Understanding Triggers

No, we aren’t talking about the small piece that helps fire a gun; we are talking about sobriety triggers of course! Triggers have a combination of moving parts, but for the purpose of simplicity in this article they fall in two major categories; typical and atypical. Your typical trigger is one that works through the five primary senses. The most frequently used senses are sight, sound and smell. Many of us can relate to being overwhelmed with a craving after seeing an alcohol commercial, or smelling the scent of weed in the air. Let’s break these typical environmental triggers down so we can better equip ourselves for any future triggering events.

First, you have a visual and/or olfactory(smell) stimulus presenting itself while you were minding your own business. Next, your brain passively recognizes the stimulus and says, “Hey! I know this!” and it goes knocking on the front door to the memory department. When the memory of past experiences is accessed, a process of recall begins to happen. Recall is a powerful mental period where you can experience sensations of being intoxicated even though you have not ingested or used anything. Following the sensation of recall is a form of mental grounding where your brain and you recognize that this is just a trigger; but the memory can stay active for a while causing doubt and cravings threatening your sobriety. You will be faced with options of either getting a grip of the situation or succumbing to actions that will likely threaten your sobriety. Obviously make the right choice and protect your sobriety. If the trigger is extremely strong, it would be best to reach out for support from a friend or relative.

An atypical trigger is one that is stress induced. Often times when dealing with a stressful personal event (like a flat tire) or situation with work, the immediate thought of many recovering addicts is to solve the problem through intoxication. Stress is bound to happen and as you continue your journey with sobriety you will need to train your brain how to properly deal with stress. How you might ask? Your brain forms associations between triggering events and how you cope with the triggers. This means your brain is actively learning each time you take a step in the right direction when dealing with stressful triggers. The old adage of what fires together, wires together is referencing neurons and their connections within your brain. How does this impact you in the long run? It forms a complete experience and builds automatic defensive habits the next time you are faced with a trigger! Each time you positively cope with a triggering event builds mental resilience. The next time you get triggered, be sure to ground yourself and utilize a positive method in coping with the stress; your brain and long term sobriety will thank you for it. Train that brain!

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