Triggers Lead To Shots

Caution: Triggers Lead To Shots Recovery Sobriety Alcoholism

Caution: Triggers Lead To Shots


A misguided aim to please yourself. The spark that makes you want to shoot yourself in the foot you will use to kick your own ass with.

ITSB and i often ride the same wavelength. In a comment to one of my recent posts, he introduced the theme of triggers, which i’d already been thinking about, as evidenced by the above definition added to the Glossaary.

The other day i walked between two people planted curbside so i could cross the street they thought had too much traffic to brave. i mumbled a polite “Excuse me” as i passed between them, but this apparently was not loud enough because the eldest of the two women looked up at me and barked “Excuse me”. Then again. Before she could do it once more, i looked her in the eye and told her i’d said “Excuse me” and continued on my way.

As i left, i thought about the way i’d dealt with the problem and was satisfied i’d handled it correctly, but that didn’t matter, i couldn’t let it go. For the rest of my commute i kept seeing the woman’s face as she reprimanded me and realized soon enough that i felt uncomfortable, obsessive and anxious. i was triggered.

i’ve always known what triggers are, but not what my triggers are. i decided to write them down as i believe framing things with words makes it easier to recognize them. ITSB already beat me to it by including his list in his comment.

I have a whole set of trigger for “awful thoughts”:

1) Stuck in traffic on my way to work
2) Too much caffeine in my bloodstream
3) Elevators
4) Too much running/over training
5) Republicans making their opinions known

and the mother of all triggers:

6) Low blood sugar.

Any of these ring a bell?

i’ve been working on my own list for the last couple of days and here’s what i’ve come up with…

  1. Other people’s anger
  2. Being alone
  3. Euchre on my cell phone/tablet
  4. Sunday afternoon
  5. Drunk people in AA meetings
  6. One on one conversations with people
  7. Computer problems / broken electronics

The next step is to figure out what it is about these things that trigger me, so i can diffuse them.

About Al K Hall

Like a battered drinker or a punch drunk boxer, i am here for another round. For those of you who don’t know me, i’m a semi-professional writer on the rocks and a non-practicing alcoholic (if after 30 years of practicing, you still can't do something well, it's best to just give it up). For those of you who do know me, thanks for stopping by anyway and where’s the ten bucks you owe me? Welcome to my Bar None. A hole in the wall where we can hang out and trade the kind of stories you swap only when you’ve had one too many and either can’t find your way home or are afraid to. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy and plus the pictures are prettier. Here we’ll crack open bottles and jokes and ‘last call’ are the only dirty words you’ll never hear. Pull up a stool and make yourselves at home.

Posted on October 16, 2012, in Alcoholism, Lessons in Recovery, Recovery, Toolbox and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. jumpingpolarbear

    Today’s MTV would be on the top of my list!

  2. Living in Japan and not having a meeting I can understand. Not knowing what I’m buying,( sometime) I think it’s cool. Not knowing what I’m about to eat when I go out to eat. They have picture, point and hope you like it. Do you see my triggers. I have to stop and think I sign up for this and them I smile and move on, but that took me about six month for the smile.

    • Dennise!

      Welcome and thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! i have American friends who lived in Japan and they said they made tons of money and had nothing else to do but go out and drink, so i imagine it’d be hard to stay sober there. Sounds like you’re sticking it out, though, and i hope you feel free to come by here for a visit if you ever need some sober contact. If you see something you like, point to it!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  3. Do people come drunk to AA meetings? Anyway .. I think there’s a real trick in being able to ‘let go’ of your own reactions to someone else’s actions. You can’t change them or their actions, or take away things they have said and done. But you can work on changing how you respond and what you carry with you. It’s very hard sometimes and right now someone in my life is really hurting me and I’m having to work very very hard to try and let it go.

    • Hi, Mrs D!

      In my 19 months of meetings i’ve seen drunk people in the rooms 3 times, and twice it was the same guy (as recent as last night, and the first time, last summer, he passed out in the chair and peed himself). Fortunately, there are hardcore old tiers there who know how to deal with it. i always feel like a girly man afraid of spiders when it happens, so hopefully time will strengthen me up.

      As for the triggers in your life, i agree learning to let it go is key and one of the hardest things to do ever. Thanks so much for the visit and the great comment!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  4. inthesameboatla

    I guess my aim in that comment was to get you to apply the techniques you used to quell your urges to drink to quell the awful thoughts in your head.

    One of the first things you learn when trying to tame an addiction is to identify triggers, those things that cause a desire to “use” or engage in the addictive behavior. For example, eating a big meal can be a trigger to smoke a cigarette. Or watching a football game can trigger someone to open a beer.

