I can hear the sirens blasting through my neighborhood, and it reminds me of when they were taking me away to the hospital after I passed out drunk on a city street. I put my head under the covers and pull my cat closer. The sound of sirens is one my triggers. It’s important to identify your own.
Triggers aren’t just things that make you want to drink or use. Triggers can send you into a paralyzing panic attack, or make you want to scream or throw things. And they don’t have to be related to something dramatic; one of my biggest triggers used to be going to the grocery store! As soon as I hit that produce aisle, I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide…and I love vegetables!
Using Your Triggers to Gain Information
Triggers provide us with a lot of information. Sometimes they’re telling us to stay safe, like when we feel a wave of panic as we walk past a dive bar. I also used my triggers to figure out that, if I had the urge to take a Xanax before hanging out with someone, that probably wasn’t the best person for me to spend time with.
Triggers also tell us about behaviors that might have been useful in the past, but that we don’t need anymore. For example, I used to be terribly afraid of hospitals, because once something very bad happened to me in one. Now, after years of avoiding medical care even when I needed it, I can go to the hospital and stay calm.
Here are some tips I picked up to handle my triggers:
- Tip #1: If you need to avoid people and places that trigger you for a while, then do it. There’s usually no reason you absolutely have to walk past a bar or spend time with someone who sends you into a spiral.
- Tip #2: Get used to your triggers gradually. If crowded places like baseball games scare you, then try to go to slightly crowded places and build up.
- Tip #3: Bring a buddy. That’s what I did when I went to hospitals and doctors’ offices. Bring a friend and lean on them for support.
- Tip #4: Forgive yourself. You’re not weak for getting freaked out or wanting to use when you go to certain places. You’re human.
- Tip #5: Listen to your instincts. Sometimes our triggers are working to help keep us safe. If you’re sure you need to leave a place, get out as fast as you can.
Side note: I never did figure out why I was afraid of grocery stores. As far as I know, I’ve never been assaulted by an eggplant.
Recognizing and addressing your triggers is an important way to maintain your sobriety. Another way to maintain your sobriety is reaching out for help if you need it. Our admissions navigators are standing by ready to help you find the best way to address your addiction, your triggers, and your treatment needs. Call us today at 1-888-744-0069 .
Additional Reading: Kicking Drugs (and Cravings) to the Curb
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