SELF HELP FOR
"Substances" includes any substance that
an individual wants to reduce to stop using, so this may
include nicotine, or caffeine, for instance, in addition
to alcohol or drugs.
substances, perhaps alcohol or drugs, often starts as a way of coping
with difficult situations or feelings, and finding that the substance
helps you feel better, more relaxed. Every time a similar
situation comes up, you know it helps, so you get into the habit...
a while though, as you start to rely more and more on alcohol or drugs
to help you feel better, other problems seem to emerge as a
result. Things like problems in your relationships. not being
able to keep up with work or study, getting into trouble with the
police, getting into real financial problems.
might start to feel more depressed, anxious or angry and
frustrated. All these things get worse as you continue to drink
or use drugs, and so you drink and use more drugs in order to help you
feel better, which results in making the problems worse. A real
You must seek help before
stopping or cutting down suddenly on drinking or using drugs - you must obtain the advice of an
appropriate professional. This might be your GP in the first
instance. It is potentially dangerous, even life-threatening, and
can be a very unpleasant and distressing experience to suddenly stop
taking something your body has become accustomed to having. You
may require a prescribed detox (whether in hospital or at home), or to
reduce your drinking or drug use gradually. The self help
information on this page can then help you overcome your cravings.
Substance Misuse Workbook
What or when
are the times when you are more likely to drink or use? If you
can see the patterns, then maybe you can do something about those
situations, and do something different.
- See certain
- Think ahead
to certain situation?
stressed, anxious, angry, sad....?
the problem is perhaps the easiest part. The most important part
of resolving the problem, is being motivated enough to change.
Having motivation to not only stop the drinking or drug taking, but
making changes that will affect whole lifestyles and friendships.
Use this form to weigh up the pros and cons of making changes
& Disadvantages of Change PDF
Identify the factors that
help keep the problem going
cogs diagram (PDF) to help you identify what keeps
you drinking/taking drugs. Put the name of the
problem in the middle big cog, then write in other
factors, such as: isolation, life stress, low
mood, habit, low self esteem, want to be like my
friends, physical addition etc.
Then you can look at each factor and
try to make changes in each. You may need help for
some of them - so look for the best and most appropriate
person or organisation to get that help from.
Seek help - others will support you if they
see you're committed to making changes. Start with
(non-drinking/using) family or friends, and/or your GP. For some
people though, particularly those closest to you, it might take a while
before they believe you mean it this time - they may need to really see
your commitment. Talk to them, explain what you hope to achieve,
ask for their help and support, then follow it through with committed
/ Disadvantages worksheet
increase your motivation to make changes
on what you hope to achieve - You
may decide to quit drinking or taking all drugs altogether, but you may
have different goals for different substances. You may want to do
this with someone who's able to help and support you.
Identify your triggers and trigger situations
that might make you more likely to drink or use
Support groups - Consider and find out about
local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or other
similar and relevant support group - for yourself and perhaps for your
Find out how much your drinking, using or
spending by using the
Use Diary PDF for one week
Drink 6 - 8 glasses of water
Start a healthy exercise plan - get advice
from a suitably qualified professional
Use medication appropriately and only as
Avoid social situations where you're more
likely to feel tempted and give in to cravings. Consider planning
a new social life, based around non-substance use activity and
Take up a new hobby, attend support group
meetings, contact old (non-drinking/using) friends or family.
Try out different soft drinks to use as an
alternative for those places where you can't avoid being around alcohol
Practice saying "No - I don't drink" or "No -
I don't use". Click here for help with developing assertiveness skills
to see and feel yourself being successful in
Use imagery and
Diary PDF, at least in the early days and weeks
positive self talk
all the reasons you want to stay dry/clean, make copies – carry one
around with you, put others in prominent places.
Distract, Delay, Decide PDF
letter to someone and let them know why you’ve made this decision.
forget to congratulate yourself when you
the cravings. You could set up a reward system
so you can pamper or treat yourself, initially each
successful day, then bigger treats for successful
weeks etc. Ensure the treats don't involve
temptation! Maybe go out on a family picnic,
buy yourself a CD, rent a DVD, or get a good book
from the library.
Pause, take a breath (visualise the
sign if it helps)
What am I reacting to? What have I been
thinking about here?
Am I getting things out of proportion?
How important is this really? How
important will it be in 6 months time?
What would be the consequences of doing what I
Am I expecting something from this person or
situation that is unrealistic?
What's the worst (and best) that could
happen? What's most likely to happen?
fact or opinion?
