Recovery Messages & News

Triggers

By Michele B., Grateful Recovering Addict

Triggers. These are a hot topic in the sober living community. It’s been my experience that literally everything can be a trigger and, given the right combination of hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness (HALT), literally everything in my world has become a trigger at some point. Sometimes triggers bring with them a
fleeting thought. Sometimes it brings on a 7 day bout of obsessive thinking and all the emotions that rollercoaster ride has to offer.
The outcomes of triggers are just that: a rollercoaster ride, full of emotions and behaviours, that our addict mind attempts to lure us onto. Sometimes I can immediately see ‘This is a ride I have no time for’ and other times, I’m on that ride for a minute, an hour, a day or beyond before I even realize it has hooked me. Never mind coming to an understanding of how I got there, instead the focus is on just surviving and getting through it.

Going a step further away from the active addict and closer to my beautiful and hopeful path of recovery, understanding how I got there and working my way back out has been the ‘Golden Ticket’ to
my living in recovery through the tougher times. Tough times are inevitable to human existence. To the recovering addict, these times can become hard to accept as a part of sober living. It can sometimes feel like, despite all of the hard work, the tough times still abound. All of a sudden I find I’m heading down that slippery
slope and can’t understand why. Everything is going just great (or so it seems). I go to multiple meetings and hours of group therapy each week. I have a sponsor; I’m working the 12 steps of an Anonymous fellowship; I have a great support system; I work out; I eat clean; I get up and go to sleep at the same time and get
almost 8 hours of rest every night.

It is in these confusing and hazy times where I have no clue as to how I got here that I do see most clearly what I don’t have. I don’t have acceptance. I don’t have one ounce of trust in my Higher Power. I also don’t have control. A sticking point for addicts everywhere – NO CONTROL. Just writing that statement down triggers me. NO CONTROL. No matter how much yoga, healthy eating, meetings & sharing I do, I have no control. I am powerless.  The sooner I can come to this conclusion, the sooner I can move past this moment and start working towards something more positive.

An interesting thing about triggers that I have learned, as part of working on my personal acceptance of life on life’s terms, is that anytime I am triggered I am shown exactly where I have work to do.  What I mean is this – sometimes a triggering moment can float by as you sit in observance of it and you can easily reflect on that person, place or thing that started the addictive thinking and move past it. That very same trigger can arise again at a different moment in time and all of a sudden it is upsetting and devastating. It turns into the obsessive thinking which wears a person down and then you find yourself reacting.  The end result is nothing less than a devastating blow to yourself, to your feeling of stability within your recovery, and to those closest to you that are also impacted by your behaviours.

This reaction, by the way is not just that we go straight to relapse mode and substance abuse, but instead the reaction is the harder to identify and probably most common relapse: emotional relapse. Then there comes the even worse emotional hangover that follows.  The kind that starts within and bubbles and boils until the lid blows
off and you and everyone around you gest hit.

Life is happening FOR me, not TO me so what is the lesson? It is in these triggering moments where a true gift of recovery is also delivered. Triggers are an easy and abundantly available tool to remind us to be self-aware. They show us (before, during and afterward) exactly where we really are at in our recovery and the strength of our spiritual fitness. Triggers are a tool in every recovering addict’s toolkit that says ‘Hey, over here we’ve got a problem! There are emotions and feelings over here that are going unacknowledged.’ They are internal warning system that, if you choose to ignore it, has powerful and devestating consequences.

Awareness and acceptance help diffuse a trigger’s blow if we work with it, instead of against it. When you find yourself in this place you can explore:

  • What was triggering to me? – Person, place, thing etc.
  • Why? – What are the feelings and emotions that come up?
  • What do I do going forward to soften this rough area?
  • What do I need to ask of my Higher Power (through prayer and by a demonstrative act of trust)?

Trust in your sobriety. Trust in the cues of your self-awareness.  Most of all, trust in your Higher Power to help you find a gentler, softer way of dealing with these moments in times when struggle is upon you. Triggers can be a roadmap for successful recovery, inching us closer and closer as we learn and grow towards a sober life worth living.

Happy.  Joyous. Free.

You will never hear a recovering addict say: ‘I wish I hadn’t turned that one over to my Higher Power.’