Triggers: Facing the Negatives and Creating the Positives

Within the recovery based community, the term “trigger” is commonly used to express a moment of distress when reminded of a person, place, or thing associated with drug use. At first glance, triggers are a simple enough concept, however, is a bit more complex under further investigation. The mind, in all its complexity, operates off points of reference and memories of feelings associated with events. Now, my belief has always been that if triggers can be formed in relation to negative associations, surely we can program our minds to do the same for positive associations?

In actuality, our minds already do and this example can be used with music. Go ahead and listen to a song from a beautiful moment in your life, and it may just trigger memories and the wonderful feelings associated with it. When I got clean for the first time, I listened to Eminem’s “Recovery” album non-stop. It was the soundtrack to my recovery. It was at this time in my life that I learned independence, self-acceptance, and decided it was time to face my addiction head on and fight for my life. I would listen to the album as I read on the bus on my daily commute to my court mandated drug court program. Looking back, as hard as this time was in my life, it was the most beautiful time.

When I am encountered with a negative trigger/association with drug use, my mind goes straight to the memory of how it felt when all that dopamine was released from the usage and then craves it desperately. It does not remember all the pain associated with it; it only remembers the familiarity, pleasure, and comfort with the drug. When the trigger elicits these feelings, my rational side is overridden. All the meetings, the growth, the new passions, and regained trust from friends and family seem to fade to nothing and the drug takes the place as the air I so desperately need to breathe. When this happens, I force my mind to abandon these falsehoods. The trick is to associate the negative trigger not with associations of bliss from the drug, but the feelings of ultimate pain and sickness that your trigger fails to inform you of initially.

I call this theory “Trigger Alteration.” When the impulsive addict side comes out and says “I don’t care, this is what I need right now” you simply need to redirect yourself. If you have a sponsor, reach out immediately to express these feelings, because once they are expressed, some of the symptoms are relieved. Personally, I love to put on music that elicits triggers of feelings of happiness, or songs that you listened to while in your initial recovery. I immediately put on the album/song that I associate with my growth and spiritual development and often these positive associations will help override the negative ones and help get me through this uncomfortable situation.  

One other technique commonly used in the recovery community is to “play the tape through.” Envision yourself getting the drug, using, and then all the negative consequences that come thereon after; this has proven to be an effective measure when placed in this daunting situation.

I find that as I become more lucid to the way my mind associates certain things, the patterns of my thinking, and feelings associated with these thoughts, that I am able to use “triggers”, which typically come with a negative connotation/stigma, to my advantage. As addicts, we must confront our negative triggers and begin to create positive triggers (associations) if we are to beat this disease, or at least learn to live with it in more of a harmonic balance with ourselves.

In our recovery, it is important to build a new, more beautiful life for ourselves. Simply removing drugs from our life makes us the same person, yet with no new pathways to happiness (on a neurological level). This can only come from creating new neurological pathways to dopamine release/happiness, for example: Exercise, going to the beach, painting, reading, writing, creating music, seeing live music, creating origami, cooking, dancing – really anything. Our minds are only used to releasing dopamine through drug use. Recovery is all about discovering new ways to get high on life and building new pathways in our minds to get there. The opposite of depression is expression. So, express yourself!

All our lives we are told to pursue happiness. Please don’t, as you will be chasing it your entire life. Instead, CREATE happiness. One day at a time, one moment at a time.

Peace, Love, and Recovery ❤

Finding the Right Treatment Center For You

If you believe you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and want to seek help, then call the professionals at Evolutions Treatment Center today at 1-800-795-8527. We can help you find the right treatment you need in order to finally overcome your addiction and get you on the path to recovery. Our trained staff knows exactly what you are going through and can give you the tools you need in order to finally overcome your addiction. So don’t delay, call us today.