Triggers as Reminders

Triggers as Reminders

Recovery is a lifelong journey, complete with many twists and turns. A friend who has been sober from alcohol use disorder for 2 1/2 years told me a story yesterday that drove this point home. She had just renewed her Costco membership and went there for the first time since she became sober. 

In addition to their famous rotisserie chicken, Costco is where she bought her alcohol since it was cheap and good quality. She would buy a case or two at a time. She told me yesterday that when she got close to Costco, she noticed the thought —the trigger— of buying the wine inside.

Your Mindset During Triggers

She hadn’t even entered the parking lot or gone into the store yet. Fortunately she is far enough along in her recovery to recognize this as a trigger and to resist turning it into the action of buying alcohol. However, this experience rattled her and reminded her that a slip is just around the corner if she does not remain on guard.

Triggers can be scary and disarming but we can also view triggers as reminders of our progress. When my friend was deep in her addiction, she never would have made it out of that Costco without her wine. But now the trigger —the thought— is limited to just that, a thought that entered and left her brain.

Identifying a Trigger

So what is a trigger? A trigger is an external or internal stimulus that causes a person with an addiction to want to carry out an addictive behavior. It creates a desire, BUT it does not have to create an action. Nevertheless, triggers are sneaky and can undermine your recovery if you do not identify them and create a plan to deal with them.

It is important to identify your individual triggers. These are different for each person and vary based on your surroundings, the substance, your genetics, and many other factors.

Here partial list of potential triggers:

  • Emotions-both positive and negative
  • Stress
  • Social Isolation
  • Illness-mental or physical
  • Relationships/Dating
  • HALT- the acronym for Hungry, Angry , Lonely and/or Tired
  • Certain Locations
  • Certain people 
  • Celebrations/Sad events
  • Senses-smells, tastes, sounds etc.

What is the optimal strategy for managing triggers?

  • Create a relapse prevention plan, including identifying your triggers
  • Build a trigger action plan.  What will you do when you get triggered?  Take a deep breath, change your location, call someone, etc.

Find Strength During Recovery

Our case management services are an important component of our program at Coleman Addiction Medicine. Our Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC), Erin Short, will work with you to find the right fit for your aftercare. This is where potential triggers will start being identified and a plan will put in place to help support your recovery. To learn more about our program, also referred to as the Coleman Method, please schedule a callback below. Recovery can be a safe place where triggers do not necessarily lead you back toward your addiction.  

Deborah Reich, MD

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