Without getting too technical, triggers refer to people, places, things, areas of various senses (taste, smell, sounds), memories etc. that bring about or invoke the feelings of a past trauma. In Recovery triggers also include reminders of drug use or abuse and invoke the urge to use again.
Ask any clinical or recovery professional, or anyone struggling with negative behaviors and they will tell you that triggers are the reason behind so many relapses.
These same individuals will tell you that the anxiety, stress and other emotional experiences endured when trying to avoid triggers are traumatic in and of themselves and that avoidance as a behavior will not lead to long term growth and change.
So how does one ensure that their triggers don’t bring them down, while developing long term positive change?
Knowing yourself and your challenges is half the battle. Buy a small notepad (or a cellphone for those not as old school) and document triggers during your day. Looking at your day much like a heart monitor, Note for yourself what comes up for you emotionally and causes spikes in the otherwise even flow. Also note where and when this takes place. An example might be a strong feeling of anxiety around a particular store, a feeling of sadness late at night, an urge to drink at a particular sports game, around particular people etc. Don’t be afraid to have a long list, consider it homework and goal setting material.
2. Team up.
Struggling alone is not the ideal recipe for success, and chances are trying to handle things by yourself has not worked out as well is it could have in the past, so team up. Teaming up should first and foremost include an individual with experience and preferably training. This obviously includes a therapist, psychiatrist, certified addiction counselor, and can also include a sponsor, teacher, mentor, and family if possible. For many, family members know you sometimes more honestly then you are willing to know yourself and so if and when possible include your family in the healing process.
Review the list with your team and solicit their feedback and input. It is important that they know what you are struggling with so they can support you in the process. Break the list into parts separated by difficulty, and plan to tackle the easier items first. Not all triggers are worth the risk. If you are in recovery it would be best to be willing to let go of “Bar Hopping” on weekends even if you don’t drink. If you struggle with depression it might be a good idea to save your Alaska trip for a time of year when the sun is out. As part of your plan, make sure you have an idea of where to go or who to call when faced with a trigger that is overwhelming. For the hardest triggers make sure you also have an idea of who could be with you at the time either in person or on the phone.
Now that you have goals, a team, and a plan it’s time to take your first steps and it’s better that they be small. Start by tackling the easier ones, and work your way through. The goal is slow but steady exposure to your triggers with proper support so that eventually you can face your challenges and live life positively. As part of this, and for triggers that might be too overwhelming you can also research supportive optional replacements such as sober music venues and events, as well as other peer supported social gatherings.
There is no need to face your struggles alone, call 310 Recovery to make your plan and change your life today.