In today’s society, and with the advent of new technologies, we are used to being gratified instantly. We can communicate with others whenever we want, shop online, have it shipped to our door the next day, and endlessly stream new shows and movies after just hearing about them. Anything and everything is at our fingertips. This makes giving in to our desire for instant gratification and pleasure all the easier.
However, as an individual seeking help for Substance Use Disorder (SUD), it is essential to learn how to cope with these desires. The trap of making decisions based on instant gratification, rather than taking a moment to think things through, is that over time, continually chasing the “quick fix” will leave us struggling with the consequences of those choices. Whether it is always reaching for unhealthy foods or another drink, the stronghold this has on a person is correlated with its ability to change a person’s feelings almost instantly. Addiction is based on instant gratification, whereas recovery is based on delayed gratification. The process of addiction promotes the idea of feeling good now and dealing with the consequences later. In contrast, recovery entails struggling in the beginning in order to feel better later. It is important to recognize for those seeking treatment that recovery is not instant. It is a process. Therefore, learning how to curb our desires for instant gratification and become acquainted with the benefits of delayed gratification is critical for long-term recovery.
Thought Process: Five stages
Instant gratification tends to forgo short-term pain and indulge in momentary pleasures that ultimately result in long-term harm. When confronted with a temptation or a desire for instant gratification, the thought process behind it may feel familiar to a person dealing with SUD when they experience a craving. Although the thought process of struggling with instant gratification may look different for each individual, some people may experience these stages of thought:
- A crippling need to fulfill a certain desire
- Possible resistance to that thought, playing of the tape of what is to come if you give in to this desire
- Anxiety, anger, fear, or several other emotions that breakdown original mental defenses
- A decision is rashly made to give in to the urge
- After some time, monetary relief may turn into remorse or guilt
How to Cope When Faced With Temptations
Although the instant results produced by drugs and alcohol are only temporary, they never truly remove the underlying issues. However, when an individual desires instant relief, this temptation can be hard to overcome. When a person starts recovery, they may feel tempted to go back to what feels familiar and comfortable when the process becomes too painful. Many feelings can arise that you may have avoided for many years, and the want for instant gratification can be all-consuming. When faced with this temptation to give in, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Distract yourself immediately. When you are caught up in the moment, distracting yourself with another activity and separating yourself from the temptation you wish to indulge in is essential. This can give you some time to refocus on what is most important to you.
- Focus on the big picture. Consider the long-term rewards you will experience in the future from walking away from the temptation.
- Eliminate temptations. When you walk away from this temptation, it’s essential to remove it from your surroundings if you can. If you don’t, you are likely to fall into this same trap again.
How to Avoid Future Traps
Knowing what you want and where you want to go is critical to overcoming temptations. If you do not clearly understand what it is you are working towards and why the desire for instant gratification can quickly overwhelm any ill-founded goal. When you experience unexpected problems during difficult times, indulging in temptations can seem more enticing and pleasurable than working through the pain of trying to figure things out. This is why it can be helpful to:
- Identify potential obstacles early on and plan out healthy ways you can cope with them. For example, ask yourself what future temptations could sidetrack me and how will I handle them?
- Build a strong support group. To avoid falling into the instant gratification trap, having people around that you trust and who can support you is paramount.
- Learn to manage self-control. Over time your self-control can strengthen like a muscle. The more you practice it, and the more you resist instant pleasures and stay focused on what’s most important, the more control you can have over yourself and your life.
- Develop long-lasting motivation.
- Create visual reminders of your goals.
- Prepare for short-term challenges in order to have long-term rewards.
Giving in to instant pleasures may seem unavoidable at times. When this is the case, it is essential to remember the bigger picture and reflect on your long-term goals. Recognize ways in your daily life that you are routinely instantly gratifying yourself that are not healthy for you. To avoid these traps, distract yourself with a different, healthy activity that brings you happiness, such as turning on your favorite playlist, going for a nature walk, turning on your favorite show, or calling a good friend. Choose to be gratified in ways that are healthy and appropriate. As an individual considering SUD treatment, it is vital to remember that recovery is a process that may have short-term challenges but results in long-term gratification. Contact us at Alta Centers—a premier substance abuse treatment center in Los Angeles—for more information. We provide quality care and stability in a time of need. Call (888) 202-2583.