You’re doing a great job! Welcome back to our make a change series. It you would like to have this guide sent to you from the beginning, sign up here.
High Risk Situations
High risk situations are situations that make is extremely difficult to pass up using drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. If you can identify your unique high-risk situations, you will strengthen your plan too stick to your own guidelines. High risk situations fall into six categories- times, places, occasions, people, thoughts, and emotions. Below we outline examples of each.
- Times- after you get off of work, 5 o’clock, after dinner
- Places- home, a friend’s place, bars or breweries
- Occasions- celebrations, weddings, birthdays
- People- partner, particular friends, co-workers
- Thoughts- “Just one can’t hurt,” “I can handle it this time”
- Emotions- loneliness, depression, sadness, worry
Think about the last few times that your substance use got you into trouble or you used in ways that you aren’t proud of. Think about times when your substance use didn’t get you in trouble or you were content with your use. What situation surrounded this use? Often times thinking back on our use can shed light on our typical patterns. For example, you may do great drinking on weekends with friends, but tend to go off the deep end at weddings. This is a clue for you that weddings are a high-risk time. List some times for you that you’ve recognized in your substance use journal that you created earlier in the series.
The Problem-Solving Approach
Now that you have identified your high-risk situations and triggers to your substance use or your urge to use, here is a strategy to help you handle a difficult situation. Planning ahead will help you feel confident going into a situation that you know will be high risk. You’ll feel more in control. The following four steps will help you prepare and can be used in solving all sorts of problems.
- Identify the problem- Be specific here. You need to determine what the problem is. For example, let’s take the example from earlier about drinking too much at weddings. The problem isn’t that you’re attending a wedding. The problem is that the celebratory environment of the wedding and the free alcohol are a dangerous combination.
- Brainstorm ideas for handling the problem – don’t be too fussy. Write down even those that may seem crazy or impractical.
- Think what is likely to happen if you try each one and then select those you feel will be most effective.
- Try one out. If your first choice doesn’t work, try the next one. Keep on trying until you find one that works. If what you tried doesn’t work, repeat 3 and 4 until you find something that does. Try telling a support person to have some accountability. If nothing seems to have worked, seek help – from your supporter, friend, partner, or professional counselor.
Set Yourself Up For Success
- Remember change is hard. Keep returning to the reasons why you are changing in the first place. Stay anchored to your intentions and goals. Try to put reminders of these goals where you will see them daily. We suggest making your home screen on your cell phone a written or visual reminder of this goal. Put it everywhere! Make it so you have to connect with this goal in your daily life.
- Try not to get discouraged. Check your balance sheet that you made earlier in this series and regularly keep up with your substance use journal. You’ll be able to keep track of the changes that you’ve made. Give yourself credit and support when you make even the smallest change. That’s wonderful!
- Keep yourself distracted and occupied. Boredom is one of the biggest triggers for returning to old behaviors. Pick up a hobby, try something new. If all else fails do housework, watch a movie, garden, enroll in a course. Every time that you resist your old habits you are becoming more successful at changing it. If you feel a craving coming on, get busy quick. Do something-anything- other than use. The feeling will pass and the pride you’ll feel in yourself is enormous.
- Stay positive. Talk to your support person and highlight the benefits you’re seeing from making a change. Talk about all the good things and the challenging things about changing. Be kind and compassionate toward yourself. If you slip up, that’s okay. Think to yourself, “Everyone makes mistakes. I’ll do better next time.” Also, build in rewards for yourself! Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco may have previously been the way you have rewarded yourself. Switch it up now by asking yourself what do you really want that would be a treat? This could be watching the sunset in your favorite spot, having a nice meal, calling an old friend, or contributing to savings for a vacation. Tell yourself that change doesn’t happen overnight and be patient. Even one small step is a step in the right direction.
Hang in there, you got this! There is one more post in this series. If you’re ready to get started in making a change on your substance use, we can help guide you through those changes. Treatment works and recovery is possible!