Ask an addict why he or she slipped back into their addictive behavior and you will likely hear blame cast upon succumbing to “just testing myself”, or “wanted to see if I could handle and stop at just one”.
It’s never about testing and stopping at just one. Every addict knows that “just one” is merely the doorway to sliding right back down into the addiction that he or she so desperately wants to escape. It’s always about what happens throughout the day that results in the addict wanting to test him-, or herself by having “just one”.
It’s about everything that leads up to that moment of truth. It’s every emotion; every element of the environment, every event, the influence of money, family, emotional states, the things in the immediate environment…everything. It’s overall health. It’s the amount of sleep. It’s feeling of victimization, depression, euphoria, guilt, anxiety, excitement. It’s the situation or environment at work. It’s…everything.
EVERYTHING and anything can trigger that self-test. The addict must guard against all of it. For, anything can become a potential trigger, the start of a cascade of events and emotions that can cause the addict to fall off the proverbial wagon.
It may be the glass commonly used to hold the alcohol. It may be the couch on which the alcoholic relaxes. For the heroin addict it may be the room, the spoon, the needle. It may be certain books, TV shows, websites, personality clashes, arguments over money. Some associations will be more powerful triggers than others.
Someone seriously addicted to cigarettes, for example has to admit that for the rest of his or her life they can never taste another cigarette. Not cigars. Nothing that substitutes for cigarettes. For the rest of their life.
The next step to avoiding a slide back into one’s addiction is to sit with pen in hand and consciously think through EVERY situation and every association that makes the addict want to have or reach for the addictive substance. In our example, above, it’s a cigarette. The smoker may have enjoyed a cigarette with a cup of coffee, maybe driving with the window open on a sunny day while smoking and listening to a favorite recording, maybe enjoyment of a cigarette immediately following a social gathering at which pizza is served. The list of triggers can be surprisingly lengthy when one start to untie the knot of triggers to the addictive behavior.
Once the addict builds his or her list, it behooves that person to be extra vigilant when exposed to those triggers. Better yet, whenever possible, it is best to avoid those situations altogether.
To the addict, I’d recommend beginning right now to build your list of EVERYTHING that can act as a trigger to your addiction. Create the list in one sitting and add to it over the coming days and weeks. Concentrate. Get that list of triggers on paper where you can study each one to be sure you can either avoid or easily cope with each one.