Triggers: Things that can lead to a relapse
A trigger is a place, person or an event that could lead someone in active recovery back into being an active user. Triggers are things we are warned about early in recovery and can be both obvious in some situations or creep up on you without you knowing. Keeping oneself in the greener pastures of recovery requires an awareness of those instances where certain people, places and things can conjure up those old and addictive ways of thinking, being and doing. Since recovery is a journey, one must continue to be vigilant on how triggers present themselves in daily living situations.
Old People and Places
There are examples of trigger events that can come to mind easily and roll off the tongue. The classic example is going to a favorite watering hole or still hanging out with friends that are still using. Those examples are common due to the fact that we as addicts find it difficult to part with old places and people, especially those old friends. Even though the bonds we share with our using friends ultimately caused chaos in our lives, those good and high times are easily remembered and those places such as the bar provided a place of communion.
One thing leads to another
While certain trigger events can be easily identified and can lead to a backslide to previous using patterns of behavior if acted upon, there are usually several trigger events or mechanisms that can be working in concert. For example, let’s use the classic example of hanging out at a favorite bar or tavern. You may find yourself hanging out at a bar with your friends because you feel like to need to be part of the gang again. Your friends may say something like “Hey man, you are doing so well, just come hang out with us like old times”.
The night can come and go and you may not have drank or did any drugs, so there may be feelings that you’ve got this whole sobriety thing down—you went into the lion’s den and came out unscathed. Those great feelings of success may give you a feeling that you can handle things on your own (a trigger). You slowly stop hanging around your recovery network and support systems (a trigger) and get out of your normal routines that you kept in recovery (also a trigger). You may feel like you can handle a drink because you have been doing so well so you start having a six-pack or a bottle of wine in the fridge, and so on.
Chaos in recovery
The above scenario is a simple example of how trigger events can come together over time to create chaos in recovery. The moments where actual use occurs usually comes about because other smaller moments or events occur beforehand and those smaller pieces fuse together to form a sort of mental and spiritual Frankenstein. There are other things that may lurk in the shadows as well: sudden changes in mood, isolating oneself, obsessing about drugs and alcohol, or setting expectations too high or keeping unrealistic expectations among others.
Knowing your triggers
Triggers are present no matter how long the clean time. Much like the occurrence of the using dream, knowing what your triggers are can be a learning tool in gauging the stability of your recovery program. Finding weaknesses and feeling moments of weakness in recovery can be unpleasant; however, those moments of weakness can be the spark to take your recovery to the next step.
Tim Powers – bald, tattooed, a business professional by day and rocker by night. Sober by the grace of God since the 8th of May in the year of our Lord 2003. Sharing my stories and myself in order to pay it forward. You can follow me on Twitter @tpowersbass42
2 responses to “Keeping the Finger off the Trigger”
Work the steps triggers do not exhist.
Great points Tim! There can be, and ARE , triggers at any stage of recovery. I’ve seen lots of people with time go out, but I’ve never heard any of them come back & say “Man, that was great, you gotta get out there!” In early recovery, I heard a lot about slips and wondered how they happened, until I heard an old-timer say that “S.L.I.P.” was an acronym for Sobriety Losing It’s Priority, and that it happens long before we pick up the first drink! Since I do NOT want to find out if I have another recovery in me, at 33 yrs I do the same things that were suggested when I was new – I go to mtgs, I use my sponsor, I read the book & work the steps, I have sponsees & service commitments, and I pray & meditate, to the best of my ability, ODAT. As you mentioned, a trigger not dealt with begets another & another, and before we know it, we’re DRUNK and wondering what the hell happened. KISS! ?