Fight For Your Sobriety

I remember in recovery being told many a time to “avoid triggers.” Which seems like an easy thing to do. Trouble is, there are triggers everywhere and I run into them quite often. Today’s safe coping strategy:

Fight the trigger. Take an active approach to protect yourself.

Just because triggers are coming at you left and right doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about them.

Some of them can be avoided. Don’t go into that corner market where you used to buy your wine. Don’t hang out with friends you used to party with. Ask your spouse not to keep alcohol in the house.

But some you can’t avoid. Like seeing a billboard advertising beer, or watching a show and suddenly someone is pouring themselves a glass of wine. Or the beer and the yogurt are in the same aisle at the grocery store for some reason. Or just having a bad, stressful day. Those kinds of things are going to happen to you.

But, what you have to do is identify the situation as a trigger. Tell yourself, this is a trigger. And then work against it. It wants to bring you down. It wants to burrow into your subconscious and pull you right off track. You need to fight it. See it for what it really is. Remind yourself of the consequences of drinking/using.

A trigger can happen without you even knowing about it. It’s really about getting that itch. Having that feeling that gee, a cold pint of beer would be awfully good right about now. The fleeting thought that you want something you used to have, but can’t have anymore. And maybe that’s all it is: a fleeting thought. But if you don’t hone in on that thought, and label it as a trigger, and an urge or a craving, then it can eat away at you until you cave in.

It’s unfortunate, but as an addict, you always need to be on your toes. You need to watch out for things like this. See the warning signs. Learn your individual triggers and avoid them whenever you can. Having an anxious day and maybe you want to take the edge off? Don’t go down that aisle at the store, no matter how bad you wanted the yogurt. In fact, avoid the store altogether. It can wait, nothing is more important than your sobriety.

Fighting the trigger means fighting for yourself. Fighting for you sobriety, your sanity, your safety. Nothing comes before that.

Distract Yourself

The Safe Coping Strategy I have chosen to share with you this week is:

Practice delay. If you feel you cannot prevent a self-destructive act, delay it as long as possible.

As I mentioned in one of my first posts, the “one day at a time” mentality most people recommend for recovery can sometimes be confusing or overwhelming early in recovery. I chose a couple of different ways of accomplishing the same thing.

For one, I follow “The 24 Hour Plan”. It’s basically the same thing as saying one day at a time, but somehow the explanation resonated with me much more. I may have had a drink yesterday, but yesterday is gone and I can’t do anything about it. I may even drink tomorrow, no one really knows what will happen tomorrow, nor why. But today. Today is here, and I have control over it. So if I only commit to not drinking today, it takes some of the pressure off. I’m not going to have a drink today. The rest is up to actions and stimuli and unforeseen events, and a tomorrow that none of us can really plan for.

The other thing I have tried is that I just take the next five minutes. I can handle five minutes. They’ll be gone in no time. As the coping strategy says, you can delay the thoughts of your self-destructive thoughts from becoming actions. I want a drink, but I’ll wait 5 minutes. I’ll wait a half hour. I’ll wait until tomorrow. And when that time comes, you tell yourself, I’ll wait 5 more minutes. One more day.

Eventually, the craving, the urge and the desire will subside, maybe even go away completely. And maybe go away completely for a long time.

If it was a life event or stressful moment that triggered the urge, while you’re waiting out your delayed actions, use the time to tackle the issue in a positive, productive manner. Help out a loved one who is in a tough place. Have a talk with your boss that did something to irritate you. Take a moment for yourself to get out and be alone and just breathe. If a situation is stressful, excuse yourself from it completely if you’re able. For serious life events, seek counseling or confide in a close friend. Allow yourself to recover or grieve. The event may have caused you to want to use, but if you can delay the use, approach your life problem with a positive attitude and the desire to solve the problem, you may just find at the end of the day, you don’t have that desire anymore.

Once in our recovery, we find our triggers and urges and cravings and desires tend to only be momentary. What in the past our addicted brains had tricked us into thinking we needed to use just to get by, our new conscious brain knows the urges will pass, the feelings will ebb, and we can be proud of ourselves for not using when we wanted to, and remaining on our path to sobriety. At the end of the day, the sense of accomplishment you will feel for having another sober date under your belt by far surpass any momentary high you would have had by giving in to the addiction.

You will have weak moments where you have been triggered and you feel like reaching for your drug of choice. But, practice this safe coping strategy. Delay it as long as possible. Talk yourself down, talk yourself out of it, and the feeling will pass.