Triggers: What are they?
Once we make the choice to quit getting high and make the choice to save ourselves we are going to endure triggers. A trigger is something that triggers a euphoric recall, a craving/desire to get high, or just an overall thought of drugs and even the lifestyle that comes with running and gunning. Triggers are something that everyone deals with and are not just related to substance abuse. Any other addiction has triggers as well. Also, the term trigger goes beyond even the scope of addiction. For this though, we will stay with addiction.
A trigger can be a person, place, or thing. It can be a smell, the feel of something, sounds, phrases, etc. Anything can be a trigger. When I first got clean I found that parking lots were a trigger to me. Not all parking lots, and not even parking lots that I got high in. There is something rather iconic about parking lots in the drug world. In our addiction, there were specific things that really cemented themselves into our head and can drum up emotion. It is like a song from our childhood that brings us back.
It is crazy. Sometimes I get smells. Like I will randomly get a waft of meth smell. Immediately I am taken aback and in comes that negative self-talk. We can dive into it more in a later post, but some examples of the craziness that my addicted mind will try to quickly convince me of sounds like this;
“It wasn’t so bad.”
“Life was easier before.”
I have now reached a point where when those things happen, I usually laugh about them because they are so utterly psychotic that I can’t help but to laugh at how crazy I am.
These, along with other thoughts, will just randomly pop in my head sometimes. I mean, maybe there is a trigger and I am just not aware of it. Usually, I am driving, so it could be a kind of car or something…. who knows. Anyways It is important to have a hold of yourself cognitively. This is where we need to stop and redirect our thoughts. We will talk probably next week about building a support system. This is pivotal to recovery. So this would be a time that if you were not able, or you didn’t trust yourself enough, you would call a support member. Some paths like A.A. will have this task to a Sponsor, but I don’t care who you use. Just so long as it helps, and it is not someone who is an enabler.
So one of the biggest “no-nos” that everyone talks about is “old friends and old playgrounds.” What this is talking about here is people that you used to get high with and places that you used to get high. The main reason for this is because the likelihood that they are still in the game is high. You might be thinking, ” What if they aren’t getting high?” And my response would be to give them space to work their program. Concentrate on you, and let them do the same.
Sometimes people think that moving will be the best thing, and sometimes it might be needed. However, there is a saying for that as well.
“Wherever you go, there you are.”
What that means is that the problem is in you. You have to take the responsibility and be the one to make the changes. It is not an exterior person, place, or thing. This is your problem and only YOU can fix YOU.
Triggers are important to identify because they allow us to be able to craft our plan for recovery. It is important that we are honest with ourselves about it as well. This way we don’t place ourselves in a situation that could potentially be detrimental. Sometimes we think that we can downplay something when in reality we know that we shouldn’t. This could possibly be us setting ourselves up for failure.
Curbing is the basic building blocks for fighting triggers. When we get clean and sober we begin to have a lot more time on our hands. This can become problematic. As we begin to find new things or even old things that we burred for our addictions, to take up our time, we begin to find new things that can help distract us from triggers. If it is a place, thing or a person, then we obviously need to remove ourselves and usually contact someone, as previously mentioned above. Unusually we want to divert our attention whether it is to a project, an exercise, talking with someone, going to a meeting, etc. Some people even start working out. I knew a guy that would do push-ups when he got a craving. He’d just drop to the found that start doing push-ups. I am sure that people thought he was a little off, but I am also pretty sure he doesn’t have to resort to such extreme measures today to deal with triggers, but the point is that we must do whatever it takes to save ourselves. The important thing is that we do not drill on the trigger because that can drastically increase our chances of use.
As far as anyone reading this who is interested in supporting someone else with addiction recovery, just make sure that you are there for the person in a healthy way. I think that it is important to know the difference between helping and enabling. I am sure we will have a post up about it soon. It is very good information to have. Until then just know that it is important for the recovering person just needs to know that someone is there for them even if it is for a few minutes. Sometimes, if you are the person that the addicted person is seeking out to be a part of this group it is best to have a plan to help guide them into whatever the proper distraction activity is.
I would use the attached worksheet to initially go over what your triggers are and what you think you could do to cope with them. Then I would urge you to have a number of these printed off so that if you have a trigger you can fill one out for that one specific incident. This way you could process it with someone else and really begin to learn about yourself and how to cope with the triggers. Some days you might do 25 and other days… maybe one, but either way you will begin to learn more about who you are.
If you need any help, I am available to help walk you through this. Remember you always have someone here.