Does any of this sound familiar?
You just watched a movie that showed what fun getting drunk can be and then fantasized all week, with the thought simmering in the back of your head, how nice a glass of wine or cold beer would go down. Or your kids are driving you crazy, and you are parched, and it’s wine-o’clock. Or you feel good and want to feel even better. These are just a few ways that a person is triggered.
Being triggered is a real thing
When I first got sober, everything reminded me of drinking, and this is normal. Getting loaded had been my life for twenty years, and it takes time for things to adjust. Addiction disrupts homeostasis and interferes with the body’s ability to adapt to change. Be patient and loving with yourself. Give things time. It is miraculous how the body and mind can heal and recover.
After thirty years, people look at me and assume that the urge to drink doesn’t still come up. And it doesn’t come up often, in fact, rarely. Triggers are passing thoughts, holding little to no power. But I had an experience recently that seriously took me aback.
I was at this social function. It was an expensive, silent auction, sit-down-to-dinner affair with close to a hundred people. I’m a bit shy and didn’t know a soul except the person I went with who said she wasn’t going to drink but then started drinking. You know how that goes.
Suddenly I felt like the hole in the donut, as if I was the only person in the room who wasn’t drinking and very insecure. Yes, I still feel insecure sometimes, and I really did that night, and there just so happened to be a drink sitting in front of me. The thought came flying at me out of nowhere, damn near knocked me off my feet, how easy it would be to pick that drink up and knock it back.
I was suddenly trapped in this surreal moment where I could see myself picking the drink up, raising it to my lips, and taking that first sip. I could almost taste it. I had not felt like that in years and years. My hands were sweating, and my heart was pounding. Triggers had become passing thoughts, holding little to no power.
I went home that night eternally grateful that I had tools to rely on long enough to push my chair away.
Practice this strategy until it becomes habitual
Being triggered does not mean you are weak or overly sensitive. Addiction is a brain-based disease, and relapse is more than just about alcohol and drug use. It is a process that begins in the brain that takes us back to addictive ways of thinking, and it can occur to anyone at any time.
I have outlined below the steps you can take to get yourself out of the danger zone and back to safety and what I did when I found myself in the sticky situation I described.
Step 1: Intentional breathing
The best way to get through a trigger or a craving anywhere, anytime, is to pause, and take a breath. The nature of addiction has you giving in to the compulsion to make that feeling go away. If you don’t feed into it, it will pass through you. Breathe into the moment, and then the next, and the next one after that. Allow the moment to pass, and then the next, and next. Take it one breath at a time. As you are doing that, remind yourself that this is intentional and powerful, and you are supported.
Step 2: Play the tape forward
As you do your intentional breathing, be aware of what your mind is telling you. Typically, it will be a lie, such as, “It’s ok to have just one.” In your mind, play it forward. What does “just one” actually look like? What usually happens next after “just one?” How successful have you been in the past with this strategy?
Step 3: Take a quick body scan
Practice HALT. Are you Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Identify what is happening for you and attend to the need. Hungry? Have a snack to raise your blood sugar level. Angry? Call a friend and talk. Lonely? Again, pick up the phone and call someone. Tired? Go outside and take a few breaths of fresh air or have a nap.
You, too, will be grateful the next morning when you use your power to push the chair away. Do not have that first drink and get through the moment. And then the next. And the next one after that. And it will pass. Each time you resist, you build up your “resiliency” muscle, making it easier and easier until triggers will eventually become passing thoughts.
Are you looking for help to deal with an addiction to alcohol or other drugs? If you struggle, I hope you get help before 20 years pass you by as it did me. My GendHer® program will help you find the freedom you desire and deserve. Click here for more information on my next course.
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