Disarming the Triggers...
By roger
2/7/2012 8:41:31 AM
In the history of the recovery world, when the term “trigger” (an event or situation that causes acting out,) was brought into the lexicon, recovery helpers quickly adopted the concept. Everyone was talking about triggers and what to do about them. It got to the point that a recovery conversation didn’t go very far without triggers being brought up. Many thought they now understood addiction because they understood triggers.

Some addicts even learned to use them as an excuse for addictive behavior, “While I didn’t intend to act out, when I saw that picture it just triggered me.”

I don’t talk much about triggers. I didn’t really realize that until an attendee at one of my seminars asked what he should be doing about his triggers. I have to admit that I had a little bit of a problem answering him because I was dealing with the realization that I don’t think in terms of triggers. (My mind was racing on that subject instead of responding with full attention to him.)

But, here is my point: If triggers are affecting us, there’s a whole bunch of recovery work we have not been doing. That “pre-trigger place, if you will, is where I choose to place my focus for recovery. Focus on how we conduct ourselves and manage our emotional life when there are no triggers present, when we are just living. It’s how we manage our lives when we we are “out of our addiction” that determines how vulnerable we are to triggers. If we can figure out that part of our lives, we can disarm the triggers. They will misfire. They will have no effect on us.

So here are some examples. Sex addict guy can spend a lot of time sexualizing things. When someone uses a word in a sentence with absolutely no sexual reference intended, SAG (sex addict guy) can turn it into a sexual joke. Someone might say,” I had a hard day at the office today.” SAG will respond with, “Oh, a HARD day, huh? What did you do, look at porn?” Everything in his conversation is twisted to make sexual reference. There are constant running jokes about sexual activity in his conversation. His mind and his conversations are never far from sex.

Contrast SAG with a former addict who has learned to live in the moment and quiet his mind. His normal state of affairs, is to avoid sexual innuendo. He is not thinking about it, he is not reminded of it, is not laughing about it, it is simply not on his radar.

Suppose the 2 of them come upon a provocative scene. A potential “trigger” if you will. Which one will be impacted by the trigger? I guarantee you that SAG guy will be all over it. He will be triggered. Our 2nd fellow, if he has really mastered living in the moment, may not even be aware of it. But certainly he will be far far less affected by the scene, and can just look away.

Beer drinking dude, (BDD) is “triggered” by the sound of lawnmowers. At least that is what he thinks. The triggers work because he maintains some thinking errors. In his heavy drinking days, nothing “tasted better” than a cold beer after mowing his rather large lawn on a hot day. The sound of a lawn mower, makes his mouth water and long for a beer.

Here is the thinking error: “A beer sure would taste good right now!” is not a completely true statement. BDD is on probation for his 3rd DUI. A beer violates his probation and could send him back to jail. One beer for BDD has never been enough, there is always and second, and a third, and on until oblivion is reached. Then BDD makes very bad decisions (like driving) that get him in trouble.

The truth about a beer right now is that “It can send me to jail, I won’t stop at one and I will end up in a lot of trouble. I don’t need that anymore. I don’t want anything to do with a beer right now.” Fixing the thinking error will keep BDD safe even on a hot day when all the lawnmowers in the neighborhood are running.

Triggers are just too late. If we are trying to ward off our addictive behaviors at the trigger stage we are simply too late. And, probably a dollar short too.

from my blog at


"These are some good thoughts. I completely agree that focusing on triggers is not the way to have lasting recovery. To be completely honest, I don't spend much time thinking about triggers anymore. I focus on my dailies, working the steps, and feeling the Spirit.

I just had a conversation with somebody at group about the difference between the roots of our addiction and triggers. I compared triggers to the actual trigger of a gun. All a trigger does is provide the opportunity for a bullet to spark its powder and propel out of its shell. A trigger does not shoot a bullet. The gun powder does. In the same sense, triggers do not "cause" us to act out, we make that decision on our own.

I think it's better for us to focus on why we act out to begin with than to focus on our triggers. A thorough fourth step should reveal a lot of the root causes of our addiction such as jealousy, feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, feeling unloved, feeling like we don't belong, etc."
posted at 12:47:03 on February 7, 2012 by ETTE
"I agree 100%. I am a long time SAG. I always seem to fail if it goes as far as to be hit by a big trigger. It is like fighting a grass fire with gusts of wind. It is so much easier to step on the match as soon as it falls and then throw a bucket of water on it. My bishop used to tell me to call him when I was struggling with temptation. The real problem was making sure I turned my day over to the Lord in prayer each morning and spent some time reading in the Book of Mormon. If I started my day correctly, the same situation, if it bothered me at all could be dealt with much more easily. It could be taken care of by listening to some good music, reading something positive or just shifting my focus to something else. If I wasn’t in a good place when the same situation occurred it would be a major struggle and my mind would fixate on the trigger. I would usually gravitate to greater temptation, and even if I thought of things to do that would get me out of my mindset I usually wouldn’t seriously entertain them. I was more interested in getting a fix. I never did call him when struggling.

“Sing a hymn” or “exercise more” may work for a good man, but they don’t work for this SAG if that is my entire plan. There is much less damage if I let God defuse the bomb rather than me trying to contain the blast. I am grateful for the example of Capt. Moroni. When they were at peace he didn’t just sit back or even spend all his energy on training for what they would do when an army of Lamanites showed up. He looked at where their defenses were the weakest and built them up to the point that when that army did show up they were struck with fear and amazement. They were so discouraged just looking at what they had to attack they wanted to quit.

If I am going to fight triggers I would first need to get away from half the world’s population. I am addicted to women and in times past I had real problems going to the grocery store, attending activities for my kids, don’t even talk about any water recreation location, going to church, at work looking out my front window (major walking/running street). Heck when I am in a bad place even driving down the interstate was full of triggers. I am embarrassed to think how many times I was triggered as I pulled up behind a long haired beauty only to discover that it was a guy with a beard!!! Point is, it really is like fighting a grass fire. Watch for the shift in the wind. It could kill you!"
posted at 15:38:19 on February 7, 2012 by justjohn

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"Lucifer will do all in his power to keep you captive. You are familiar with his strategy. He whispers: “No one will ever know.” “Just one more time.” “You can’t change; you have tried before and failed.” “It’s too late; you’ve gone too far.” Don’t let him discourage you. When you take the path that climbs, that harder path of the Savior, there are rewards along the way. When you do something right, when you resist temptation, when you meet a goal, you will feel very good about it. It is a very different kind of feeling than you have when you violate commandments—an altogether different feeling. It brings a measure of peace and comfort and provides encouragement to press on. "

— Richard G. Scott

General Conference May 1990