Let us start with the triggers that are internal. These triggers come from responses to circumstances. Your relationships, obligations, disappointments—all these and many more create feelings, and feelings create your mood. A mood of anger is one of the highest, if not the actual highest, trigger for a craving. Not all internal triggers are about negative feelings. Reminders of happy events can be as compelling as any others.

Time and again, my clients have told me various situations, good and bad, that have caused a trigger that created a craving. Sometimes the craving is uncontrollable in its urgency to get you to use. When you are faced with a high alert, you must get help at once. Cravings do pass, but sometimes the immediacy of the urge leaves you feeling choiceless but to get high. This is your most vulnerable moment. Every bit of strength and resolve must be called into play. Every thought distraction you can employ is critical, and you must call for help. Leave the area you are in immediately, even if the area is your own home. Get out, walk, run, cry, anything to get past this. Get to someone who has offered to talk you down. Call your coach, call your sponsor. Do not have a short list of people. After all, your coach might be at the movies, your sponsor might not be answering the phone. Have at least five other people that agree you can call in an extreme emergency. Anyone who cares about you will be willing to be on your phone list. If anyone says no, sever that relationship. That’s right, sever. We need to assemble allies. We need to weed out enemies.  Expect feelings to create moods and moods to create feelings. Think about how you think. Learn to have greater control over your thoughts. While we cannot control the thoughts that come into our minds, we can choose to pay attention to some and not to others. Pay attention to whether or not you are having more using thoughts. Even if you get past the urge, pay attention to the frequency of the cravings. This is much like a detective story where looking for clues solves the mystery. You must start to journal. If you start to feel hopeless or tire of the battle even if cravings have subsided, get to your coach, your sponsor, or a meeting.

Now external triggers. Something as innocuous as an odor can set you off. A song can do it, a person, or a place where you used. These and so much more. Reminders are everywhere, and not only that, but there is a raging epidemic out there. Drugs are everywhere. Alcohol is even worse as far as exposure is concerned. Beer trucks on the street, wine in pharmacies and supermarkets, all causing your brain to be reminded. If you only knew how effective a deep breath can be. A deep breath is actually a measurable physical event. You can calm yourself. You can relax yourself if you take a deep inhalation with conscious awareness that you are relaxing your mind and your body. Remember, 40 percent of the oxygen you breathe is used by your brain. Breathe deeply, and silently repeat your mantra. I. Control. Me. Tell yourself you can control yourself because you can. You will not give in to a crave because you have decided not to be a junkie anymore, not to be a drunk anymore. You control you. You are your authority. Repeat that over and over. Repeat it silently and out loud.

Unconscious triggers, what are they?

Unconscious triggers are any things that bypass your conscious awareness because you might be preoccupied with doing something else. Maybe you are simply daydreaming. Maybe you are very involved in a project or a movie or maybe you are fantasizing about something. A trigger would go unnoticed consciously in these examples. But the trigger is not going to go unnoticed by your subconscious. Ah. The subconscious. Now there’s a busy place if ever there was one. In that maze, with all that goes on, there is something that is always at the ready to prepare you to save yourself from danger. Let’s not even go anywhere near all the functions of the subconscious; it is truly dizzying. One of the amazing facts about   the subconscious is that it is up and running 24/7. I amuse my clients by reminding them that if you had to catch a flight and set your alarm clock for 4:00 AM, you would wake up before the alarm ever went off. Amazing, something inside knows how to tell time! All these thoughts, all the time, are a function of consciousness and of unconsciousness. We are never shut down. How amazing is that?

So if a trigger is unconscious, how do you arm yourself? The only way is to pay attention to how you feel. Maybe you are not certain why or how you feel a certain way, but truly there is a reason . . . you’re just not aware of what that might be. So start to pay attention to you. To how you think, how you feel, and what mood you find yourself in. All this can help to arm you against the enemy. The enemy wants to take you down. Don’t let it. Say “I Promise.” Say it out loud. Say it now. I promise not to be taken down. Mean it with all your heart.

Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.