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Addiction & Heart
Posted by: Michael
Reading time: 5 minutes
When breaking addictions and getting sober, part of your work will be dealing with people, places, and memories that are triggering. Holidays can be especially challenging because there can be many people, many places, and many memories that bring up very intense and very old feelings.
Facing a trigger from having a conversation with someone can be difficult. Facing 20 triggers by going home for Christmas can be a living nightmare.
There are two things to remember during holidays or events when you have committed to being sober.
The first thing is: have a plan. Your plan may be to avoid things that are likely to bring up an avalanche of triggers. Or, your plan might be to face the people or the places that are triggering, and deal with any pain or discomfort that arises in the moment.
The second thing to remember is: reach out. This can be as simple as sharing a thought or a feeling, instead of keeping it buried inside. Or, you may need to take stronger measures like getting an accountability partner, and bring your back up with you.
When you are early in your path of sobriety, you have likely not yet done the work of recovery to fix what was broken. In this case, you could put yourself at risk by facing things you are not ready to face.
Even if you think you won’t have a problem being at a particular person’s house, or a place where alcohol will be served, or visiting with old using buddies, you won’t actually know what it’s like until you’re right there, in it.
Eventually you will face everything you need to face, but early in your sobriety, there is no reason to give yourself a major test.
If you need to make a choice between your sobriety, and pleasing someone else by your attendance at an event, choose yourself. Make a plan to skip it.
Maybe you have established your sobriety and built up your inner strength, and you are ready to face people and places that are triggering. You still need to have a plan. With some good understanding of what your triggers are, you can plan ahead with what to say, or what to do, when they go off. Get with your peers, sponsor, coach, or counsellor, and know your options for defense, offense, or escape.
Don’t walk into a danger zone without a clear plan for getting yourself out.
It should be no secret that when you commit to being sober, you need a crew. Your phone should have a list of 10-12 people that you know will take your call in any moment of struggle.
Sometimes you just need to speak up, or vent, or ask a question. Other people walk beside you in recovery so that you don’t have to keep burying your thoughts and feelings. They will listen. Reach out, before a struggle becomes a problem.
There should be people in your crew that will step up and go with you, if you ask them. Your accountability partners must be as committed to sobriety as you are, and can join you at events where you choose to have support.
Decisions about using are still yours to make. An accountability partner is not a police officer. This is a person that deepens your commitment to sobriety, while you deepen theirs, because you are standing up for yourselves, and for each other.
With a good back-up partner, you can walk into anything.
You can plan to go to each other’s events, together. Reach out, and ask.
Holidays can be full of triggers. It doesn’t matter if you have been sober for 7 days, or 7 years. A trigger can go off unexpectedly. It can be small, something you recognize, and know how to deal with. It can also be massive, surprising, and cascade into more.
Have a plan, and reach out. Others have been there, others understand. There is nothing you need to face alone – not triggers, not holidays, and not one more day.
Michael is the Lead Sobriety Coach and Head Blogger of Addiction Reality.