Before we get into discussing the various and common triggers within early sobriety, and recovery in general, let’s unpack exactly what a trigger is. A trigger is a person, event, experience, or location that is perceived by the individual which causes a negative emotional reaction. An obvious example might be if we are recovering from alcoholism, but we pass the alcohol aisle in the local grocery store and that “triggers” us to romanticize our old drinking days. Notice that triggers aren’t responsible for the actions that follow the triggering because we still have autonomy over our decision-making faculties at that point. This, however, is why triggers are such a hot topic amongst treatment program; their inescapable presence in the world can and have led many addicts to relapse. As we are all very aware, if we submit to the trigger and engage in drug or alcohol use, we have then rendered the decision-making part of our brain defenseless against the compulsive and cyclical nature of addiction.
The point that should be made is that we ought to be spending less time on identifying our triggers, and more time working diligently to create a life for ourselves that bolsters our defenses against the inevitability of triggers in the external world. This isn’t to say that if we know walking down the alcohol aisle has the potential to set off negative emotions and potentially impulsive responses that we continue going down that aisle, of course not. If we have the foresight to see a potential trigger, or we are aware that we may encounter an individual who is massively triggering, then we need to take the responsible action and remove ourselves. The problem with the approach of simply avoiding triggers is that certain triggers are unavoidable, and also that we may not be aware of everything and everyone that may be potentially triggering, It seems sensible, again, that the primary defense against triggers is a solid recovery program where we have a strong social support network of people we can call, a program of self-improvement and progress, and the capacity to be honest with ourselves so that we can identify potential pitfalls. We may come to recognize that even certain family members are triggering, and in this case, we need to apply what we’ve learned in recovery and make the decision as to whether it is best for us and our recovery program if we engage with this family member. It isn’t how best we learn to avoid triggers; it is how well we respond to the triggers and how work to understand why they trigger us to begin with.
Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon is a men’s addiction treatment center that teaches our clients how to roll with life’s punches and use the tools they’ve learned throughout the treatment process to stay on top of anything life throws at them. Call (503) 850-2474 to see how we can help you today.