What do you tell yourself during triggers?
Most of us have experienced the dreaded triggers so common in a recovery journey. Many of us have gone past the triggers and experienced the gallant "other side" and also regrettably, many of us have gone past to experience the stigmatized relapse. In my own experience, there were times when I certainly was not able to move past the triggers and then there were other times when I was. The norm does not seem to be that a person will simply quit drinking once and for all, the first time they try.
So how do we move past triggers? How do we move forward towards our better, faster, stronger, sober self, rather than backwards towards our darker, smaller, sadder, drinking self? How do we talk to ourselves when the voice to drink is yelling so loudly that it's hard to think? When the drinking voice echoes throughout our entire days and wakes us up in the morning with the spinning cloud of negative demands, like a barking dog or an angry bee's nest. When we walk around fully fatigued from thinking, reasoning, trying not to do the wrong thing and soon enough, drinking doesn't even seem like a bad thing anymore. No, it seems by now like something we'd given up almost on a whim, really for no reason, maybe even this time would be different. Or maybe, we even know that this time won't be different, but at this point in our mental strain, we don't even care.
These are difficult times, for sure. Some of the hardest times in a sober journey. Maybe we have some solid time under our belt, maybe things have smoothed out in our lives, maybe we are happier or less chaotic. At any rate, we are neither feeling in immediate danger, nor are we feeling like we've got this sobriety thing all figured out. We are in the gray area and being passionate people of extremes, we don't much like that gray area. It's just too....neutral. We are go-getters, whichever way we are going.
Having run into this type of thinking and gray area myself and thinking myself through them, I can tell you some ways to think and to act, that will ease you back onto the right track again. Even though the right track doesn't seem like a non-drinking one at the moment, it is in actuality. So put down the wine glass that you were "just dusting off in case you needed it" and get going on reading this list. You'll be glad tomorrow that you did.
If you're thinking: "What difference does it make?"
There was a time, not so long ago even, when it made all the difference in the world to you to become and stay sober. Obviously, you need to go back and reread your journal or blog entries or whatever you have, from around that time to remind yourself of those times and how desperate you were. How much you prayed for sobriety. How it took up most of your thoughts. Go back and remember. Reflect on the reality of those times. Nothing has changed since then, as in, alcohol is still the same, the same bad choice, the same addictive toxic substance that will not bring any happiness into your life. Only you have changed and you bring your own happiness now. You are no longer a passive participant in your own life.
If you're thinking: "Gee, I had some good times back then. Remember when we all went out and did shots and drank rum and cokes and saw that band and had such a blast and I wore those awesome jeans and everyone told me how hot I was?"
Yeah that was a good time. It was good because you were younger and with your friends, who were also younger than they are now and didn't worry about the next day at that moment in time. You were trying to look fun and have a good time and you did. It was not the booze that was creating the good time. Often we are remembering the good times and putting alcohol into the forefront of the memory, when it was really just a side-note. If we look back at a truly bad time though, that included alcohol, we can more clearly see how alcohol was most likely very much the main antagonist in the memory. So think to yourself, how can alcohol be such a provider of a good time AND a bad time? Think about the two scenarios and how they differ. What is the true reason one time was bad versus good? Most likely it was good based on your situation (with friends, a beautiful summer night) and stayed good because you didn't get: hammered, assaulted, a DUI, violently ill, etc. You lucked out that night. The nights you look back on that were bad ones involved too much alcohol, every time. And no - you cannot just have "some" and be ok this time. Leading us to the next thought.
If you're thinking : "It will be different this time!"
No, sorry, but it will not be different this time. Drinking never was different in all the times you tried after quitting or trying to regulate it. Never ever will it change. You never in your whole drinking career had "just 1 or 2" and could leave it at that. You were always thinking about it the whole time before, during and after. And it always opened you up to vulnerability and anxiety. It did not open you up to "more fun" or "more enjoyment" or "more connection". It only opened you up to more cognitive dissonance, more feelings of frustration, more whispers of failure. And more than likely, drinking stopped "working for you" a long time ago. Right? Isn't that one of the other reasons that you quit? Because it had simply stopped filling the void? Drinking used to feed a hunger inside of you, one that ran deep and felt like it balanced you out. But it stopped feeling that way and you grew more and more desperate and reaching. Maybe you reached for more alcohol, maybe you reached for other drugs to take with it. Xanax and gin anyone? But as good as it maybe felt for a moment, it was only because you felt a tiny shred of hope there. You felt like maybe this time you would feel really good and it would last. But just a soon as the glimmer shone, it disappeared and the more you searched for it, the more it faded away. Like an interesting dream you had the night before that you were trying to remember as you woke up in the morning. You follow the trails but they grow fainter and fainter, until you're left in the middle of the woods turning around in circles, your heart pounding.
So if you're having an of the preceding thoughts (which you will at some point in your sobriety, maybe even multiple points), then allow yourself the space to think it all through. Do not try to squish the thoughts down, let them be heard. Then see the thoughts. hear them, go over them. What would drinking really mean for you right now and what would it actually give you in the end? Would it take away more than it actually gave you? I bet you that it would. Because that is what alcohol and any addiction is. It is a thinly veiled threat, posing as a promise. You've heard it all before and you know the lies by now. Those lies kept you sick and they kept you stuck, for a very long time. And you do not need to push yourself back into that dreary rut. Walk towards the light.
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