Managing Addiction through Challenging Times

In a time where our hobbies and support systems are put on hold – gyms are closed, work is from home, and our yoga studios are now our living room (not very zen), it becomes even more difficult to stay on track with our recovery and out of our addictive behaviours. 

To help ensure we are not tempted to give in to temptation, be it drugs, alcohol, eating disorder symptoms, love, sex, and so forth, an important piece of the puzzle is effective emotional regulation and coping skills. When you get triggered, before you turn to your vices, I want you to write the following.

  1. What am I grateful for today?
  2. What do I need to get done today?
  3. What do I want to do today for self-care?
  4. Who do I need to reach out to today>
  5. What am I looking forward to today?

If you can’t answer all those questions, that’s okay, they are intended to be used as prompts to reset the tone of your thought process and set yourself up for a more positive, constructive, and successful day as well as providing redirection. An example of an answer might be planning a phone or FaceTime chat with a friend, and otherwise set up plans, activities, and projects that will inevitably give you something to look forward to! So what gets you excited? What makes you feel alive besides your DOC? Whatever thought just popped into your head is probably a good starting point and I encourage you to I want you to go plan something that involves that. 

Back To Basics

Consider also before making any decisions the acronym HALTS acronym to assess your situation and needs (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Sad). If you answered yes to any of those questions, you could be at a higher risk of relapsing and may want to address those wants and needs rather than pushing them aside. I want you to picture yourself from the perspective of your inner child next time you are facing challenging emotions or temptations. What do you need? (Am I the only one that immediately thinks of countless hours of playing Nintendo?). Let’s go back to basics because children’s needs and motives are typically directly related to or products of emotions and survival. We don’t want to spend too much time here, but it is important to acknowledge the ‘little us’ periodically, below are simple questions you can ask yourself:

When was the last time I… 

  1. Ate?
  2. Drank water?
  3. Accomplished a goal?
  4. Saw a friend, family member, or someone within my support system? 
  5. Had a hot shower or bath?
  6. Went to a group therapy session or meeting?
  7. Read a book on how I am feeling or to escape?
  8. Had fun or moved around and got active?
  9. Journaled? 
  10. Went outside?
  11. Gotten creative?
  12. Laughed? 

This is in line with the KISS acronym (Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!). If you are reading this, I have a feeling you are lacking the motivation to do any of the above. Look, I get it, I’ve been there. There is nothing like some good old-fashioned heartache that seems to chain you onto your bed and glue you into your pajamas, stealing all of your ambition. Take a look at the list, and consider the state you are currently in, and pick something realistic for you to  accomplish with where you are at right now mentally and physically. This is very unique to you. Sometimes, eating and sleeping can come naturally, sometimes it feels forced and difficult. Sometimes, going outside is not appealing because it’s rainy, cloudy, or cold, but sometimes the sun is shining and the sky is blue, sometimes exercise can be exciting, and sometimes it can feel draining. So whatever seems to be the most accessible for you at this moment, start with that. Meet yourself where you are. This list is also extremely customizable based on your coping mechanisms, challenges, and proven effective strategies, so again, feel free to adjust it to suit you best. 

It’s so important to ensure you are fitting self-care into your daily schedule. If you don’t plan it, you won’t do it. This can be extremely difficult when we feel down in the dumps, extremely busy, or we have that rain cloud following us. With depression, anxiety, stress, and triggers can come stomach aches, nausea, fatigue, headaches, loss of appetite, insomnia, the list goes on. So you may feel like you physically can’t do the above, but that is okay, too, again, do what you can and work up to it when you’re ready. 

When it comes to addiction, it can feel like an overwhelming fight, but you do have it in you, simply because you have done it before, so, therefore, we know it’s possible. You have a 100% success rate of surviving difficulties. Previously, when you’ve acted out, relapsed, or otherwise gave in to your addiction, what was the outcome and how did you feel afterward? Answer this without judgement or shame, but rather as an opportunity to make a decision. 

We always have two decisions: discipline or regret. Discipline is difficult in the short term and rewarding in the long term, and regret starts out fulfilling but then causes further hardship.

Whenever there’s a strong desire to engage in the behaviour or substance that has been proven to help us in our lowest lows, it’s important to check in with ourselves and our feelings. Regardless of what you turn to, it’s a method that has been proven effective in giving you respite from difficult thoughts, traumatic events, or undesirable feelings. We mustn’t fear or repress our feelings, and remember, feelings are not facts and if we don’t feel we can’t heal. There are no intrinsically bad emotions, but rather, negative responses to stressors designed to keep us safe and ready for threats. Sadness can be for our bodies to process an event, anxiety can be a warning sign. It’s important not to spend too much time ruminating on these emotions once they are no longer useful. You are strong and empowered, and it’s possible at times that you don’t believe that and it may feel like your inner-critic or addiction seems to speak louder and overtake your thoughts. We can’t control our first thought, but we can control how we respond to it, and we can challenge the thought to provide ourselves reassurance and comfort in ways other than turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

All my best,