Friday, August 19, 2011

Seven Days Sober: Thoughts Become Cravings

How many times in the past have you been trying to stay sober only to having your own thoughts sabotage you? Your sober mind and your drinking mind start arguing over what is best for your body. When we have drinking thoughts, we often feel put on the defensive by our own desires, as though we must justify remaining sober to ourselves. The brain only knows what has worked to maintain itself in the past; alcohol has been the way for it to remain balanced, and so it tries very hard to get us to turn to alcohol again when we start to feel unbalanced in early sobriety. Knowing the sequence that follows and how to disrupt it is vital in getting through those drinking thoughts.

Trigger => Thought => Craving => Use

The only way to prevent a trigger from leading to relapse is to interrupt the process at the thought, before the craving can arise. There are a variety of suggested techniques for stopping this drinking thinking (from the Matrix Intensive Outpatient Treatment for People With Stimulant Use Disorders manual).

Visualization: Create a scene in which you deny the power of the drinking thought. For example, picture turning off a light switch or slamming the door in the face of an ugly fuzzy creature. Have another picture ready to think about instead.

Snapping: Wear a rubber-band loosely on your wrist. Each time you become aware of a drinking thought, snap the rubber-band and say, "No!" to the thought. Have a subject ready to think about instead that is meaningful.

Relaxation: Feelings of hollowness, heaviness, and cramping in the stomach are cravings. These often can be relieved by breathing in deeply and breathing out slowly. Do this three times. You should be able to feel the tightness leaving your body. Repeat this whenever the feeling returns. You may wish to recite a short affirmation; statements 1,2,4,5,12 & 13 are all excellent here.

Call Someone: Talking to another person provides an outlet for your feelings and allows you to hear your thinking process. You could also journal, or post or chat on a support site if you belong to one (see the Women for Sobriety site at for information on their online support site).

Allowing the thoughts to
develop into cravings is
making a choice to remain
dependent on substances.

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