Recognizing Triggers

Recognizing Triggers2

Consider these three primary categories of triggers:

Environmental Triggers

Consider the 3 proper nouns (people, places, and things) and the 5 senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, sound), all of which can be very strong triggers for drinking. Time is also a crucial trigger here - we may closely association that late afternoon slump with unwinding with a glass of wine.  These are all of the things we’ve consciously or unconsciously associated with alcohol consumption. While some of these may take us by surprise (perhaps we never noticed that association with the smell of fresh bread until we quit drinking), we can anticipate many of these ahead of time.

Physical + Emotional State Triggers

As we’ve discussed earlier, we know that alcohol provides a rapid state-change within our bodies, taking us from one feeling to another very quickly. It’s also important to remember that our bodies crave regulation; if our physical state is out of whack, like if we’re feeling very anxious, our bodies begin to seek out something to help get us back to homeostasis. This is why physical and emotional states can be a big trigger for drinking—sadness, anxiety, stress, physical pain or discomfort. Positive physical and emotional states can also be associated with drinking alcohol, especially because we live in a society that includes booze at every celebration. Understanding which feelings and emotions we’ve frequently used alcohol to regulate in the past is an important step.

HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired

These physical and emotional states get a fancy acronym of their own, because they’re all very strong triggers for alcohol use. If you’re suddenly feeling a strong urge to drink, it can be useful to HALT and consider if any of these feelings may be coming up for you. Recognizing them for what they are gives us the opportunity to work through them in more productive ways. (No one likes feeling hangry!)

Take a moment and write down all of the triggers you know or anticipate may cause you to slip. Consider each category. When we know what triggers to expect, we can then learn how to manage them.

(We also discuss unexpected triggers HERE, if you want to take a peek.)