“Whenever you get TRIGGERED...get curious.
That’s where the beauty lies.”
Sometimes triggers feel like they can break me. At the very least they shake me to my core and make me question my recovery; forcing me to examine my stance and stability–or lack thereof. While I once had a running list of things that triggered me, those things now cease to exist and it is the random, small things that force me to dig deeper in recovery.
In the beginning triggers where the glaring, obvious things that often stand in the way of people trying to achieve solid recovery. Some of those are still triggers for me and force me to step with caution in this dance I call life in recovery. Triggers would often follow the “people, places, things” rule that those in recovery for substance addiction face. However, triggers can often be other things such as songs, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and smells. Sometimes triggers are so random they sneak up on me and I feel like they are going to swallow me whole; forcing me to return to the “safety” and “security” the eating disorder once provided.
For the longest time I had to avoid Wendy’s fast food restaurant because in college I would go through the drive thru and order things off the dollar menu to eat and subsequently purge. Wendy’s became a trigger for me once I started to move toward recovery my senior year of college, suddenly becoming off-limits. A place could set me down the wrong path.
To this day the song Courage by SuperChick throttles me back in time to lying, hiding, and covering up my actions. Telling everyone I was fine, I had eaten dinner before I arrived, or that I hadn’t exercised beyond the point of exhaustion more than once that day was a near daily occurrance. I can still picture myself driving through the University of Michigan campus on my way to the Ann Arbor Center for Eating Disorders for the Monday night support group listening to that song. It was on my “triggering” playlist I kept on my old-school iPod Nano to spur me on toward a lesser caloric intake and unhealthy weight loss.
Numbers are still a trigger for me but it is no longer every number related to an eating disorder (weight, calories, numbers, etc.), just certain ones. For example, I still avoid seeing my weight at the doctor’s office and I have no intention of returning to knowing it because, for me, it serves no purpose other than to instigate evil in my life. Calories, however, no longer bother me as much as they once did. Often I don’t even look at them unless they happen to be plastered on the menu at a restaurant, then it seems unavoidable. When people rattle off their weight, pants size, or amount of time spent engaging in exercise I am often unfazed. At least I no longer compare myself to others!
Sometimes I don’t have to dig very deep to figure out my trigger; I only have to HALT. I first learned about HALT in grad school when I was working under an amazingly brazen internship supervisor who was in long-term recovery for substance addiction. She was seriously kick-ass–and still is! Anyway, HALT was used to help those in substance addiction recovery figure out their triggers and I realized it applied to eating disorder recovery as well. Never let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Most of the time what is triggering me fits into one (or more) of those simple categories. Although, there is almost always more to it if the trigger is in the “angry” or “lonely” category. A different internship supervisor in grad school always said anger is a secondary emotion so we need to dig deeper to find out what is really causing the problem.
However, I still have those random triggers that sneak up on me.
Today I had to dig a little deeper to find why something triggered me. I had to ask myself why I was being triggered by something so seemingly small. What was it?
A sore throat.
An absolutely random thing was triggering me to engage in an eating disorder behavior. I swallowed a piece of the bread on my grilled cheese and it scratched my throat as it slid down. The sensation was so eerily similar to the feeling of purging that I could feel the thoughts creeping in and encouraging me to go ahead and engage in that behavior. The thoughts telling me to do it “just once” because I was already having an “off” day. That’s when my recovery brain–MY brain–jumped in and thought, “Ah ha! There is the real issue; the ‘off’ day.” But what about it had been so “off” anyway? I started to think along the HALT line: I wasn’t overly hungry (since I was eating), I wasn’t tired, but I was feeling angry and somewhat lonely.
Realistically, one of my biggest triggers–if not the biggest–is anger. Before going to treatment and learning how to feel and experience emotions again, all I ever felt was anger. I would hold all my feelings inside until a situation that made me angry came along and I exploded; not usually on a person but on myself in the form of engaging in the eating disorder. Makes sense right? Not. I allowed something someone else said/did to anger me (usually meaning I was hurt by their words/actions) and only hurt myself more instead of talking to that person. I digress, I was feeling angry about things that made no sense to be angry about and determined it was really just feelings of frustration and stress instead of anger.
Aside from stress and frustration, I also felt a little lonely. As I’ve stated before, we moved to a new state and, even though we lived here once before, my family and my closest friends are still in Ohio (or Columbia, SC and Saint Vincent in the Caribbean…okay, I have a lot of friends but none in Charleston). While I used to have almost weekly coffee dates with friends and a standing weekly lunch date in Ohio, I no longer have any of that. I am usually quick to make new friends (as my sister says, I can make friends with a rock) but our current situation makes that a little difficult. However, as I turned my mind toward the positives and reasons why none of this was worth throwing in the towel on recovery and allowing a lapse to creep into my life, I counted my blessings.
God is providing for our needs.
We have a place to temporarily stay while we finalize our new living arrangements. We have food, shelter, and clothing. We definitely are not “homeless” as I often lament to friends.
I am staring to make new friends in the one area where I branch out.
The Charleston Community Yoga center is ah-mazing. From my very first class I felt welcomed into the friendly atmosphere. I started to become a “regular” at a few morning classes and, as a result, met a woman who has a child the same age as mine and we have started planning to have playdates. Hopefully once we get plugged in at a good church in the area we will make even more new friends.
Any day in recovery is better than even one moment in the disease!
Yes, I get frustrated and stressed that God’s timeline isn’t lining up with MY timeline but that doesn’t mean this is an “off” day. It just means His timing for our living situation hasn’t been met yet. Patience, Lane. Seriously, this small amount of time is just that–small.
With Body Love,