Recovery Workshop: Lesson Forty-Three

Urge Control: Awareness

The next several lessons deal exclusively with the development of effective urge control techniques. These techniques will not focus on distracting you from experiencing the urge, but rather, they are geared towards teaching you to manage the urges in the context of long-term growth.

As you build effective urge control skills, it will be necessary to have the following in place:
  1. You have ingrained the pattern you were asked to begin developing several weeks ago: when you experience an urge, you immediately 'create a break'.
  2. You have a working knowledge of the mechanical role that compulsive elements play in altering the level of stimulation in any given behavior.
  3. You understand the role that compulsive behavior plays in helping you to manage your emotions.
  4. You have the ability to 'map out' your own ritualistic chains.

With these four prerequisites in place, you have everything you need to implement an effective urge management strategy that will play right into your developing values.

Developing an Awareness of the Urge

Later in the workshop you'll be asked to 'create a break' by taking out your values list and reading through it every time you experience a significant compulsive urge. The main reason for this is not to reinforce your values, but to ingrain a 'break' in the trance-like state that develops as you begin a ritual. It is from within this break that we will now introduce the urge control process.

First, you will use this 'break' to become aware of the emotions you are experiencing. Without this awareness, you are simply extending the ritual itself. A complete break from this ritual must occur — even if it is temporary — to allow you to process the things that need to be processed. After creating this break, you will learn to anticipate the potential intensity of the emotions you will likely face; you will separate those emotions from your current, prioritized values; and finally, you will use those values to guide your decision-making.

This process cannot be executed while already engaged in the compulsive behavior — thus, the need to have ingrained that five second 'break' from the ritual. When you have implemented the full urge control package (i.e. you have completed the decision-making and action plan lessons), you will note that the most effective urge control skills are put into place long before the urge is experienced. But for now, we will focus only on the response to your becoming aware that you are experiencing an urge — in the present.

It is important to understand that from this point forward, you will be working on managing one urge at a time. Should additional urges occur before you have completely worked through the current one, you will be asked to ignore those additional urges — in terms of assessing them. In other words, don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed with thinking you have to assess each urge that you experience. You don't. The goal here is to develop the skill to efficiently manage urges...and that begins with a structured learning environment, not a pressured one.

Also note that these urge control skills are not intended to decrease spontaneous fantasies or romantic delusions; they are not intended to alter your destructive choices. The sole purpose for urge control is to provide you with the skills that, when combined with effective decision-making, allow you to overcome all destructive impulses/urges that may come your way. As with most areas of recovery, to expect success with your first attempt is unrealistic. But with a consistent pattern of exploration and implementation, you will indeed master these skills. When that happens, conscious compulsive behavior will no longer be an issue in your life.

Lesson 43 Exercise:

There are two tools you are encouraged to use in helping to develop efficient urge awareness skills.

A. The first tool is the Community Support Forum. Use this forum to discuss your urges, receive support and guidance, and learn from the experiences of others in their urge awareness development.

B. The second is the Urge Control Awareness Form. Use this form any time that you have experienced a 'significant' compulsive urge. This form will facilitate the process of developing the right awareness needed to accurately process each urge.

C. Review this form now and ask any questions you may have about it in your recovery thread. Click here

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