Whether you are new to recovery or a veteran of this new lifestyle… it would be fair to say that you have most likely explored the idea of having to face triggers in sobriety. If you’re anything like me, those intrusive thoughts kept me fearful that I would forever live a boring sober life once I left FHE Health. I remember the day I was preparing my aftercare plan with my therapist. I asked to identify my relapse prevention plan – I was absolutely ready to spend my life in solitude for the rest of my life. The truth is, I was terrified and ignorant about what living a sober life actually meant. I remember my therapist laughing when I gave her the ever-so-clever clinical answer to her questions surrounding triggers. I remember her explaining to me that living a sober life is not about living in a bubble but more about learning how to prepare for living life on life’s terms and not using drugs or alcohol – no matter what.
Addiction is a chronic illness that is progressive and fatal in nature. Therefore, every recovering alcoholic must treat the symptoms of this disease. The way we mitigate our disease’s symptoms is with daily maintenance, such as completing the 12-steps, which ultimately equips yourself with the necessary tools to deal with triggers as they may arise. These last four years have been a painfully beautiful process. I have overcome situations I never thought I would survive. Want to know the best part? I have overcome these obstacles and never had to pick up a drink or a drug. Here are a few ways that I have prepared myself to deal with triggers along the way.
Dissect Your Triggers and Unhealthy Habits
Before you can prepare yourself to handle your triggers, you first have to identify every one of them. Unpopular opinion alert – I don’t believe that encountering triggers provoked me to use, but I know for a fact that these triggers awaken the insidious symptoms of my addiction. If I am ill-equipped and resting on my laurels, the likelihood of me picking back up is very high. In order for me to draw this conclusion, I was forced to dissect all of my unhealthy habits and triggers. I was prompted to get rigorously honest about all of my weaknesses and defects of character.
For example, over the last four years, my unhealed past trauma has caused me more pain than I can account for. After experiencing enough pain in sobriety, my sponsor pointed out the dire need for me to pull out the trauma from my past by the roots. That is precisely what I did. I have been actively involved in trauma therapy for well over a year. I continue to dissect the situations that ignite my addict tendencies. If you find yourself triggered by certain friends, your living conditions, social settings, and old traumas – examine them. It is essential for you to take a deeper look at why you struggle with these people, places, and things. Ultimately, you need to decide that your sobriety comes first and get rid of any of the things that do not support your recovery.
Most of us addicts and alcoholics come into recovery absolutely beaten into a state of submission. Many of us have zero sense of self-worth and we spent most of our lives neglecting self-care. One of the most important aspects of avoiding triggers and maintaining continuous sobriety is prioritizing self-care. Addict or not, self-care is an essential practice for all humans. However, cultivating routine self-care practices for individuals in recovery is extremely important. Nothing is more triggering than an addict or alcoholic who is not taking care of themselves. Addiction is a 3-fold illness: mind, body, and spirit. In order to properly maintain your sobriety, you must treat the mind, body, and spirit. Prioritizing self-care is a fundamental component of preparing yourself to be strong when triggers arise.
Know Your Limits and Set Firm Boundaries
One of the most challenging but most rewarding lessons I’ve learned in recovery is setting boundaries and standing by my truth. When I first got sober, I was thoroughly convinced that saying “No” was mean and rude. I contribute much of this old idea to my southern upbringing. Looking back, not standing by my own truth cost me so many precious moments throughout my life. I was easily influenced and extremely desperate for the approval of others. Imagine if I continued to carry that idea long into my four years in sobriety – I would either be drunk or absolutely miserable.
As I have grown to know more and more about who I am, what I value, and more about the disease of alcoholism – I have come to understand my boundaries. Everyone’s path to recovery looks different. For me, I am not the alcoholic that feels comfortable partying it up at a bar – sober. Does this mean I cannot sit with my family at the table when they have alcoholic beverages in hand? Absolutely not. Based on my own experiences, I have come to know the people, places, and things that trigger me. Therefore, I have acknowledged my limits and I am unwilling to waver on the boundaries that protect my sobriety.
Recovery is a lifelong process
The longer I stay sober, the more I realize that I don’t know anything. My understanding is continuously evolving as I am continually meeting different parts of myself every year. Above all of the general tips to dealing with triggers, here are a few of the most important things you can do to cope with triggers:
- Find a sponsor and get connected with an active sponsorship family. The fellowship found in sobriety is second to none. The relationships I have formed with the sober women in my life today is a vital component of my sobriety today.
- Stay connected to a sober fellowship. Whether it’s NA, AA, or any of the other sober support groups, these meetings remind us that we are not alone.
- Connect to a power greater than yourself. There will come a point in your sobriety that the only thing standing between you and a drink is a power greater than yourself. The more I grow spiritually, the more I know this to be true.
- Continuously help others. There is a reason the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous highlights the importance of working with other alcoholics. Evidence has proven that time and time again, helping others is sure to grant us immunity from alcohol. When I throw myself into helping another alcoholic, I am no longer sitting in myself, but I am absolutely reveling in selflessness.