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Triggers in Recovery


What are triggers? That's a term we often hear about in recovery circles and while we use the word quite liberally, do we ever take the time to really analyze what we're talking about? Simply put, a trigger is a stimulus that creates a response in us that can bring us back swiftly to addictive behavior. We may have stopped the behavior--alcohol, drugs, porn, gambling--but that doesn't mean the disease of addiction has's still there, just waiting to pounce on us if we drop our guard. Without getting all religious, it's kind of like the Apostle Peter's first letter, chapter 4, verse 8 where he says "Keep your senses, be watchful! Your adverary, the Devil (in this case, your addiction) walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour you!"

And what's the quickest way to be devoured by the roaring lion of addiction? To allow yourself to be triggered which will catapult you right into relapse before you know what hits you.

So what kinds of triggers do you personally need to be aware of? Perhaps, if you've not already done so, make a list of the most dangerous ones for your recovery...

Old friends?





Justifying and rationalizing that it's not fair that you need to abstain from a specific behavior while you see others not having to?

Unmanaged stress?

Feeling sorry for yourself?

Whatever the case, when it comes to addiction, there are no gray areas in the sense that for most of us, recovery really is an either or situation. You can't kind of be in recovery--you either are or you're not. But potential triggers will tell you that you can be kind of and then...?

So what can you do about triggers?

1. Recognize them before they hit.

2. Shut them down instantly, even if it means yelling the word STOP! at yourself internally.

3. Prepare in advance because like it or not, they're going to be there, especially in early recovery. Maybe even carry your list around with you for a while.

4. If you feel you have been triggered, recognize it instantly...don't play around with the thought as it will only get worse and lead you into relapse. Call someone, go to a meeting, pray, read

something spiritual, go for a drive, do something to get you out of the triggering mindset.

Recovery is tough but I don't think there are many people who've said, "Well, I've been sober for years but boy, I sure do regret it!"

So the next time you feel the slightest trigger, that faint itch at the back of your mind, shut it down and move on to something else, allowing for another day of recovery.

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