    So assuming you mastered that trick for your urges, why not try figuring out what precipitates the horrible thoughts? Sometimes there is overlap between urge triggers and awful thought triggers. Take Republicans, for example. When exposed to them, first I have horrible thoughts. Then I want 7 shots of vodka. But other times there isn’t. Being in an elevator full of people doesn’t make me want to drink. And being stuck in traffic in the morning does not make me yearn to drive to a bar. I’m just pissed off. Or seeing someone sitting in an open-aired bar doesn’t cause awful thoughts; I just want a drink.

    Anyway, I find putting a label on things that cause urges or awful thoughts disarms them.

    • Hi ITSB!

      Yeah, for the quelling of the urges, it’s like i put in that one post…whenever i recognize the “bad thoughts” i mentally plug my ears and go nananananana until they go away. i’ve just changed that to a mental image i’ll talk about in a future post.

      i also really appreciate how you made the distinction between the urge to drink and the feeling pissed off. My urges for alcohol have waned considerably but i have other addictions that i’m addressing now and for a while i was really white knuckling it. i’m still not over the hump but i’m getting better. Anyway, some of the triggers make me want to use and others just make me angry or anxious or stressed.

      Still, one thing i’ve learned is that feeling angry or anxious or stressed is a huge trigger to make me want to use, so i think i’m trying to get as close to the bud as possible in order to nip it.

      Agree 100% with the labeling of everything. Words are the lights we shine on our fears to expose them for what they really are.

      Keep coming back, brother,

      Al K Hall

  5. Your trigger with the angry woman reminded me of this weekend. I was out of state, driving through a neighborhood at speed limit and some angry person behind me started honking. It pissed me off for a good while, though I knew I should let it go as soon as it happened. It was so stupid, so little. Recognizing triggers doesn’t take them away, though I think it helps me let go of them faster. Mine are being late, feeling like people are angry or disappointed in me, whiny children, and having too many things on my plate, to name a few.

    Great post, really got me thinking and I want to do some more work in this area. Appreciate the comments here too.

    • Hi BBB!

      Thanks for the story! i know exactly what you’re talking about. Your situation would have caused the same effect on me. Fortunately, the more i understand and recognize the triggers, the faster i can wrangle them in and keep them in a little better perspective. As time goes on, hopefully they’ll get smaller and smaller.

      We have have triggers in common with being late and having a lot of things to do. Unfortunately, i find i keep giving myself too many things to do and then get anxious when i don’t do them all. i really need to start limiting what i expect of myself adn i need to learn how to give myself a break every now and then!

      i appreciate your comment! Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  6. I love this definition: “The spark that makes you want to shoot yourself in the foot you will use to kick your own ass with.”


    The thing I am discovering about co-dependence is that it is very subtle and insidious. I think that co-dependence (and counter-dependence) is often at the root of those triggers — just that some people experience the manifestation of the trigger in abusing a substance and others experience the manifestation of compulsiveness in other forms, sometimes just emotionally-expressed ones. Triggers are there for just about everybody, I think. If you are human and breathe, you have triggers!

    I think it can be a lot like a vicious circle, too, especially in relationships (trigger —> behavior —> triggers someone else —> behavior —> triggers the other person back…). Can I get a holla? 😉

    Anyway, I have found this to be important with dealing with my own shit: “to figure out what it is about these things that trigger me, so i can diffuse them”.

    It has been really helpful for me to identify my own, for sure. Something else I have noticed — maybe someone else can share if they have experienced this or not. I’m finding that I can’t get *rid* of them. They are always there as a kind of constant staccato — or at the very least, a constant potential to fire off. But, the thing I have seen so far is that with quick identification, watching out for their pattern, I can kind of head them off at the pass, and keep them from escalating and becoming a vicious circle, even if that circle is in my own head (just inside of myself, not in conjunction with anyone else, per se).

    I think that Boat was getting at that with his list — it’s a bit like the whole H.A.L.T. thing, only more specific.

    One thing I don’t think, though, is that it is not possible to isolate oneself and avoid triggers altogether. If a person tries to do that then new ones will crop up — the trigger is emotionally-based, not situational, so avoiding certain situations to avoid the trigger only means that the trigger will find a new situation or circumstance to attach to. IMO. Maybe someone else can corroborate that, too.

    So yeah, I think this is a great thing to figure out what is at the bottom of them and work on that stuff so that the staccato of fallout from the triggers will quiet from the sharp snap of a snare drum to a slow, low bass. Something like that anyway. From hair-trigger to a slow draw.


    • Hi Babe!

      i’m thinking a lot about what you wrote here so i’ll have to get back to you!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

      • Sure! Sounds good.

