Today we discuss how to deal with triggers. Triggers are a response to an outside stimulus that results in an automatic action. We have trained our brains to drink, and we have to untrain them. We look at how H.A.L.T.S (Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired. Stressed) can affect our sobriety.
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You’re not going to get to a point where you’ll never be triggered ever again.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling triggered, it still happens to us veterans who are decades in. It’s perfectly normal, but how we deal with it will determine the quality of our lives.
When you just stop drinking, triggers are a big thing to deal with. Almost everything in your former life can be a trigger. Let’s go through a few.
Old friends and family are usually very triggering for people. We often surround ourselves with the people who validate the amount we drink, and they’ll still be around when you give up drinking. So finding a way to distance yourself from them or limiting your time with them, is absolutely important.
“There’s nothing like getting sober and finding out who your real friends are.” – Veronica Valli
You’re the one who changed, not them, so instead of expecting them to regulate their behaviour or be on the same journey you’re on, realize that some relationships will have to change for the sake of your sobriety.
There are old patterns that can be triggering for us too. Like if you’d wake up late and night to drink, when that time rolls around, you’ll feel triggered then. Same for going to wedding receptions, Christmas parties, sporting events on the weekends, or something as simple as coming through the door after a hard day’s work.
When we’re new to sobriety, we’re vulnerable, so it’s time to draw up plans and escape scenarios for when the triggers inevitably occur.
For example, what do you do when the explosive conversation inevitably happens around the family dinner table? Or what do you do when, like Veronica, you now had hours and hours of time free and open, where you’d usually be drinking. How do you pass the time without giving in to triggers then?
“The big part of sobriety is getting back into your body and being able to listen to what you need right now.” – Veronica Valli
I want to comfort you by letting you know that it won’t be difficult forever, it might take 30, 60 or 90 days but it gets easier to deal with your triggers.
One thing we suggest is to create entirely different routines. If you’d usually come home from work at 5 and start drinking, go straight to a yoga class after work instead. If you usually celebrate with a cocktail, make your own non-alcoholic variety and celebrate that way.
Veronica and Chip talk about other triggers, and the most basic, but most important one to watch out for, and they talk about other ways to manage your triggers on this episode. Tune in to hear the whole thing.
Your friends will start to look different
Your friend won’t change, but because you’re the one who’s changed, you’ll start looking at them differently. Their behaviours and mindset are now very different from yours, and so you’ll have to start distancing yourself and attracting more like-minded people to be around. It will continue to be a trigger for you if you hang around them while they’re doing what they normally do: drinking and validating your urge to drink.
Be aware of your patterns
We can get triggered on autopilot by the patterns and customs we used to have before we got sober. If a regular thing for you was opening a can or pouring a glass after work or on the weekend, and having everything go downhill from there, when those times roll around, you’re going to get triggered. Same for going to weddings or holiday celebrations too. So be aware of those events and plan for how you’ll adjust when the trigger arises.
Time spent around difficult family will feel worse
Have an exit plan on your own terms. Family is complicated, and where you may have been able to drink to pass the time or to numb yourself to stressful situations and conversations, that crutch no longer exists. So knowing what to do when things get tense, which they usually do, is crucial.
Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Stressed
They’re kind of basic, and easy to overlook. But they’re so important. Especially now when we’re all in quarantine, it’s easy to slip into anger or loneliness and you might not have a great way of talking yourself down now that you’re newly sober. So it’s good to be aware of how you’re feeling. Be in tune with yourself so you’ll know to be more preventative than reactive to these 5 as they come.
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