Today’s post is geared at recovery rather than a money topic. For many of you who follow me, you’ve learned that I write on an array of topics. These topics can include personal finance, inspiration, life hacks, recovery, and more.
Being a woman with 10 years of recovery and sobriety, I understand triggers fairly well. And while triggers can be very different for a new person in recovery versus a mature person in recovery, the common ground is that both experience them.
Let’s start by defining a trigger…
The Oxford language dictionary defines a trigger as
Dealing with Triggers in New & Mature Recovery
Those of us in recovery deal with triggers from time to time. Since they are different for people with new sobriety versus mature sobriety, I’m going to break this into those two categories – new and mature. However, for anyone really interested in learning about triggers I recommend you read both sections.
Triggers in New Recovery
My best knowledge on this topic is to speak from my own personal experience. I got sober from drug addiction in late 2009 and then sober from alcohol in early 2010. My mentors in recovery warned me that triggers for drugs and alcohol could be strong early on. They advised that I might need to avoid such triggers in the beginning to ensure my success.
My bottom was so dark and lonely that I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober.
Some examples of common triggers in new recovery could be:
- Getting off an exit on a highway where one used to score drugs
- Going to a bar
- Being at a party where others are using drugs or drinking
- Dysfunctional relationships
- Internet (in particular if the addiction if porn)
- Attending a wedding with alcohol
- Going out to eat with friends who drink
Triggers can be Unique
There can be many more and certainly, these vary from person to person. One of my triggers was actually riding a bicycle! I know, that sounds odd but stay with me on this one. In my using days, my boyfriend & I would take these bike rides for 30+ miles through the Metroparks while we were under the influence of drugs. To be honest those were some of the fun memories of my using days; although, it all ended very badly.
Anyway, early in sobriety when I would hop on a bike, I’d be triggered to these fun memories. In order to stay on the path of sobriety, I stayed off the bike path for a spell. Once, I signed up to participate in a mission trip where we biked from Pittsburg to DC on the Great Allegheny Passage, I was able to get back on my bike. By building new godly memories of biking, this trigger was redeemed!
That leads to my point of how triggers early in recovery, might lessen over time as healing occurs and one becomes spiritually fit.
Some Triggers Need to be Removed Permanently
However, there are some triggers that will need to be removed from one’s life once and for all. For me, those included friends who used drugs and going to parties where drug use occurs. As a daughter of the Most High King, I have no business in those places. There is only one exception and that is if the good Lord in Heaven calls me to go to such a place to rescue the lost. In which case I would never go alone.
Dysfunctional relationships are a HUGE one both in new and mature recovery. For me, I had to end all dysfunctional relationships early in recovery so that I could eventually unearth the roots, heal, forgive, and learn new relational skills. One cannot just go from dysfunction to function overnight. It’s a learned and acquired skill.
Other Triggers Lessen over Time
Many of the other triggers such as going out to eat with friends who drink or attending a wedding only needed to be avoided until I was spiritually fit. Becoming spiritually fit and sanctified is a personal process and the timeline will be different for everyone but the standard rule of thumb is about a year. However, that is only if the person works on recovery honestly and humbly; hence, producing growth.
Triggers in Mature Recovery
As you’ve read in the first section, some triggers lessen over time. Having experienced 10 years of sobriety, I’m no longer triggered by going out to eat with friends who drink. Though, something that I think is always wise here is to have an out.
For example, if I’m going out to eat with friends to celebrate a birthday, I’ll drive separately in the event that folks start getting drunk and I want to politely exit. Sure, people might like to take advantage of the sober person to be the designated driver but with Uber & Lyft, they always have other options. My sobriety is too important to risk so I’m prepared and always have an out.
Another thing I’ve come to learn is that I’m ok being around others who are drinking if there is a common context. For example, playing board games, singing karaoke, dancing, or eating dinner. If it’s just people sitting around drinking, I’m typically not too interested in that. However, I do like to have fun with the aforementioned things!
Deeply Rooted Triggers
Relationships might be the biggest trigger of all and let’s face it, relationships take work. In my 47 years of life, I’ve learned that bad or co-dependent relationships can break a person. They did me.
Good or healthy relationships can help a person grow, take 100% effort from both parties, and enrich life.
Because I value relationships so highly, I’ve taken years to deal with my past junk. I needed the time to uncover the wounds of my past, discover where my unhealthy relational skills came in, unlearn them, heal, forgive, and practice new/healthy relational skills with safe people.
Now when an unsafe person enters my life, my radar is so intuned that I’ve become fairly good at spotting them. I’m literally not able to fall back into the same unhealthy patterns of my past. That is a gift from God when I gave Him my time for sanctification (which BTW is still occurring).
A Chance to Keep Growing
I find that as I continue to trudge the road in recovery and develop more relationships, I get chances to continually work on myself. One thing that seems to be an ongoing trigger is conflict. Not that I want to drink or drug anymore when it arises but my tendency is to avoid it. It’s much healthier for me to learn to stay and participate in the conflict calmly, expressively, and with boundaries.
Another trigger for me is if someone doesn’t like me. When this occurs feelings of insecurity arise. Again I no longer need to drink or drug away these feelings today but I do need to combat these feelings with the truth (God loves me), kindness, and acceptance (not everyone needs to like me).
Triggers that occur in early recovery may be detrimental and removal of the big triggers is recommended. As one progresses through their recovery, some triggers may lessen. However, that is not an excuse to ever be lax. It’s always advisable to have an out in all situations.
As the layers of the onion are peeled, the more deeply rooted triggers are exposed. Through the worthy work of recovery, one can learn to stop playing out the same drama of the past. Additionally, new habits and coping skills can be learned.
There may always be some triggers from time to time and while one may no longer be tempted to escape to addiction, they may still fall into character defects. Recognition of these triggers can be an opportunity for more growth.