Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

How to Handle Triggers in Sobriety

Learning what triggers your desire to drink and getting a handle on it comprises one key to staying sober. You need to address both levels of trigger – the obvious and the underlying.

Emotional Triggers Defined

The term emotional trigger refers to anything that provokes you to a strong emotional reaction and that your brain sees as a threat. The trigger causes a reaction in you.

You need to recognize two things – the trigger itself and that you pick the reaction. If you are in meetings or rehab right now, prior to this, your trigger reaction has been to drink as a reaction. You can pick another reaction though, like going for a run or reading.

Types of Triggers

As Psych Central explains, a trigger sets off a memory that transports you back to the original trauma that led you to drink or use. A trigger can be external or internal. There are many types:

  • emotional,
  • physical,
  • people,
  • places,
  • things,
  • situations.

Emotional triggers like anger, fear, humiliation, joy, loss, resentment or stress can lead to the desire to drink because, at some point, you learned to numb emotions with alcohol. Physical triggers include things like a fear of intimacy – thinking that you cannot have sex without drinking first. It also includes pain, a major physical trigger.

Situations like celebrations, sports events and holidays can trigger drinking. Think of spending Christmas alone or of the festive huge family party each year. Both can trigger the desire to drink in different people and do nothing in others. For some people, the trigger is certain people, like the friends you once drank with or with whom you went through school. If drinking together was a large part, or the only part, of your time together, those people can trigger the desire to drink. Running into your old dealer or the manager of your favorite liquor store can do it, too. Things like seeing a bottle of alcohol on the table at a bistro or a friend’s house can do it. Your trigger might be the club where work held its semi-annual pep/morale meetings. There’s no way to skip it and the memories make you want to drink.

The Deeper Trigger

Once you know what exposure triggers your desire to drink, you need to know why it triggers that desire. There’s something deeper than psychology and counseling help you reach. You need to discover the underlying trigger and deal with it.

Rehab followed by recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous only go so far. You also need counseling that helps you deal with things on a deeper level. This addresses the trauma that triggers takes you back to that draws you to alcohol.

Long-term Strategies for Dealing with Triggers

While you identify and explore and discuss your triggers at counseling and meetings, you also need to explore and develop a healthier you. Three things you can begin at any time can help – exercise, journaling and meditation.

Walking and running top the easy exercise list. You only need a pair of track shoes to start. The activity releases endorphins that cause what is called the “runner’s high,” a physical rush that, in the brain, resembles what drug manufacturers craft in a lab. Exercise provides a natural high.

Journaling provides a self-help method of exploring your emotions, needs, triggers, and history. It only requires a few minutes of your day, a pen or pencil and paper. You can take your journal with you to counseling sessions to refer to while talking. It can help to ensure you do not gloss over details and help you honestly confront problems.

Meditation does not have to be goofy “om”-ing sitting Indian style. Yoga, Pilates, and prayer all count as meditation. Simply sitting in a chair or lying on the floor with your eyes closed and relaxing each body part also counts as meditation. The point of meditation is to release your thoughts and become aware of your body and breathing.

You can identify and learn to control your triggers. Your trigger does not control you. You can learn to control your triggers and your addiction. You can learn to manage it. You can remain sober one day at a time.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, contact us today. At Principles Recovery Center, we know the road to recovery isn’t easy and it isn’t something you should have to do alone. Let us help today!