Triggers are a consequence of addiction. Triggers include any kind of stimulus that activates an urge to act out, they include things like: getting stressed out, being by yourself, watching love scenes in a movie, and even the mere touch of the keyboard (for some). You need to be aware of what happens in your brain with these triggers and how to handle them so that you don’t succumb to them.
Each trigger sparks a chemical reaction in your brain which turns on the “dopamine valve”. This process will take you down a path that many people think is linear, but you need to know that it is more like a downward curve. Once the horizon of the curve starts to dip and the “line” becomes more and more vertical (going down), you reach what we call the “point of no return”, where even the best recovering addicts will fall.
When you are triggered you have a certain amount of time before you reach that point of no return. The further along you are in your recovery the more time you have (the wider the curve) and the more addicted you are the shorter the time (steeper the curve).
Here is a graphical depiction of that whole process.
The way to avoid the point of no return is to intervene before you even get to the dip. But the trick is to intervene with something that will really be able to compete with the trigger. We need powerful alternatives to take us off that treacherous downward trajectory. I recommend looking for 3 competitive alternatives in these three areas (in order):
- Three Mental Alternatives. These are mental things that can help get your mind off the trigger. You can pick from the things in your “tool kit” or fond memories of your family. You can also try some mindfulness activities to give your brain a healthy dose of serotonin (relax you) instead of dopamine, which will help you relax or you could turn to something that would take your total attention, some intense mental activity that is enjoyable.
- Three Spiritual Alternatives. These are powerful and moving spiritual (and emotional) activities to get you back on track. These alternatives should connect you to your higher power, thereby either giving you a dose of serotonin or oxytocin (the connection chemical). If you choose something like “praying” you might try heightening that experience by going to a private place, getting on your knees, and pouring your heart out loud to your higher power.
- Three Physical Alternatives. These are physical things to drastically change your situation or environment. These activities are meant to either give you a dose of endorphins (chemical that makes you feel good when you exercise) or a wholesome alternative to dopamine. As your last resort, these should be things that can act as a “fail safe”, such as literally getting out and going for a run, going for a walk, playing a game, playing an instrument, etc.
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