The simplest definition for a trigger is a physical memory that is connected to an event. It can be a trauma, fun and happy event, or sad occurrence.
Our bodies and minds record every nano-second of every moment that occurs in our lives. Not all is recalled or remembered. Many are buried away, archived for future use.
Triggers are memories derived from sight, sound, touch, smell, and elicit an emotional response. An often used example is mom’s home baked apple pie. The positive events surrounding the smell of a home baked apple pie will bring about a positive response when smelled again. However, if it is a negative event, the response may be anxiety, stress, anger, tears, or other similar responses.
Identifying Your Triggers
How often in a day do you find yourself reacting to a scent, sound, touch, or sight? Memories may be vivid or they may be physical. Some memories are clear, while others are vague accompanied by reactions that can be uncomfortable and possibly embarrassing when in public.
Identifying your triggers can be time consuming if you set out to notice every reaction during your day. The task does not have to be daunting and overwhelming at all.
In the 12-step format, you can take a daily inventory at the end of each day. Reviewing your day, discovering self and your relation to the world. 15 minutes is the maximum one should spend at a time.
Questions could include:
- Did I have a good day?
- Was there any moment in my day I reacted in a negative way?
- What was that moment?
- How did I react? What were the thoughts, behaviors, attitude, that accompanied that moment?
- How was I feeling? Anger, fear, anxiety?
- Quietly sit with that narrative you just wrote.
- Close your eyes, breath in through your nose, gently out your mouth. Allowing the body to relax.
- Notice any physical sensations, listen to the thoughts.
- After a few moments, make notes in your journal, as a narrative, story time. Freestyle writing is best, no judgements, no censorship.
- Is there an alternative way to respond? What would that ideal response sound, feel, and look like to you?
- Rehearsals are always good.
- Take one trigger at a time.
- Remember 15 minutes is all you need to devote. This is a daily practice, you won’t fix it in one sitting.
Addiction & Trauma
A Google search about relapse triggers brings up sever articles with titles such as “Top 5 relapse triggers” or “Top 10 relapse Triggers” and articles concerning the most common triggers.
The problem with these articles narrows to one, everyone is different and the triggers for substance choice is also different. There are a few common situations that can elicit a craving. However, relapse occurs before the first use.
Relapse is the process before using your substance of choice. Returning to behaviors, entertaining the same thoughts, contacting those you use to associate with.
There are specific triggers unique to the individual, yet sharing a commonality amongst all users.
- Drastic changes in one’s life style:
- Death of a loved one
- Death of a pet
- Losing a job
- Starting a new job
- Meeting probationary needs
- Leaving long term treatment to be on one’s own.
- Beginning a relationship, ending a relationship
- Involved in violent relationships or with a partner still using.
- Seeing pipes, straws, money, mirrors, or other tools of drug use.
- Hanging out at bars rationalizing that you can go and not drink.
- Making contact with your “old crowd”
- Celebrations of successes
- Hungry, angry, lonely, tired (H.A.L.T.)
- Resentments (unresolved anger)
Recovery is Rewarding
Recovery is at its best rewarding, at its worst a nightmare. Perception is everything. Plans are essential. Creating a plan to forego relapse and heal is a terrific tool.
Planning a recovery path and relapse prevention does not need to be complicated. It is always best to stick to simplicity.
Create your Plan
Here are a few suggested steps to consider:
- Determine your needs:
- Start with the basics:
- Housing: safe, drug/alcohol free
- Nutrition: healthy food, not junk food.
- Water: clean and filtered
- Medical care: both physical and mental health is important. Have a check up, tests, etc. Do not be afraid to ask for professional help.
- Legal issues: do you need assistance in clearing up charges, completing probation/parole? Long term treatment may be able to assist with this.
- Start with the basics:
- Research treatment options available to you.
- Long Term Residential
- Sober Living (this should be the last stage of treatment)
- 12-step recovery groups
- Alternative support groups
- Attend support groups, go through treatment for extra support
- Reach out to the members, find those who have time
- Collect phone numbers, ask for help
- Take the time to get to know someone, find a mentor or sponsor to be your guide. Do not make him/her the only person in your support circle. One person cannot be the end all in your recovery. Remember she/he is also recovering.
- Get the literature, read it, learn from it, DO NOT highlight it. Rather get a journal and take notes.
- Get a journal, colored pens, etc. Create a recovery journal. One that not only expresses your griefs, challenges, but also your success and joys. Use pictures, words, drawings, etc. Find your own personal voice.
- Learn to ask for help:
- Make it non-risk requests to begin with. Something that if you get told no or criticized for is not devastating. This is how you get to know others and how to ask.
- Learn how to accept help, the greatest challenge any of us have is allowing others to help. We get used to there always being a price tag. This is how we learn to find those who won’t expect a price for helping us.
- Learn how to give help. Another challenge, but one that is not required in the beginning. We have always given with expectations. For instance being accepted and liked. This is not a requirement any more.
These are just a few suggestions. Make it personal, safe and loving for you. This is your path. You are here because it is time for you. Make that time count.
My wish for you is that you find this helpful and you create a life of love.
If you would like to take your recovery further, reach out, let’s chat.