I was so depressed just thinking about what was to come. I tried to drown my anxieties in more pills. I snort three in one line and instantly, I felt better.
It takes only seconds for an opioid to hit your bloodstream and at that moment, I could finally breathe.
Opiates including painkillers and heroin are known for creating an intense high, particularly if injected directly into the veins. Luckily, I couldn’t shoot myself up alone so I break up the pill into snortable lines as I melt away the chaos in my head.
The thing is, these drugs are highly addictive. They wreak havoc on both the body and communities across the globe. The fact that they work so fast and produce such a euphoric high is what makes them so addictive, as the brain associates the action of injecting the drug with the reward of pleasure.
And anything less than that, well, won’t do anything at all.
Take me as an example. I used to find comfort in drawing and taking a nice walk around my neighborhood. Except now, it seems as if the opioids depleted everything good in my brain. I say this because those activities no longer bring me pleasure. Or at least, they didn’t for a long time.
And I don’t think I’m alone with this. Based on some research, I learned that drug addicts and alcoholics (generally speaking) are hooked on this idea of instant gratification. I mean we are living in this microwave society. So we tend to “want it right now” rather than later.
The Idea of Immediate Relief
We have trained ourselves into this mindset based on years of alcohol or drug use. When we took our drug of choice, we gave our brains and our body a fake-instant reward.
Not only were we addicted to drugs but we became addicted to the idea of quick comfort. We became drawn towards the ability to self-medicate and escape from reality at the drop of a hat. This ability to flip our emotional states on and off was just as important to us as the drugs themselves.
Am I right?
I think so. Chances are, we needed the ability to change our mood because more times than not, we were severely depressed. Our drug of choice prevented us from having to deal with our emotions. If we were upset about something in our lives, we could simply self-medicate and avoid having to feel our feelings.
This is what instant gratification was all about when it came to our drug use. When we speak about escaping reality, what we are really talking about is escaping our emotions, and avoiding the reality of having to process our feelings. We were not running from the world but in fact, we were running from ourselves.
And eventually, it became a necessary escape each day. Our instant gratification was actually a need for instant relief so that we did not have to face our lives.
I know I couldn’t deal with the impending consequences of my actions so I snort more pills to silence the noise.
Regardless of how you frame it, we addicts and alcoholics became addicted to the need for instant gratification everywhere. The thing is, recovery can do just that. When you create something new in your life, you get an instant rush of euphoria, a sense of accomplishment —instant feedback.
Creation can become our new outlet for instant gratification.
So here are four ways on how I stepped away from the idea of instant gratification and finally found balance.
1. I figured out what I wanted versus what I actually needed.
My first step was finding a sense of where I plan to go from here. If you don’t understand where you’re going or what you are going to be working towards, then it’s easy to get distracted by the temptations that life throws your way.
For me, I wrote a list of attainable goals I wanted to achieve. I asked myself a few questions.
- What are my short-term aspirations?
- What is my end goal?
- How will I achieve all this?
- Why do I want this?
- What are the benefits?
- Why is it important to work towards this vision?
It’s crucial that you specify your short-term objectives and priorities because often instant gratification will squeeze its way into your life when you are indecisive or uncertain about your direction.
During these times, indulging in temptations will seem more enticing and pleasurable. I so get it; working through the pain of trying to figure things out will be the last thing you will want to do. This is especially true when you are confronted with unexpected problems.
If you’re not ready to deal with those problems, then you are likely to succumb to short-term pleasures that bring you momentary periods of comfort. These pleasures will essentially distract you from your problems. For this very reason, it’s critical that you identify the temptations you might confront along your journey. Remember though, you’re not alone.
2. I created a strong support system.
It’s ironic looking back because the very people I was trying so hard to hide from, were in fact, the only ones who stood by my side and loved me when I couldn’t even love myself. That right there makes family and friends so important. Besides the comfort of having someone there, they can also help you stay accountable.
So to avoid falling into the instant gratification trap, it’s paramount that you build a strong support network. These people will help support you during difficult moments along your journey.
Simply ask yourself these questions:
- Who can and will support me?
- How can they support me?
- What exactly would their role be?
Because you will unlikely achieve the success you envision without these people. They can help you work through your problems more efficiently.
They will be there to help you stay focused. And, more importantly, they will be there to make sure you don’t get sidetracked or distracted by temporary pleasures that life will undoubtedly throw your way.
On the other hand, it’s equally imperative that you also clarify what kind of resources you might need. Your resources might include tools, skills, knowledge, and a plethora of other things that you will help you achieve your desired long-term objectives.
It’s very possible that you’ll even need resources to help you to ward off short-term pleasures and temptations that might suddenly creep up on you during difficult times. Take a good hard look at what you might need along your journey to ensure you remain focused on what’s most important at all times.
3. I set healthy boundaries and don’t fear the repercussions.
This is maybe the most important and hardest aspect of recovery. However, it’s crucial at this stage to set clear boundaries about what you will do and what you will avoid doing at all costs —including who you choose to hang out with.
Without clear boundaries, it’s easy to fall prey to temptations. It’s easy to say yes to that toxic friend who keeps buying you free pills. Nevertheless, with clear rules in place —about what you’re allowed and not allowed to do —you will feel more in control of the events and circumstances in your life.
Getting specific, personal boundaries are guidelines or limits that you can create to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards you and how you will respond when someone passes those limits.
It’s significant because it separates our experience from other people’s. It’s powerful because it helps us become more aware of our own experiences so that we can fully own and be in control of ourselves.
As time goes on, your boundaries may require updating. Perhaps the time you can give to others is much more limited after starting a new relationship or being in recovery. Redefining your boundaries may mean swapping the belief “I want to please others” to “I value my time and want to keep some for myself.”
Bear in mind that those close to you may not be fully supportive of your attempts to change. They have been used to the old ways of doing things. As with any life transformation, extending boundaries has a price, and this may very well be losing acquaintances along the way.
Of course, those relationships that are worth having will survive, and grow stronger.
4. Lastly, I created a new reward system.
I know for me, my old reward was picking up pills and hanging out in my room alone getting high. This is not healthy. The ironic thing is, when I first got sober, it was really hard to be alone in my bedroom because essentially, it was a trigger. The last time I found myself in my own company, I always ended up getting high.
Instead, we need to take time to create a reward system that will help keep us motivated long-term. You want to reward yourself not so much for what you’re doing, but rather, what you’re not doing.
If for instance, you stay focused on your highest priority activity and don’t get caught up in the habit of instant gratification for an entire week, reward yourself with some temporary pleasure that will satisfy your senses.
Once the reward is done, move on and get back on track. I know this may be hard for an addict because it’s like one is too many and a thousand is never enough. We want it all right now but again, that is not healthy.
Doing things this way will help you stay in control. Yes, you are giving yourself permission to indulge in temporary pleasures and temptations from time-to-time, but, we all need some type of reward for our efforts and hard work —otherwise, what’s the point?
It’s when your behavior controls you, and you end up falling prey to instant gratification, that is when your short-term pleasures begin getting in the way of your long-term objectives.
So ask yourself what you really need, build that strong support system, set clear boundaries and above all, reward yourself. You most likely will not see changes right away but keep going. Keep fighting. If you put as much effort as you did while using into your recovery, you can find balance too.