Am I using one of those
Am I seeing things through that
negative filter? Those gloomy specs?
there another way of looking at it?
What advice would I give to someone else in
Am I spending time ruminating about the past
or worrying about the future? What could I do right now that
would help me feel better?
Am I putting more
pressure on myself, setting up expectations of myself that are almost
impossible? What would be more realistic?
Am I jumping to conclusions about what this
person meant? Am I mis-reading between the lines? Is it
possible that they didn't mean that?
What do I want or need from this person or
situation? What do they want or need from me? Is there a
Am I just focusing on the worst possible thing
that could happen? What would be more realistic?
Is there another way of looking at this?
Am I exaggerating the
good aspects of others, and putting myself down? Or am I
exaggerating the negative and minimising the positives? How would
someone else see it? What’s the
Things aren’t either
totally white or totally black – there are shades of grey. Where
is this on the spectrum?
This is just a reminder
of the past. That was then, and this is now. Even though
this memory makes me feel upset, it’s not actually happening again right now.
wise (clean) mind
say about this?
Is there another way of dealing with
this? What would be the most helpful and effective action to
take? (for me, for the situation, for the other person)
What do I really value in life? What's
really important to me? Is it my family and friends, my work, my
academic career, enjoying nature, helping others, making a success of
my life? What defines that? In what way? Is drinking
or using drugs helping me in the service of my values? What would
be more helpful? Every time you're faced with a difficult
situation, or craving, ask yourself: "will this help me in the service
of my values?"
STOPP! Pause, take a breath
(visualise the sign)
yourself that cravings only last a few minutes
- Drink a large glass of water, iced tea or vegetable juice,
- When you have a slip or setback, write
down what you drink or use
- Focus your attention fully on another
activity - Mindful activity
Do something different (to what you normally do)
- try lots and find one that works for you
Put on some music
sing and dance along, or just listen attentively (use music that is
likely to help you feel your desired emotion - avoid sad songs if
Be with others - contact a friend, visit
- Talk to someone
- look around you,
what do you see, hear, smell, sense? Hold a comforting object.
- Engage in a hobby or other interest - if
you don't have one, find one! What have you enjoyed in the
past? What have you sometimes thought about doing but not
got around to?
Write down your thoughts and feelings -
get them out of your head
- Just take one step at a time - don't
plan too far ahead
- Pamper yourself - do something you
really enjoy, or do something relaxing
Positive self-talk - encourage yourself,
tell yourself: I can do this, I am strong and capable - find an
affirmation that works for you (even if you don't believe it at
first!). Write it down and memorise it for when you need
- Do something creative - make a box of
items that remind you to use the
techniques that help, or put photos on paper, or write and decorate a
- Use Safe Place
or other visualisation exercises.
If you have nice memories of drinking, replace them with negative ones
- when you were at your worst and felt ashamed. Use the
to visualise a drink
or drug-free positive future, seeing yourself doing the things you want
to do be doing.
- Do some physical exercise - walk, jog, cycle, swim, dance
- Tell yourself: "This will pass,
it's only temporary". "I've got through this before, I can do it
now". (Cravings only last up to 20 minutes or so) When we're
going through a tunnel and become fearful of being trapped, there's no
point in stopping - we just have to carry on in order to reach the end
of the tunnel. That light is there, and waiting!
alternative and healthier way of dealing with distress
- If you have a setback - tell yourself
it's ok, it's only once - don't dwell on it too much (other than see
what triggered it so that you can then get back onto your self help
Learn mindfulness techniques
cope with cravings.
mindfulness technique of “urge surfing”
(Marlatt 2002) says that we can ‘feed’ cravings by thinking about them,
by trying to distract from them, by trying to avoid situations that
trigger them. There is another way. Start with
mindful breathing, then bring your attention to an itch.
Notice those sensations and thoughts – that urge to scratch –
without reacting to them. Each time, just notice those sensations
and thoughts, and bring your attention back to your breathing.
Your thoughts will increase, and the urge will initially get
stronger. Just keep bringing your attention back to your
breath. You will notice that the urge (to scratch) crests, then
subsides, then eventually goes away. Once we’ve practiced that
technique, then we can use it to deal with cravings in exactly the same
NOW - mindfulness for busy people
you've stopped drinking or using, you can start to tackle problems
Talk to someone about other
difficulties which may include:
to your health worker for sources of appropriate support. Your
local Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to advise you directly, or
give you information about other agencies who can help.
Substance Misuse Self Help - this page as PDF
Learn effective skills online - The Decider Skills for Self Help online course
Self Help Books