Destructive Images and Self-talk Awareness and Refusal Method
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 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.
Dealing with Discomfort
Discomfort of any type, emotional or physical, can go together with urges. 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.
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.
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.
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.
DISARM is a tool which exposes the self-talk and images which tell us to use, as lies, excuses, and rationalisations. It challenges those urge-producing thoughts at every opportunity, shooting them down like a gunslinger or reducing them to the point of absurdity.
All humans, not just humans with substance abuse problems, have thoughts, urges, or other impulses, which, if followed, would harm their long-term interests. Realising the power of what you think/believe about strong urges to use, and changing that distorted thinking, is crucial to your success. Indeed, the trouble with a philosophy of ‘Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’ is that tomorrow comes and we aren’t dead!
So, we are wise to first make ourselves aware of our destructive self-talk (thinking that is contrary to our long-term interests) and then refuse to go along with it. While you cannot will yourself not to have certain thoughts or feelings, including strong urges, you can learn how to recognise the thoughts that actually drive your urges and how to refuse to go along with them. You can learn to DISARM them and walk away from the situation or get yourself involved with something other than focusing on your urge to use.
WHEN IT IS USED: When you’re having strong urges — whether or not you’ve given in to them.
Ask and answer the following questions:
Question: Do I have to give in to the urge because it is intense and hard to resist?
Answer: No, I don’t have to give in. Because the urge is strong, it would be easy to give in, but I don’t HAVE TO. I have had urges that I did not give in to, therefore it must be possible to resist.
Question: Will it be awful to deny myself by not giving into the urge?
Answer: No, it won’t be awful. It may be quite unpleasant, but unpleasant is not awful, it’s just unpleasant. If I don’t give in to the urge, it will get weaker and come less frequently. If I do give in, the urge will stay strong, be harder to resist next time and show up more frequently.
Question: Is it really unbearable not to give into this urge?
Answer: I don’t like the way it feels to deny my urge, but since it doesn’t kill me not to give in, I can keep on resisting. (Remember, individuals drinking large amounts of alcohol may need to go to a detox centre when they first stop because the sudden end of alcohol really could be injurious.)
Question: Am I somehow entitled to be able to give up using without strong urges to go back to using?
Answer: No! I don’t have a note from God, my mother, SMART Recovery group members or anyone else which entitles me not to have strong urges to use. It may be unpleasant to resist some of my urges, but no one gave me a ‘get out of unpleasantness free’ card.
The DISARM method allows the individual experiencing the craving to carefully and rationally answer a few key questions. The results will help the individual to understand that the urge truly can be overcome, and that as success is experienced, the urges will be less strong and will occur less frequently.
Defeat the Addiction Salesman in Your Head
Some people find it helpful to use a technique to dissociate yourself from the voice inside each of us which says, ‘It’s a good idea to do something self-destructive.’ It is a game you can play with yourself, which might help you to:
a) Identify the specific thoughts which, if followed, would lead to using when you have already decided that, in the long term, this choice is not for you, and b) Steadfastly refuse to go along with this thinking no matter how attractive it might seem.
Instead of talking yourself into lapsing you can develop powerful countering and coping statements. To do this, it may help to invent and personify an ‘enemy’ who lives in your mind, and whose only purpose is to get you to use. The Salesman (your alter ego) knows you well, and can change form to take advantage of your weakest moments. Name your salesman (i.e., gangster, enemy, diplomat, weasel, etc.). When urges come, ask yourself, ‘What is she/he telling me now? How is she/he trying to trick me?
When thoughts are identified:
1. Without debate, ATTACK the salesman with powerful counter statements: ‘Nice try, jerk. You can’t fool me!’ You can be as aggressive or profane as your nature allows with the Salesman- after all, s/he is trying to screw up your life.
2. Then quickly FOCUS on some other thoughts, images, or activities which are consistent with what you want in the long run and inconsistent with what the Salesman is saying. The Salesman then loses his power and fades away.
Later on, you can submit the Salesman’s tricks to an ABC analysis in order to dispute them. You usually discover irrational themes and patterns to the thoughts and arguments the Enemy throws at you. While coping statements alone will often work, it is important not to omit disputing. If your coping statements aren’t working, it is because you don’t believe them as strongly as you believe your Salesman’s pitch. Through disputing we can develop powerful coping statements you fully believe for use in the future. Through actually resisting the Salesman’s suggestions, you become increasingly better at doing it