"Burning bridges" is a skill that requires radical acceptance, dedication, and action to ensure that addictive behavior is never repeated. Burning bridges means aggressively severing ties to anything or everyone that might rekindle cravings for the addictive substance or activity. You cut off your access to addictive behavior by destroying the connection or bridge that has served as a pathway.
Imagine a savage tiger chasing you outside your home, and you quickly pull into your driveway and secure the garage door. What if the tiger reaches under the door and begins to raise it because you left the bottom panel open? Once the door is propped open, the tiger may be able to open it. A bridge that is not burned to triggers and old habits is like that tiger entering your garage by making a small entry point broader.
To use the burning bridges skill, you must first make a clear decision to refrain from all addictive behavior and then remove everything else from your life that may trigger a relapse. Write down anything that helps fuel your addiction. Create a plan of action to counteract the addictive behavior, then follow through with it. Share the news with loved ones that you have finally recovered from an addiction.
Throw away items that will get in the way of your recovery goals:
- Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and other contact details.
- Social media if users may aid your addiction.
- Addiction-related clothing and homewares.
- Addiction-fueling cash or credit cards.
- Paraphernalia related to your addiction.
When you feel a craving coming on, replace it with thoughts of something that don't trigger the same response. The first step in overcoming an unwelcome urge is to replace the associated thoughts, feelings, and scents with new ones. These should stimulate the brain's visual and olfactory (smell) regions to distract you from the intensity of the craving. For example, picture yourself on the beach when you need to smoke.
An alternative action is to engage in urge surfing. Urge surfing is analogous to riding a wave in that instead of trying to stop the wave (urge), you ride on top of it and observe that it’s there until it passes. It’s accepting that you have a strong desire to do something and not fighting against it but not acting on impulse.
As you are urge surfing, be mindful of the sensations and thoughts as they wax and wane for as long as they last. Notice and focus on how the compulsion ebbs and flows like a wave over time.
A craving and its target, whether it be food, a drug, sex, gambling, and so forth, become untethered when urge surfing. Conversely, people who give in to their cravings and engage in addictive behavior strengthen the connection between feeling an immense desire and acting on it.
The burning bridges skill is a beneficial skill to have when recovering from addictive behaviors. It can be used to accept a new life free of substances and repair neural pathways damaged by addictive behaviors. Applying the burning bridges skills requires you to commit to a choice to disconnect yourself from those reminders and triggers of addictive behavior because you are ready to move forward in your recovery, just as going to rehab for substance or alcohol use disorder is a choice.
Contact Wish Recovery today to learn more about the burning bridges skill and how to use it. We provide one of the best dual diagnosis treatment plans, with comprehensive, customized rehabilitation options.