The art of handling substances
'Come on have another one', .. 'you are not driving are you?'... 'It won't be so much fun unless we can get off our heads' and 'why? aren't you drinking again?' ...
These are just some of the persuasive comments that come my way when I am trying to stay off or reduce my drinking. You have probably heard these and more.
Whether it is drinking, smoking, pills, psychedelics or prescription meds, a really helpful question you can ask yourself is: are you in control or are the substances controlling you?
Or are there other external persuasions at play?
Or are we relying on them to keep awake, get things done but then we need to keep feeding the come downs?
We don't want to feel like we are missing out right?
It might feel that the drugs are mysteriously finding us! As in the lyrics of Marilyn Manson 'I don't like the drugs but the drugs like me'....
The good news is that there are strategies we can use, and also coaching we can take on board, to become our own self coach in these tricky situations. I have been working to help others handle their substance use since 1992 in a drugs project and then again from 2000 when I started working for the probation service.
So whatever your goals are to handle substances in a way that makes you in control and healthy, whether it is abstinence or controlling it, whether is is because you are on medication, managing hormone fluctuations or wanting to keep to a healthy weight .. whatever the reason I hope some of these 8 tips will work for you.
1 Change the people, playthings, playgrounds
The three P's! You can change the people you hang out with or the places (playgrounds) you choose to spend time with the people!
What does it look like if you choose the cinema over the pub, a cafe over a wine bar, a dance class over a meal out? You might want to think about your choice of friends 'show me your company and I will show you who you are ' is a classic lyric from one of my old rock steady reggae tunes. If you take the substance out of the person are they still the same person you would want to chill with? Mmmm..food for thought.
2 Know your triggers
This is linked to changing your playthings. Past history, memories, past associations ... what are some of these that are a catalyst for using?
A pint or cup of tea goes with a fag. Funerals, weddings, celebrations can all encourage your alcohol increase as can life's highs and lows.
We can even be triggered by a spoon, the sound of a can opening...I could go on but you know your triggers and being aware of these can be helpful to taking a beat before automatically responding.
Thinking this is a trigger, I recognise this and therefore I have the potential to do something different and have a different result. After all if you do what you did you get what you got.
3 Tune into your zest and passion
This can be a difficult one as the highs and the chance to disconnect and escape can feel overpowering. What is even more attractive than the substance ?
This new thing - what will it give you that is a step towards a greater goal?
4 Recognise your SIDs
Who are fooling? What is the seemingly irrelevant decision you are telling yourself?
The time you go to the garage that has your brand of vodka, the time you make sure you are in for the dealer drop off and the party you go to which will for sure have various cocktails of drinks or drugs, but you are not being honest with yourself.
Go the village shop that doesn't have alcohol for your shopping or the brand of cigarette you like, make sure you are doing something else at the times when the dealer can drop, and see tip 1!
5 Small steps to be kind to yourself
If you have made a decision to change then do this is small increments.
Change the amount, have a soft drink inbetween, use a less
harmful substance, get your walking boots on..whatever it takes.. and be kind to yourself on the days you don't manage to make a change.
Even a 20 per cent change is a change. Keep going to get to maintenance!
6 Reward or replace it
You are giving something up or cutting something out. When I first went dairy free after a health wake up call a few years ago my nutritionist said !don't think of what you are losing out on but rather all the lovely food you have to gain' ie more thai green curry!
Work out your treats and rewards and fancy alternatives! Just having a visual up of what you want to achieve can be super helpful.
7 Surf the urge
Cravings can be thoughts or manifest as actual physical pain. They are miserable. The more you think of a craving as a wave coming in that is going to crash to shore, which you are going to surf until it comes down, will mean you can go with it and avoid giving in. Distractions at this point especially linked to sensory like a bath or a spicy meal or endorphin induced exercise can be super helpful. You could write down the craving, and rate it and note the times you don't give in and the strategy that worked.
8 Get your people behind you
I recently went to a party with a whole range of alternative beverages and a really kind understanding of why I only had one drink.
These are the kind of people you need behind you supporting you, but you may have to let them know what is going on for you and reach out for support.
Don't forget to appreciate them!
If you would like to let me know your thoughts on this blog or any actions you are going to take as a result of it please feel free. I would love to hear from you. Thank you for reading and if you fancy a free consultation of how #mariposacoaching can help you then do get in touch.