        I realized I used a double-negative here: “One thing I don’t think, though, is that it is not possible to isolate oneself and avoid triggers altogether.” Whoops. You can take out that first “don’t”.

        And man, I was just thinking it *would* be cool if they (triggers) entirely went away, lol. I’d like to be wrong about what I wrote up there. Maybe someone more experienced could tell me that they actually *do* go away altogether. That would be music to my ears. But, I guess it’s possible that not having to go through this would take the fun out of learning in life, eh? Maybe defeat the entire purpose of being here…

        I’ll be back, Al.

        • Off to meet my sponsor but wanted to chime in.

          Yeah, it would be great to live in a world with no triggers, but i agree, i don’t think that’s possible. i think right now i’m just trying to avoid them when and if i can and if i can’t then to use the tools to separate myself from the incident. Hopefully this will get easier and more successful!

          Keep coming back,

          Al K Hall

    • Holla! 😉 Great comment, especially about the “you can’t hide forever from your triggers; new ones will just crop up.” The key is learning tools to diffuse those triggers. I’m still working on that one too. 🙂

      • Thanks, Running, for the holla. 🙂

        This stuff just totally spanks my ass sometimes. I feel like I am a walking trigger some days, and all someone has to do is look at me funny, and I am spewing forth with all kinds of co-dependent thoughts and behaviors. it’s kinda gross some days, lol.

        The tools are definitely helpful. I need more, though.

        I know for me, having safe relationships in which to spew to is helpful, especially ones where the person or people are actually pretty familiar with my triggers and he or she can gently say, “Ummm, hey, I know you are feeling upset here, but it seems to me you have been triggered” and then I can stop and go, “Heeeeeyyyyy. You are so right.” I can see why programs utilize sponsors to help people identify how triggers work and what to do about them.

        I seriously feel like it is playing “whack-a-mole” with the trigger thing, though, and while some of them seem to have dissipated into the very low frequency range, others are a high-pitched whine, like tinnitus in the ears.

        I’m holding out for the time when things have calmed to a Zen-like low-frequency pulse, where nothing goes high-pitched any more. I have to hope that that is possible! I know it is already better… So that is hopeful, too.

        Only forward. 🙂

        • I really love the way you think! I’m lucky to come from both sides of the fence, ha, so I battle with some, okay a lot, of codependency issues as well. Sober blogger “October O Nine” writes a lot from that perspective too- I think Al may have her linked, or else she’s on my recovery blog roll. Good stuff.

          Think I’ll give this post a shout-out in a post later today. I really love all the comments and conversation. Thanks Celeste, Al and Boat for getting things rolling! -Christy

          • Thanks, Running/Christy (I like people’s nicknames!! :D). Boy, you did hit the jackpot if you have both, lol — but you know, I don’t think it would have been too far off for me to have had both, too. I think maybe I did not have the genetic makeup to go into full-blown alcoholism, ’cause lord knows there were sure times in my life I tried, heh, and I have absolutely used substances to deal with the co-dependence. So yeah, it’s funny because I never feel like I 100% “fit” in an AA meeting, but also didn’t feel like Al Anon fit 100% , either. I’m somewhere in the middle of the whole spectrum, so I like to draw from both and find the healing as it comes from each “side” of it.

            I will check out October O Nine — thank you for the heads up about that. And your post as well.

            I’m looking forward to seeing where the chain of thoughts has gone!

  7. Hi Al. Thank you for your reveal. As far as the mean lady is concerned, you handled it with a lot more class than I would have. I also really like what you said to Boat about words being the lights we shine on our fears to expose them for what they really are. L.

  8. hey dude! I’m still thinking about triggers. I mean there are things that piss me off, but I don’t want to have a drink because of them. Kinda like ITSB I guess. Then again, I’ve gone to bars with friends, and it’s been totally fine-instead of a drink, I replaced the void with dessert. But on a lovely relaxed day, seemingly out of the blue, I’ll think about having a drink. I then say no and move on. It’s confusing to me sometimes.

    • Dudette!

      Yeah, i get what you’re talking about. Just tonight i was talking to my sponsor and he asked me if i have “cravings”. i said sometimes i walk by a bar and see someone drinking a mojito on the terrace and wish i could have one, but not a white knuckle craving. The triggers i’m talking about in this post are the things that make me feel anxious or tense or nervous. For me, identifying these feelings helps to nip the craving in the bud. Because these emotions lead to cravings, if i diffuse them early enough, i can avoid the white knuckling.

      Keep coming back, my friend!

      Al K Hall

  1. Pingback: Nitrous, Triggers, Negatives and Armatrading | Running On Sober

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