All of us in recovery might have the occasional trigger or urge to use drugs or alcohol in our lives.
Really it is just a matter of time. If we stay clean and sober for long enough, eventually something will spark in our minds or we will have just the right sort of day where forces align in such a way that our brain suddenly says “Ah…I remember what using that drug was like, it would be nice to use it again right now…” Now this does not mean that we are going to automatically relapse against our will or anything, but we have to be prepared for such moments in our recovery. None of us are immune to the possible urge or trigger from happening in this fashion.
Traditional recovery programs would say that we should plan for such occurrences. This is not bad advice necessarily. They say that we should try to identify potential triggers in advance and make a plan as to how we are going to deal with them if they occur. For example, we might know that we typically get an urge to use drugs when we drive through a certain part of town (where we use to purchase them). In this case the traditional tactic is to think ahead to this situation and form some sort of plan against it: either avoid that part of town, or plan to call someone in recovery and talk about it if we find ourselves in a tough spot, and so on. These are nice ideas and I think they can prove useful for some of us in some situations, but on the other hand I also believe that these tactics are inadequate for most of our recovery experience.
There are at least 2 problems with these strategies. One is that you cannot predict every trigger or urge situation. Life is too random and you will walk into situations that catch you off guard at times. Not every single day, mind you, but eventually you will get thrown for a loop. Just a matter of time.
The other problem is that most of these strategies rely on using the fellowship, like calling a sponsor or a friend in recovery, etc. While this is a powerful strategy in a lot of situations, it is also going to be unavailable at some point. There will be a time some day when you simply can’t reach anyone. It will be you and your higher power facing those triggers and urges with no help to turn towards that is quickly available. Even the Big Book of AA states that this will happen to every recovering alcoholic at some point in their recovery, where they will be faced with a drink and the only thing that will be able to save them in that situation will be their higher power. There will be no one else who is available to intervene or help you. Odds are that this will occur eventually. Not every day, but eventually. It will happen.
How creative recovery handles triggers and urges proactively
So given that these triggers and urges cannot always be dealt with using traditional recovery tactics, how should we prepare for them? The answer is the creative theory of recovery.
Follow the creative theory and you can prepare for the inevitable trigger situation in a proactive manner.
Basically, it breaks down to this: If you are living the creative theory, you will be strong enough to resist the trigger.
Now some people will chalk this up to faith in a higher power and that is perfectly fine. To some extent, it all depends on how you want to define your terms. But the central ingredient in your defense against the first drink or drug in these trigger situations is your self esteem.
That’s right, you need to raise your self esteem high enough, and in a consistent enough manner that you are strong enough to resist a trigger situation.
Think of your self esteem as a collection of thoughts that you think every day. Let’s say they are something like:
“I am doing well in my recovery.”
“I have my life back on track now that I don’t use drugs or alcohol.”
“I feel good about myself because I help other people in recovery.”
“I feel good about myself because I’m growing as a person and learning new things every day.”
“My relationships with others have improved due to all this and I value them more now.”
“I take good care of myself in recovery and I’m more aware of my health.”
“I look forward to living more of my life and I’m excited about it.”
You might not say these consciously to yourself every day but they have become your reality if you’ve really been living the creative theory. They become the subconscious foundation of your self esteem.
If you can say these things about your life and if you have built yourself up to this level through taking action in recovery then you will have no problem resisting the first drink. You can overcome a trigger or urge simply based on your level of self esteem. If you value yourself highly then you will not throw it all away. This is positive, proactive recovery. Instead of waiting for triggers to happen and then hoping to react to them, we take a proactive approach and seek to build our self esteem up naturally so that we are stronger against these situations.
This approach is also useful because it works well in that inevitable situation when we have to face a trigger or urge all by ourselves. When we pursue the creative approach we reduce our dependency on others in order to stay sober.