One of the key points to creating change in your life is recognizing your internal and external triggers. According to an online dictionary, a trigger is a cause, such as an event or situation, for something else to happen or exist.
An internal trigger might be a thought. And that thought stimulates a desire or craving to drink. An external trigger might be seeing someone who is drunk or watching someone continue to drink. Knowing what your internal and external cravings are can help you change your response to them. Some common triggers include:
- loud noises
- negative thinking
- road rage
- a dirty or messy environment
- family members
- social events
- certain responsibilities at work
- bad memories
- night time
- death of a loved one
- the anniversary of a tragic event
- horror movie
- bad dreams or nightmares
- seeing a police officer
- witnessing abuse of children, the elderly, or adults
- unleashed dogs
- difficult emotions
- challenging thoughts
- people who tend to be controlling
- seeing a gang member
- holidays (such as Thanksgiving or Christmas)
- elevators or other small spaces
- being around someone you don’t know
- hearing voices (such as with schizophrenia)
- feeling depressed or lonely
- anxiety or stress
- getting paid
Knowing Your Triggers and Making Changes
As mentioned above, once you know what your internal and external triggers are you can begin to change your conditioned response to them. For instance, perhaps you are used to drinking whenever you feel lonely. If you know that loneliness is a trigger, then you can make a list of alternatives to drinking. You might call a friend, visit a relative, go out into the community. Connect with yourself through journaling or a form of creativity. The point is that once you know your trigger than you can change your behavior. You can change your choices, your responses to life.
Also, it’s important to remember that long-term drinking and drug use creates changes in the brain that can last long after an addiction ends, and those changes in the brain might trigger a craving, perhaps leading to a relapse. In other words, an addiction has a strong biological component where triggers and cravings for the drug occur almost without notice. Even if you have made the decision to stop using, it’s easy for stress from work, relationship concerns with friends, family issues, environmental cues, running into old drinking or drugging friends, and even a smell to trigger an intense craving. In other words, if you’ve already stopped drinking (you’ve already made the choice to respond differently), you might still have cravings to drink for a period of time. It’s part of the withdrawal and initial process of recovery. In this case, the good news is that you’ve stopped. In time, the brain will also stop signaling you with cravings and internal triggers.
Once you know your triggers, both internal and external, you have the power then to change how you respond to them.