Recovery is a lifelong journey, complete with many unexpected detours and bumps in the road. A friend who stopped drinking 2 1/2 years ago shared a story yesterday that drove this point home to me. She had just gone to Costco for the first time since she became sober.
Besides their rotisserie chicken, Costco is where she used to purchase her wine since it was cheap and they carry her favorite brand. She would often buy a case or two at a time. She told me that when she approached the store, she noticed a thought —a trigger—about buying the wine. She hadn’t even pulled into the parking lot or walked into the store yet.
Your Mindset During Triggers
Fortunately she is mature enough in her recovery to recognize that this is a trigger and to be able to stop it from turning into the action of buying alcohol. However, she did say that it shook her up and reminded her how close a slip-up could be if she does not keep her guard up.
Triggers can be dangerous and scary but they can also serve as reminders of how far we have come in our recovery. When my friend was immersed in her addiction, there is no chance that she would have walked out of that Costco without a case or two of wine. But now the trigger, the thought, was just that— a fleeting idea that popped into her mind and then disappeared.
Identifying a Trigger
What is a trigger? A trigger is a stimulus that causes someone with an addiction to want to use a substance or act out an addictive behavior. While it creates a desire, it does NOT have to result in an action. Triggers are definitely sneaky and can sabotage your recovery journey if you don’t define them and figure out ways to cope with them.
It is essential to identify your triggers. Everyone’s triggers are different and will vary depending on your genetics, your environment, your substance of choice, plus a lot of other things.
Here is a partial list of likely triggers:
- HALT- the acronym for Hungry, Angry , Lonely, Tired
- Illness-mental or physical
- Emotions-both positive and negative
- Social Isolation
- Certain people
- Celebrations/Sad events
- Certain Locations
- Senses: tastes, smells, sounds etc.
What’s the best way to manage your triggers?
- Develop a relapse prevention plan which includes identifying your triggers
- Create a trigger action plan. For example, what will you do when you get triggered? Call someone? Take a walk? Breathe deeply? Change your location?
Find Strength During Recovery
Our specialty at The Coleman Network is helping people start their recovery journey by detoxing off of alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines. If you want to learn more about our program, often referred to as The Coleman Method, please schedule a callback below. Recovery can be a safe place where triggers do not necessarily lead you back into addiction.
Deborah Reich, MD