Coping With Craving: The Timer Technique
In his book, Sex Drugs, Gambling & Chocolate: A Workbook for Overcoming Addictions, Dr. Horvath discusses the use of a timer to cope with cravings. We’ve included the following excerpt so you can practice this technique, starting today! While this technique might also be considered a distraction technique, active distraction is not used. You can use the timer technique for a craving of any strength.
When you experience a craving, set the timer for an amount of time you are very confident you won’t act on the craving. For instance, if you are confident you can withstand the experience of the craving, however you do it, for at least 3 minutes, then set a timer for 3 minutes. While the timer is on, begin doing other activities. When the timer goes off, there is a good chance that the craving will be weaker, and less of a problem. At that point, you can re-set the timer, use another technique, or act on the craving.
As you get experience with this technique, you can set the timer for longer and longer periods. At some point, the timer may be set for 20 or 30 minutes. When it goes off, you may have become so involved with something else that your first reaction might be “why was the timer on?” That craving is gone! At first, however, it is better to underestimate how long to set the timer, and reset it if necessary. If you start with 3 minutes, you can gradually increase your time as your confidence increases.