Building FRUSTRATION TOLERANCE ranks high among the challenges people face to get over their addictive behaviors. Everyone faces frustration when his or her goals or desires are blocked. In fact, this is a good thing because without a sense of discouragement, one would never take action to change things they did not like. However, for those of us who exhibit addictive behaviors ‰Ū¦ we seem to take frustration to a new level. We have LOW FRUSTRATION TOLERANCE (LFT).
LFT means whining about frustration. It says that this frustration MUST not be. Not only does it say that it is frustration is unpleasant but adds that it is ‰ŪĻtoo hard, it shouldnÕt be, and I deserve things to be easier and better‰Ū. Addicts WONÕT tolerate frustration. Examples of low LFT include overreaction to inconveniences, exhibiting ‰ŪĻa short fuse,‰Ū and quickly indulging impulses to avoid discomfort.
Achieving a long-term goal entails facing some immediate discomfort. Growing up involves learning to accept temporary discomfort. You act to BUILD frustration tolerance when you refuse to cave into pressing urges to use. But how, after years of automatically giving in to the immediate sensations, do we learn a new behavior, ie. building frustration tolerance? Like learning any other skill, such as riding a bike or skiing: through Planning, Practice, and Persistence.
PLANNING: I floundered for years irrationally praying that one day things would just ‰ŪĻget better‰Ū. If you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you have been getting. A two prong attack against LFT can be more effective than just hoping that things will take care of themselves. We can use Diverting and Disputation.
Diverting: This is a behavioral technique that involves intentionally substituting a productive activity for a destructive or self-defeating action. When an urge to drink arises, divert out of this mental suggestion and engage in another behavior to take your mind off of the urge. Watch a movie, read information about sobriety, take a walk, take a warm bath, anything!
Planning ahead of time is the key. Have a written list handy to look at, pick an activity, and just do it!
Put a pitcher of ice-water in the fridge. When you have a craving for a drink, slowly sip an 8 oz. glass of the water. Wait 5 minutes. Keep repeating this plan until you feel saturated with water or until the urge subsides.
Disputing: The problem with diverting is that it is only temporary. You can only divert for so long. It is a technique to buy you time for the real behavior changer: disputing the underlying beliefs that you hold about drinking. The cognitive technique of changing your beliefs to more effective beliefs will effectively bring about the changes you really want.
Some irrational drinking beliefs to dispute:
IÕll do it tomorrow (and tomorrow and tomorrow) when it will be easier.
I donÕt feel like doing it, and I can only do and should only do what I feel like doing.
IÕll know when the time is right, and believe me, it isnÕt now.
Because IÕve always had everything hard, I deserve this to be easy.
IÕve been addicted too long to be able to change.
IÕm young. IÕll grow out of it.
Make a list of instances when you did withstand frustration, did meet challenges, and did show courage. This is proof that you CAN do it.
Work out in detail just how you will stand the discomfort of giving up alcohol and follow through with the effort it takes to stay sober.
Rehearse your plan mentally.
Remind yourself that drinking urges may pop up from time to time, even after years of abstinence. However, you add to your frustration tolerance abilities when you accept the urge and do something other than drink or use.
It is like putting money in a bank account each and every time you successfully face down an urge. The stronger your account gets, the more leverage you have for future encounters. Intentionally take it as a challenge to put as many deposits in your ‰ŪĻsobriety account‰Ū as possible. It is like a weight lifter who daily lifts his barbells. His muscles keep getting stronger and stronger.
PERSISTENCE: Keep on doing what you have already decided is rational. DonÕt allow a random irrational thought seduce you into getting off track. Dispute it immediately!
DonÕt fall prey to the ‰ŪĻreward fallacy‰Ū. ‰ŪĻI have been a good boy now for 3 weeks, so I deserve one night out.‰Ū Be persistent and know that when you face this one down, one day soon it wonÕt even be a consideration because it is irrational.
We can learn to increase our frustration tolerance by dealing with Low Frustration Tolerance: implementing planning, practicing, and being persistent. We can use a two-pronged attack of diverting and disputing.
It may seem hard at times, but it is not TOO hard.
(originally written by a ŌMarkyÕ, a founder of SMART RecoveryÕs online forum)