Drug or alcohol cravings don’t have to derail your recovery. Instead, you can combat those cravings with the right relapse prevention techniques. So next time temptation strikes, don’t panic. Play the tape through.
Relapse Prevention Technique: Play the Tape Through
Play the Tape Through worked for me and many others in recovery. This technique helps you imagine the consequences of drinking or using before you do something you’ll regret.
Here’s how it works:
Next time a craving strikes, close your eyes and imagine taking a drink or a hit. Then visualize what happens at specific points in time. For example, what happens after 10 minutes? After 30 minutes? After two hours? What happens the next morning?
When answering these questions, it’s important to be honest with yourself and imagine the most probable outcome.
Consider alcohol, for instance. One scenario goes like this: you intend to have one or two drinks and then go to sleep early, but everything goes awry.
After you finish your two drinks, you feel the itch to have another. However, two hours pass, and three drinks have turned into six, then nine. Then, the next morning, you feel hungover and call in sick to work.
No one intends for these things to happen when they start drinking or using, but that’s the nature of addiction. So, next time a craving strikes, play that tape through and use your history as a guide.
Benefits of Play the Tape Through
One advantage of Play the Tape Through is it lets you mentally indulge a craving without acting on it. This way, you imagine the outcome of drinking or using without having to experience the consequences.
This technique is especially beneficial when you think you can have just one drink or hit. Despite your best intentions, things rarely go as planned. One reason it’s so difficult to stop after one or two drinks is that the addicted brain is wired differently.
However, don’t beat yourself if you relapse because it happens. Instead, get back up and try again. Recovery has its challenges. Sometimes it feels like you’ll never make it, but your fears and frustrations are normal.
But whatever happens, keep telling yourself, “I can do this.” And keep saying it even when you don’t believe it.
So next time a craving strikes, don’t give in. Remember that, as with other challenges in life, this, too, will pass. Then, remind yourself you have what it takes to resist. You decide what happens next.
- See addiction and mental health resources, treatment finders, and support groups for individuals and loved ones.
- Which support groups are right for you: 12-step or non-12-step? Explore your options.
- Learn about six roles in addicted family systems.
- Use these relapse prevention tools when cravings strike.
- Spark your creativity and manage triggers with these recovery writing prompts.
NIDA. (n.d.). Drugs, brain, behavior. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/preface
12Step.org. (n.d.). Quality information and tools for a 12-step program of recovery. https://12step.org/
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