Getting Through a Triggering Situation

Triggers are everywhere. At least, so it seems in early recovery. Having been stripped of any last defenses and feeling like insides have been turned to outsides, early recovery leaves a person feeling incredibly raw and vulnerable. Layer after layer of patterned thinking and behavior are unearthed revealing endless information about what makes someone tick, and what ticks them off. Old hurts that were never processed, traumas that were hidden away, and generally speaking most emotional experiences were put on the back burner during the many years of actively using drugs and alcohol. Even with co-occurring disorders such as eating disorders, process addictions and other mental or behavioral issues, some communication went awry in the brain that lead certain situations to be dealt with in a mostly avoidant manner.

There is a saying in recovery that “more will be revealed”. Truly, each day in early recovery is a discovery process. Some days it is remembered how incredibly delicious a good bowl of cereal is, triggering happy memories of a happy child long before the despair of addiction. Other days it is remembered how sad it was when a childhood companion was lost, triggering painful memories of abandonment and loneliness. Without the presence of substances altering primary chemical operations, the brain finds itself scrambling to make meaning out of what it experiences in everyday life. For the first time in what is likely quite a long time, much of that sense-making is derived from previous memories. Like flood gates opening or spontaneous cinematic montages, memories get activated all the time. It isn’t always pleasant, or immediately known.

Often, or at least until enough therapy has been done and time has been spent in recovery to be more conscious of them, triggers are mostly subconscious. A situation will occur that will create a particular pattern of behavior or reaction that stems from whatever it is in the mind that is being triggered. Triggering situations can be difficult to cope with when the triggers are traumatizing and strong. The moment will pass, but getting through it is possible.

Be mindful and aware
It can be difficult to do in the beginning, and depending on the situation, but being mindful and aware of the emotions being experienced can take a lot of power out of their overwhelming presence, as well as help in understanding them.

Reach out
Call a sponsor, a trusted peer, a counselor, or mentor in recovery. Reach out to family members and friends in the immediate support system for love and guidance.

Take a walk
If the situation is too much, get on the phone and get out. Arrange for a pick up from a loved one, or take a long walk to get some fresh air and digest the situation.

The Villa Treatment Center knows how it is to have to get through something alone. Here, you are never alone. Reach out a hand to us today for more information on our programs of care. Call 1-818-639-7160.