Happy New Year! The New Year begins for many with making a resolution to change. If one of your resolutions is to cut down on alcohol or to stop using drugs and/or alcohol, here are some suggestions to support your decision.
First, identify what your Expectation is for using alcohol or drugs. You may be expecting to relax, to maintain improved social interactions, to sleep better, to reduce anxiety or to reduce depression. If you expect one or more of these in response to alcohol or drug use, it is important to determine an alternate way to have these needs met. You may want to go to your primary physician for some suggestions. If you determine to seek treatment for alcohol or drug use, you will be able to have discussions about your expectation of alcohol or drug use.
A second important piece of information is to be able to identify your specific Internal Trigger(s) for alcohol or drug use. A few internal triggers for use are emotions, thoughts, withdrawal or craving. If your internal trigger is your emotions, then it becomes important to identify which emotions you are trying to avoid or manage. Next, decide an alternate way to manage your emotions. You may decide to seek counseling. If withdrawal is one of your triggers, you may have experienced uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms while attempting to cut back or stop alcohol or drug use in the past. It is a good idea to call TARP to help you identify ways you can cut back or stop using alcohol or drugs, by using available resources to lessen or eliminate uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
A third important piece of information to have available is to identify your specific External Trigger(s) for alcohol or drug use. Your external trigger may be socializing with certain people or groups, places you visit, seeing drug or alcohol images, or even hearing music you associate with alcohol or drug use. Even if you’ve decided to cut back or stop alcohol or drug use, if you stop to visit the friends or family you typically drink with and everyone seems to be having such a good time drinking, you may decide to join in. You now have found yourself drinking more than planned. However, you can determine that to maintain your New Year’s resolution, you will only visit those particular friends during the times they are not drinking or using drugs.
A fourth important piece of information is to identify the Immediate Reinforcers for you when you are drinking alcohol or using drugs. Some immediate reinforcers are escaping from uncomfortable thoughts or ideas, feeling relaxed, feeling high, or even relieving boredom. It is a good idea to determine new ways to manage uncomfortable thoughts or feelings. You might want to call a friend, speak with a spiritual or religious leader, seek counseling, or even enter treatment to address an ongoing alcohol or drug problem that is fueled by immediate reinforcers.
Some alternative ways to relax are to meditate, read a book, go on a walk, take a swim, or talk with a good friend. Whichever immediate reinforcer you are responding to with alcohol or drugs can be responded to without the use of alcohol or drugs. It is up to you to determine what will work for you. You will need to think about ways to relax, or things to do when you are feeling bored before you are tense or bored. That way you will have an immediate response for a need you are experiencing.
A fifth important piece of information for you to consider is what you identify as the Positive Aspects of alcohol or drug use. Some typical positive aspects of alcohol or drug use are to make or keep friends, to fit in or “be cool,” or to feel good. If you are drinking or using drugs to fit in or feel good, you may want to think about activities you could engage in with your friends or family that do not involve alcohol or drug use.
These are the five triggers that may lead to relapse. If you have made a decision to cut down or stop using alcohol or other drugs, review this information to help you to maintain your decision to change. If you are struggling with staying off alcohol or drugs and you would like some ideas on steps you can take, please call TARP at 1-800-522-8277. Help is only a phone call away