Identifying & Dealing with Addiction Triggers

A trigger is something that recalls a traumatic memory and can be the reason that an addict resorts to destructive behaviors. Triggers can be trauma stressors and as such can cause relapses in recovering or recovered addicts. They can be difficult to identify and anticipate and can pose significant impediments to the process of healing.

Indentifying Triggers

Triggers can be external and also internal. While some situations or people can be triggering, emotions such as anger, stress, anxiety, boredom, tiredness, guilt, fear or loneliness can be as triggering. For an alcoholic, walking by a bar could be triggering; even a happy occasion such as a party could be triggering. Significant changes in life, such as a beloved person passing way, the end of an important relationship or even relocating to a new job or city could be triggering.

Environmental and social triggers can be easier to indentify: a place you associate with unhappy memories can be an environmental trigger; some situations or people that are triggering can also be easy to indentify. Introspection and observation will help to identify emotional triggers. While some people turn to addictive behaviors when they are physically exhausted, others do this when they frustrated, helpless or depressed. Since each person is different you will have to put in some effort at identifying your own triggers.

Dealing with Triggers

It follows that if you’ve identified your triggers, you can try and avoid them. Don’t visit places and don’t meet people that are triggering. If physical exhaustion is a trigger, curtail your activities so that you don’t reach the point of exhaustion. Remove physical stressors such as noise so you are able to get a good night’s sleep.

Learn how to cope with a stressful situation. Relaxation techniques could be a good way to reduce stress and hence avoid triggers. Meditating or learning visualization techniques can be useful in centering the mind and in reducing stress. This helps you cope.

Some experts advise that triggers be combated with a series of steps; following the mnemonic “DEADS”:

Delay – Try and delay using when the urge or craving comes upon you: clean the house, cook a meal, go for a walk or talk to a friend. It may well be that the craving will pass.

Escape – Physically get away from the person or the situation that is triggering.

Accept – Don’t deny to yourself that there is a problem or that there are certain specific things that trigger those problems. Accept that some people or emotions are problematic.

Dispute – This is an effective counter to help combat cravings. This is a skill that you develop; a rational new belief to dispute your older defective ones.

Substitute – Substitute a harmful activity with a beneficial one. Learn a new hobby or a sport, develop an interest in reading and turn to these activities instead of the harmful learned behaviors.

Above all be honest with yourself. Addictions require lying. If you continue to lie – either to yourself or to others, you will not overcome your addiction; and will set yourself up for a relapse.