What are triggers?
A trigger is anything that reminds you of an old habit that you have given up. You have given up cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and chocolate and are happily getting on with your new life. You have lost weight, your bank balance has improved, and you feel healthier and happier, then one day you find yourself walking past a restaurant, it is a beautiful sunny day and there are customers sitting at tables outside, as you glance over you notice the large glass of white wine, the food that is being eaten or perhaps it is where you were going after or before using drugs. You see something, hear something, smell something and it triggers a memory you had stored in your mind, and you find yourself unable to let go of the old images of a time gone by.
You have a choice, you can either push the memory aside or you can embellish it. You smile at the memory and before you know it you are in trance brought on by your trigger. The memory of a time in your past soon develops into a craving and then starts chipping away at your resolve.
Maybe you do not give in at that moment, but there will always be triggers and eventually, there will be one too many, the straw that broke the camel’s back and leads you back to your habit.
You step back onto the merry-go-round of giving in, hating yourself for giving in, giving up, giving in and on and on until you finally find the way of stepping off the merry-go-round for good.
Mostly we are unaware of all these triggers and of how our environment affects our thoughts which in turn decides the actions we take. It all happens at a level below our conscious thinking.
It is only when we are trying to kick a habit that we become aware of how many things can take our thinking in the wrong direction. A trigger can be absolutely anything that triggers a set of thoughts that change the way you want to act. A trigger can be the quickest way to deplete your willpower and drain your resolve
If you don’t learn to understand your triggers, they will control your life and you will never be truly free.
How can you control your triggers to free yourself from addiction?
- Become aware of what your triggers are. They are there all the time, pushing and shaping our lives but in times of habit change understanding them is vital to keeping you going in the right direction. If we understand them, then as soon as we notice them we can shake them off. Call them out for what they are. They are just old memories of a time that is now in your past. You don’t do that behaviour anymore. You have moved on to a better life.
- Understand that no matter how determined you are to be free of your addiction any trigger will test your willpower. Remember willpower is a finite resource and will be depleted throughout the day. You may wake up strong and determined but every stressor or trigger you have during the day will chip a little bit away so that by the time you get home, you see drug paraphernalia, beer, or wine bottles or that chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer, it can be too difficult to resist. There is always a justification “I deserve this, I have had a hard day.” Keep your focus on your long-term goal and refuse to be conned by short-term gratification.
- Let go of romantic images of your addiction. Feel sorry for the people sitting outside that restaurant that are still trapped in the addiction cycle. They may be drinking a glass of wine now, but how will they feel once the hangover wears off. That chocolate cake may look inviting but how much more fat is being added to the waist? And that drug memory? I have yet to meet a happy drug addict.
- In the early stages of getting free of your addiction avoid any places and people that tempt you to start again. If you are serious about the change you want to make then you sometimes have to make big changes. Let your old life go and any people who do not make your life better. You don’t need to live the life you have lived or do the things you did just because that is how it has always been.
- Make sure your inner belief is strong. Find positive incentives that keep you going on your journey to freedom. Negative incentives, for example, hangovers, debt, failed relationships, and ill health will get you started on your journey, but once the pain has gone and you begin to feel healthier your mind starts to drift to “maybe I wasn’t so bad” “Maybe I could just use/drink/eat chocolate now and again.” To counter this argument, you must ensure you have positive incentives. Find all the positive reasons you gave up in the first place. What exercise are you doing? What food are you eating? It becomes not about what you are giving up but what are you doing to make you the healthiest and happiest version of yourself that you can be.
- Get friendly with people who no longer drink alcohol, with people who see food as something they use to improve their health, and with people who have either never used drugs or who have given up. Change your hobbies, change what you do in your free time, and drop anything that does not make you feel that you want to get up out of your bed every day with a great to be-alive feeling.