Whether the trigger is physical (craving, nausea, nervousness); psychological (painful memories, flashbacks,); emotional (depression, anxiety, anger); behavioral ( old habits or patterns, unhealthy reactions or interactions); environmental (toxic friends, places - people - things that are reminders of unhealthy and/or enticing situations); or cognitive (toxic thinking, negative self-talk, the on-going mental battle between truth and lies) - triggers are relentless.
|Unlocking & Understanding Our Triggers!|
Although triggers can and will catapult us back into previous unhealthy patterns of behaving, thinking, and feeling, they can also serve to teach us more about ourselves and how to move forward in our recovery in healing and healthy ways.
Let's take a look at a couple of ways in which triggers can really guide us and help us!
1. If we have worked through a trigger (a craving, a flashback, a toxic thought) but it keeps coming back, we need to stop - go back - and work on it some more! Don't ignore it, minimize it, or push it aside! Pay attention to what the trigger is telling you and take care of it! For example:
- Do you need more healing in this area?
- Do you need to set better or stronger boundaries around this person, place, or thing?
- Do you need to reassess and readjust your expectations of yourself and others.
- Could you use some additional support? Attend a meeting? Call a sponsor or therapist?
|Each and every day, take a reading on your Trigger Thermometer!|
2. This next strategy is really important. I call it the 'trigger thermometer exercise', and there are several steps to this 'trigger teaching tool'.
- Imagine that there is a 'trigger thermometer' within your being. Each and every day (or even throughout the day), take a reading on how you are feeling - your levels of sensitivity, or vulnerability, or of strength in your recovering.
- After taking an honest inventory, make a mental note of your level. Are you feeling strong - feeling ok - feeling at risk?
- If you are in a place of strength, you understand that your triggers 'may' have a minimal impact on you. Of course, it depends on the trigger and its relationship to you. If you are feeling ok or at risk, you immediately communicate to yourself that your triggers can and will impact you more severely; and in fact, they could redirect you into relapse.
- Next, by knowing what is going on with your levels of strength or of sensitivity, you have the knowledge and the power to make healthy choices about what to do, where to go, and when and how to go about your day. You are taking care of you!
When I have suggested this strategy with clients, sometimes they say, 'Holli, I feel so silly or weak that I need to do this. I think I'll be fine just knowing and thinking about my triggers". What I share with them is my truth as I wrote in Mountain Air. I share it with compassion but also as a challenge...
"In recovery, there is no room for complacency - or for the over-reliance on one's current levels of trust and growth. Outside forces do not rest - neither must the workings of recovery."
...allowing the awareness and knowledge of your triggers to guide
and direct you in your recovering.
Homework: Keep identifying and writing down your triggers - all of them! Continue to connect them to their sources (and work through those injuries if needed). Then, implement the 'trigger thermometer' exercise today! Experience what good news this is!