People who use drugs (PWUD) are an impatient lot. It goes back to the brain chemistry stuff I talked about in Part 3, but people dealing with addiction are stuck in an “I want it now!” mindset that is fueled by those predictable rushes of dopamine to the brain. The problem is that stopping substance use doesn’t change the way we think or the way we act, and the only way to change our behaviors is to understand that we are slaves to instant gratification.
Truth is, many of us are in that mindset whether we misuse substances or not. Don’t believe me? Delete Facebook from your smartphone for a week. Hell, just put down your smartphone for a week and see how long it takes for your LIKE finger to start twitching.
Impulse control is the learned ability to say no to the desire for instant gratification. Learning impulse control is not an easy task, but it’s a tool that can benefit us all, not just those of us who are in recovery. The first step in gaining control over those impulsive behaviors is to recognize the things that trigger you.
I call triggers the NOUNS in our lives – the people, places, things, and ideas. When we take steps toward recovery, we have to be willing to look honestly and realistically at all of the nouns, and we have to be willing to make difficult decisions about them. Any of the nouns that trigger your impulsive behavior/use need to be identified, and each of them need to be dealt with individually. By owning our triggering people, places, things, and ideas, we begin to take away their power. Call them by name and we begin to regain our control over the way they trigger us.
Other ways we can increase impulse control include meditation, deep breathing, exercise, listening to music, anything that helps to take your mind off that behavior we are trying to change. How you do it is not the important thing, it’s just important to do it.