Day 3 – Triggers
Day 3 – Triggers
Today I was reminded of triggers. Things, people, or places that would trigger the thought of a drink. As my sobriety birthday approaches, 7 days and counting, I have been thinking back to where I began. Those early, white-knuckle sobriety days, and remembering how difficult some of those days were.
My water cup: was once a trigger that made me want to drink
If you’ve been to treatment, or are currently going through it now, you’ve probably learned about triggers, and what to do. You’ve made your list of potential triggers, and learned (or are learning) how to cope with them when they come up.
But, if you’re like me, everything is a trigger. The picture above is my cup that I use for water, and honestly, that was a trigger for me at one point in time. Not so much the cup itself, but what happened with it. I was new to sobriety, a couple of months, and I picked it up by the lid when I was getting out of the car. What happened? The lid popped off, and water spilled everywhere. This was the proverbial straw that almost broke the camel’s back. I had had a long day at work, and I was worn out.
Thankfully I had learned tools to cope with moments like this, and my immediate thought was “I need a meeting, right now”.
In those early days, a lot of things were triggers for me. Walking past the alcohol at work, a good day, a bad day, the gas station, my apartment. You get the picture. So, this business of triggers is all well and good. I understand the importance of educating folks about triggers. But I think it’s all too easy to focus on what triggers me, and forget about the tools to cope when they happen.
What brought the memory of triggers was, I was getting rid of some beer cozies at work. Budweiser, Miller Lite, and the thought crossed my mind “three years ago, this would have been a trigger for me”. That thought got me thinking about what I did when those triggers hit me. What tools did I use then?
For starters, recognizing my biggest triggers was helpful. Since I had done IOP (Intensive Out-Patient Treatment), as well as Out-Patient II, I had a general idea of what would trip me up. When one of those triggers would pop up, like my cup lid popping off, I had been in a routine of going to meetings. That was one tool I used to cope.
Prayer was a big tool as well. Sometimes I didn’t feel like I was praying to anything, just talking to myself, but the act of praying helped a lot. Saying to something bigger than me that I needed help, right then and there. Usually that took the edge off so I could get back on track.
Texting my sponsor or my friends was another big tool. If you go to meetings, and someone offers their phone number, take it and use it. I promise they aren’t just saying “call me if you ever need to” to be polite. They mean it. They mean it because chances are, they’ve been where you are, and they’ve needed someone to talk to in a pinch too. Even if I didn’t get a response right away, just the act of writing out the words helped. It got whatever bad gunky thought I was having at the time, out of my head, and gave me perspective.
Another tool I used was going for walks. Even if it was just around the block. The simple act of walking, moving, got the blood flowing again, released those endorphins, and I could think clearly again. If I was thinking about a drink, by the end of my walk the thought had passed. And, exercise is a good thing in moderation anyway, so it was a double bonus.
These are just a few of the tools I used to cope with triggers and thoughts of a drink. There are many more though. Find what works for you. And remember, there is never a wrong way to do recovery, as long as you’re doing something.
Originally published January 8, 2017 – medium.com