You know the feeling: Your gut clenches, your thoughts race, and you feel a cold sweat all over your body. You’ve been here before — too many times, in fact. Your typical response is to head straight for your drug of choice. Stopping the knee-jerk reaction to use may seem impossible, but there are things you can do. Monitoring these emotions and triggers can help you keep relapse at bay — and, more importantly, serve as an effective strategy in your recovery toolkit.
Emotional Awareness: Why It’s Important
Maybe you feel like you’re going to pass out — or would like to, just to stop this unpleasant emotion. Research shows that mounting stress creates a perfect storm to bring about depression, anxiety, even the onset of physical illness. You’d never knowingly ignore symptoms that could be a precursor to some serious physical condition, nor should you blithely go through life without gauging how you’re feeling emotionally. The truth is that you don’t need to be a doctor to get a read on your emotions. The same principle applies to knowing what your triggers are and when they’re about to explode. Certain situations may be triggers, causing intense emotional upset that could result in you heading to the bar to down a few stiff drinks, or go out in the parking lot to your car to snort a line or smoke a joint. So much for all of your progress thus far, right? Well, you can do something proactive to get ahead of relapse by being vigilant in monitoring your emotions and recognizing triggers — before they get out of hand and you wind up doing something you later regret.
There’s a Recovery App for That
With your ever-present smartphone, conveniently pre-loaded with a helpful recovery app, you can keep tabs on your emotions, do a daily (or whenever you need to during the day) check-in on how you’re feeling, and keep tabs on your stress levels. The app has a feature that does this and creates charts and more. Suppose you discover that that knot in your gut and feeling of panic is causing you great emotional distress, so much so that you aren’t thinking all that clearly and just want to hide. Use your app to conveniently locate a self-help or support group meeting where you can interact with those who understand what you’re going through and can help you weather this tumultuous time. Be in the Know, Not in the Dark In order to monitor your triggers, you need to know what they are. It wouldn’t be wise to just allow some situation to occur that you know has stressed you out in the past or precipitated a relapse without having a plan for how to deal with it. What works well for many people in recovery is to keep a list handy of known triggers — and coping strategies that have worked in the past. Keep in mind that triggers may be people, places, and things that caused you to use in the past. Coping strategies cover the gamut from having a phone contact list of people you can call anytime, day or night, when you feel like triggers are going to overwhelm you to getting in a vigorous workout to meeting up with friends for shopping, entertainment, or just conversation. With your list of known triggers, remember that it will need updating over time as new people/places/things present themselves as triggers. Ditto your effective coping techniques and strategies. Being prepared is the best way to deal with unexpected triggers — and the emotional upheaval they bring along with them. Remain Optimistic: You Can Get Through This Life is full of ups and downs, but they don’t have to overwhelm you. When you have a strategy that you’ve put in place for how to deal with the unexpected — including emotions and triggers, expected or unexpected — you’re coming from a position of strength and purpose. You know what you want and how to achieve your goals. Make use of every technique, resource, sponsor, friend, co-worker, family member or other acquaintance that is at your disposal. Remember that recovery works if you work it. Keep a positive frame of mind and know that you are capable of getting through even the darkest of times — with a little help from your friends. By Suzanne Kane