Life is stressful, and sometimes we need to take a break to re-group and self-soothe so we don’t become harmful to ourselves or others.

A “time-out” is a guaranteed method for stopping the cycle of addictive, self-destructive behavior toward oneself, or destructive, violent behavior toward another. All is takes is conscientious effort to work with yourself and a commitment to do the exercise faithfully.

Whenever you begin to feel frustrated or out of control, or you feel your desire to ‘use’ arising, say to yourself or your partner:

“I am beginning to feel _____ and I need to take a time-out.”

Then find an alternative behavior that will help change your physical and emotional state.

* Go for a walk
* Breathe
* Go outside and feel the wind on your face
* Write in your journal
* Call someone
* Take a shower
* Cry
* Meditate
* Dance
* Draw
* Attend a 12-step meeting
* Call your sponsor
* Brush your teeth
* Call a crisis line
* Scream into a pillow
* Talk to your ‘inner child’ and find our what is really going on
* Think about a time when not taking a ‘time-out’ led to real pain or problems in your life
* Fantasize what the worst-case scenario could be if you acted on your impulses right now
* Ask yourself, ‘what about me am I trying to avoid experiencing right now, and what would be so bad about experiencing that?’
* See if you can find compassion for the suffering you are experiencing, and treat yourself in a nurturing way instead

The point is to break the stressful energy, and to do something that will not be damaging to yourself or others.

You can also take ‘practice time-outs’. This means practicing whatever self-soothing, self-nurturing behaviors you find useful to you when you are not feeling in danger of using or abusing.

This helps incorporate these new stress-management tools into your daily life, so that they are there for you at all times, not just when you are in a state of potential crisis.