If you’re addicted to anything, you need a standard protocol to help you quit. There are many kinds of addictions. It’s possible to be addicted to food, alcohol, self-harm, pills, sex, gambling, porn, relationships, exercise, etc. Though there are many definitions of addiction, it helps clients to understand that an addictive behavior is basically anything you’ve tried to stop that’s harmful. Attempts to stop have resulted in no change in the behavior overall and an increased sense of frustration. The addiction likely triggers a ‘pleasure’ sensation in the brain, or at the very least, relief of tension. The positive chemical response is temporary. What happens after is shame, seeking the next high, desperation, and guilt.
If you are struggling to quit something, you might benefit from using this protocol that I designed for my clients who are trying to resist harmful behaviors or substances. The idea is to walk yourself through the steps and write where indicated. Using this consistently will help you master impulse.
Traci is shown here working in her virtual counseling practice where clients can interact and ask questions 24/7 from any location. She is a Masters Level Licensed Clinical Social Worker as well as an Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor
10 Step Protocol for Resisting Urges & Managing Harmful Behaviors
1. Initiate mindfulness. Begin sitting, deep breathing, and observing your urges (try to be relaxed, don’t force breath).
2. Urge/temptation assessment: Rate urge to engage in addictive or default behaviors on a scale of 0 – 10.
3. Be curious about your impulse. Use specificity. The craving has to do with what, exactly?
4. Recognize how this behavior helps you. Be honest. What does this do for you? (relax, decompress, soothe, detach from emotions, escape?)
5. Emotions you’re feeling? Write them down!
6. Pros/cons decisional balance. Consequences of engaging in addictive behavior? (feeling like shit, risk, recklessness; what’s the domino effect?)
7. Alternatives to addictive behavior (list self-soothing activities/alternative behaviors/thoughts).
8. Mindful DBT: Go back to your emotions now to check-in and breathe through them (feel emotions, let them dissolve). Separate emotions from thoughts.
9. CBT negative thoughts: Try to write down unhelpful thoughts that increase your addictive behavior. (Reframe: “I don’t have control”. “Just this once”. “I’m bad”. “I might as well”. “I’m a disappointment”. “I have to do this”. “I can’t make it if I don’t…”) Gather intention here.
10. Make a conscious choice now, rather than autopilot behavior. Make a decision: abstain OR be mindful about how you engage in your addictive, destructive behavior; focus on reducing harm/impact if you cannot abstain.
Here is a helpful graphic about addiction to help you understand the cycle you may be in:
Get help to quit whatever it is you feel stuck in! There are no shortcuts, but the work is worth it!
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