Emotional Error Light

by Joshua Hoe

Addiction is really not about a substance or behavior – those are just symptoms.

A symptom you need to learn to address and cope with…but, a symptom.

The cause is your triggers. Triggers speak to an inability to process our emotions and pain in a productive and healthy manner.

Emotional Deficits

Addicts, in general, have emotional coping deficits.

I tend to escape into my head + into fantasy to avoid the things that I find painful or sad.

When I feel emotionally vulnerable or emotional or pain I am triggered to act out.

So, my urge to act out is in some ways like an emotional warning light.

In other words, I can look at my urges as red flags…as my early warning system that tells me I should be dealing with something bothering me emotionally.

The Power of Habit

The problem, neurologists say, is that our brains tend to reduce workload by operating on autopilot as much as it can.

So, when, for instance, I drive home while daydreaming, I still make it home in one piece. My brain gets me home on autopilot because it knows how to do that…A pattern of travel has already been established.

Unfortunately, one of those patterns that the brain takes over is the addictive cycle.

My brain knows that when it feels a trigger that it is time to act out.

This is why, so often, I wondered why I acted out even when I did not want to…It was because I was on autopilot.

Changing the Wiring

The answer is to start changing the wiring.

Establish different patterns by learning to identify your emotional warning lights (triggers).

When you are triggered, try doing anything else but acting out. And realize you have something bothering you.

Over time, as you establish different responses to your triggers, your brain will stop seeing acting out as it’s default response to those triggers.

I believe very much that a large amount of finding recovery is about substitution behavior.

I do just about anything healthy when my early warning system goes off (call someone, exercise, meditate, cook etc).

It works for me.

Have you been able to utilize triggers as early warning? How do you create distance between triggers and acting out behaviors? I would love to hear your stories! Leave a comment.

As always, we do not identify ourselves with any particular program or organization and we hold no leadership role in any particular program or organization. We are not therapists and do not pretend to be. The purpose of this blog is to share experience, strength, hope across the recovery community.

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