and get a new handle on your cravings.
Surf the Urge, (instead of running from it)
One of the tips in this article is “To practice urge surfing, when you feel a craving coming on, stop and acknowledge it. Accept it completely for what it is and don’t try to make it go away. Sit down, close your eyes, and observe the thoughts in your mind and sensations within your body. It helps to verbally acknowledge the thoughts and feelings during the experience. This is part of a powerful practice of training ourselves to accept things in life that we don’t like, and can’t change. Many say a benefit of long-term recovery is a more peaceful attitude towards the trials and disappointments that happen to us all in life.
Talk to Yourself (it’s not really a sign of insanity)
An article in psychology today says, “You have to be self-aware to acknowledge the feeling of distress, and then choose to distract yourself mindfully (“I’m feeling distressed, so I will focus my mind on something else until the moment passes.”) This is in sharp contrast to the old go-to distraction of using drugs or alcohol, which numbs the mind and impairs self-awareness and decision-making.
There are lots of ways to distract ourselves from addictive urges. Write yourself a note with a few very simple steps based on one that you like. If you notice it in your pocket enough, eventually you’ll probably remember to get it out during a serious urge, and maybe you’ll give it a try.