The 15 minute rule

I’ve been thinking about the fact that I started this blog on day 37 in my sobriety so you, the reader, have no understanding of how I got to that point.  So I’m going to work backwards from then to try to explain what happened and what tools I used.  It won’t be a day by day recall of that time, because I simply can’t remember the details, but will be a broad brush stroke picture, with edited highlights and low-lights, some of which I have already written about such as here.

This was the number one tool I used in the early days and when I was trying to moderate before stopping.

It is based on the premise that you have the power, you are in control and nobody can stop whether you chose to drink or not.  This may sound obvious but I had drunk for so long it had become habitual and I had become Pavlovian in my response.  The clock hit a certain time of the day = wine o’clock.  Feeling emotionally overwhelmed (both positively or negatively), unable to cope, exposed or sensitive = pick up a drink.  I drank on automatic pilot.  So this tool is about being mindful of your drinking, your triggers and trying to delay and unpick what is going on.

So when the cravings hit, I would check the time, and tell myself that I had felt the urge, but that I was going to choose not to pick up a drink for 15 minutes.  If after this amount of time I still had the urge to drink, then I could.  It was my choice, I had the power and the control – even if in the past it hadn’t felt that way.  I was reconditioning my brain with the experience that I could choose to wait or choose to drink.

For the duration of this 15 minute ‘waiting period’ I would try to keep myself occupied by having a bath, blog surfing  or writing down where I thought the urge to drink was coming from and writing a letter to myself about my feelings.  After the 15 minutes had passed I would check  how I was feeling and how I felt about the urge to drink.  I could choose to drink now or I could choose to wait another 15 minutes.  I could keep playing this 15 minute game for as long as I wanted, and sometimes the urge passed and sometimes it didn’t.  But it was always my choice at every 15 minute step.  If I got through the urge and the cravings passed without drinking  I would write it in my journal or would tell my husband knowing that it was another brick towards the time when I would build a wall of sobriety – thanks Belle for the sober brick analogy 🙂

Then I would congratulate myself for delaying the urge or for not drinking with some kind of treat.  A piece of chocolate, a hug from my husband or kids – a small reward for my effort.  If you are new to the sober game and want to use this tool and tell me how you’ve got on, please do either in the comments below or you can email me on ahangoverfreelife@gmail.com 🙂

(This tool is an adapted version of one from www.lifesigns.org.uk)

11 thoughts on “The 15 minute rule

  1. I haven’t consciously used this tool but the last time I was trying to give up I used to get lots of cravings for a drink. Whenever my husband offered me a cup of tea after wine 0’Clock I would accept it begrudgingly. I didn’t want a cup of tea, I wanted a bottle of wine. I would sulk the whole time I was drinking it. But then I realised that once I got to the end of that cup of tea the cravings had also gone. Magic! I only lasted 3 weeks last time though. This time feels different. I’m still a few days of 3 weeks but so far I haven’t had the cravings. I’ve drunk a lot more tea (without sulking). I will keep your 15 minute rule in mind for when those cravings do rear their ugly heads.

    1. I think a lot of us used this rule unconsciously. It was something I learned when giving up smoking and knowing this really helped me when I stopped drinking. That 3 weeks before was preparation you for this 3 weeks and beyond 🙂 I’d only ever done 3 months before so every day past that 3 month mark is a reason to celebrate – with tea of course 😉

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