How To Battle The Feeling Of Instant Gratification / Impulsivity

Many alcoholics and addicts suffer from a lack of impulse control. It is part of why drugs and alcohol worked so well. Take a sip, snort, or whatever and seconds later the desired effect was felt. Anxiety was alleviated, depression stamped out, and all of life’s problems seemed to go away. As we know though, the instant results produced by drugs and alcohol were only temporary, never truly removing the underlying issues. What’s worse is that in time even the substances stopped working, producing no results, and from this position, many of us had a choice to make, get sober or continue to try drawing water from a stone.

Even after getting sober, though, many of us were still left with a want for instant gratification. We had become so accustomed to having our problems go away in the blink of an eye that when this was no longer an option it was difficult for us to cope. We start to work and believe that we should instantly get promoted, we start a relationship and instantly want it to be miles ahead of where it is, and we want instantly to be able to buy our dream toys. This type of thinking, however, is not conducive to a healthy life because there are very few things on this planet that allow for instant satisfaction.

Learning how to curb the need for instant gratification and the misguidedly impulsive behaviors we can partake of in order to get it can be difficult, yet it is important to learn how. Not learning to delay gratification can lead to all sorts of problems, among which could be a relapse. So how exactly can you go about combating the need to instantly be gratified and just what does that look like?

How to Combat Instant Gratification and Impulsivity

Studies have shown that wanting immediate results is a primary traitor of impulsive people. This means that they will make brash decisions in their pursuits, sometimes with a seemingly reckless disregard for the consequences. It is almost as if they have tunnel vision, being drawn by an unseen force towards gratification, seemingly without thought. This however is only a partial truth and psychologists have actually found that there are 5 stages to impulsive behavior. The five stages are:

  1. Compelling urge or desire
  2. Failure to resist the urge
  3. A heightened sense of arousal
  4. Succumbing to the urge, resulting in relief
  5. Potential remorse or feelings of guilt after the behavior is completed

These five stages are something that every alcoholic or addict is familiar with. First comes the thought, an almost crippling need to fulfill the desire. Next, there is some resistance to that thought, a playing out the tape of what’s to come if you fail to resist. Next comes anxiety, fear, anger, or any other number of emotions breaking down your mental defenses. After the decision is made to give in to the urge, the emotions subside, but in time this relief is replaced with remorse and guilt.


You may at this point be saying yes I understand all of this. I’ve known that this is the way my mind works for some time, but just knowing this, I still haven’t been able to stop the process. How do I stop the process? Well, that is where the Steps come in.

Many people who were completely unable to not give in to their impulsive behavior have found that after working the Steps they have been given the ability of choice between Stages 3 and 4. Whereas in the past the heightened arousal would always lead to a succumbing of the urge, now they have found that they are able to sanely and logically deal with the emotions that come with an urge and resist.

This is not to say that working the Steps will give you choice in all of your impulsive behaviors. It’d be nice if they did, instantly gratifying even, but just working the Steps will not remove the draw towards impulsivity. This takes time and effort, something that every alcoholic and addict hates to hear. Time takes time and in no place is this truer than in our pursuit of immediate results.

It is usually only after you experienced what it truly takes to change and get what you want that you actually begin to understand what delayed gratification really is. It is denial of that carnal drive towards instantly wanting and learning to work towards your goals.

A great example of this is with school. Many alcoholics and addicts want to go back to school but looking at the fact that you need 120 credits to graduate can be overwhelming. That takes years to get and if you look at the whole picture and think it’ll never happen, then it never will. This thought process could lead to such impulsive behaviors as never signing up or dropping out because the credits aren’t accumulating fast enough, but when learning to delay your gratification you can begin to break school down into a series of mini-goals, semester by semester, working towards your larger goal.

The process of learning to avoid impulsivity and delay gratification is not particularly easy, but by employing the tenets of the 12 Steps and working towards your goals with an understanding that they will take time to accomplish is a great way to do so. Remember that you don’t always need what you desire and that everything worthwhile in life takes a concerted effort. Keeping this in mind you will be able to curb your more impulsive actions and in doing so lead a happier, healthier life.

Stop Being Impulsive and Start Being Sober

If you are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcoholic then give Dream Center For Recovery a call today at 1-877-978-3148. We understand how difficult getting sober can be and our trained staff is here to help you start your journey of recovery. You no longer have to suffer alone, so give us a call today and let us help you break the cycle of addiction.