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EXERCISE: Identifying Your Triggers

What Is a Trigger?
Triggers are the things that lead to cravings (l want to), which can lead to urges (l need to). They may be your emotions; something you've done, are doing, or want to do; a time of day, week, or year; something you touch, hear, see, smell, or taste; or anything else that leads to urges. Each of us has our own triggers.

They are not excuses to use and they are not unpredictable. 

Addictive behaviour teaches your brain to associate some things with the pleasure or relief you feel when indulging in the addictive behaviour. Even when you stop, your brain will be reminded about the addictive behaviour when you encounter your triggers, or allow yourself to conjure up triggers. 

Your brain can unlearn this thinking reaction (l want to) to a trigger. These reactions may last a while but will eventually decrease to be the briefest (milliseconds) of unhelpful thoughts. As humans, brief, ridiculous, and unhelpful thoughts come into our heads all the time about things we quickly dismiss for what they are - silly thoughts and no more. The more serious urges (l need to) usually subside in a few days, weeks, or months.

To identify your triggers, think about the substances or behaviours that stimulate your senses: Sight, Smell, Hearing, Taste, and Touch. Make a list. You may not be aware of how many there are.

How many can you identify? Be honest and list them all, even if they seem insignificant. 

Example Identifying Triggers

Addictive BehaviourTrigger Examples
HeroinHeroin Seeing needles and drug paraphernalia
Sex Provocative ads, perfume, certain hairstyles
Cocaine Any white powder, tin foil
Food Grocery shopping, certain aromas
Alcohol Adverts, sound of a can opening, certain times of day
Gambling Lottery adverts, seeing scratch games in shops, football pools
Marijuana Certain music, skate parks, seeing rolling papers in store
SmokingSmoking Meals, smell of cigarette smoke, stress, coffee or alcohol
Trigger Risk
Once you identify your triggers (and you may identify more as you continue your recovery), keep track of how likely the triggers are to spark an urge. The highest-risk triggers are those that most often spark an urge for you.

Rate each trigger from 1-10 (10 is the riskiest or most likely to trigger an urge). This will help focus your efforts so you can work on the hardest triggers first. 

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