Triggers…

It’s always so uplifting when new folk join our website and start sharing regularly in the Members Feed. I find it especially interesting to notice the differences between what they experience in early sobriety, and what my experiences were.

One of the most common lines I see new members write in their updates is “I’ve figured out what my triggers are” or some such, and this always makes me happy because it shows they’re starting to develop self-awareness and build up the knowledge that’s going to turn them into brave sober warriors.

For some people their biggest trigger is when they’re hungry, for others it’s when they’re tired. For some it’s when they’re alone in the quiet of their own minds, for others it’s when they’re out socialising. For some it’s when they get hit by stress, for others it’s boredom. For some it’s their sister-in-law, for others it’s their kids.

Me? My main trigger was 5pm. Yep. Five-bloody-o’clock every day was a HUGE trigger for me.

Happy at 5 pm? Have a drink Mrs D!

Lonely at 5pm? Have a drink Mrs D!

Tired? Bored? Stressed? Relieved at 5pm? Have a drink Mrs D!

Alone? Hosting? Out? In at 5pm? Have a drink Mrs D!

I didn’t need any particular emotional state to trigger me to drink. My entire body clock was wound to get hit by a trigger at 5pm. I was a steady, heavy, habitual wine drinker. 5 o’clock was wine o’clock in my world and I lived that way for many, many years.

Sigh. Thank goodness those days are over.

But aside from the common 5 o’clock trigger, there are many other commonly recognised triggers that lead us to pick up a drink. The four biggies are often described in the acronym HALT.

H = Hungry

A = Angry

L = Lonely

T = Tired

So watch for those. Keep yourself well fed, happy, in good company and well rested at all times. Ok? Good!

Ha ha, if only it were that simple. It never is.

Beyond HALT, recognising and labelling our own triggers (emotional states or environments) is a great idea because it can be incredibly empowering. We start to own our unique sobriety story, and figure out who we are without the booze. And if we’re honest with ourselves and call it like it is (e.g. “I’m not going there tonight that place is a big trigger for me” or “I can feel my stress building I need to do something about this before it triggers me to drink”) then we’ll be well placed to beat those bastard triggers away.

Oh and of course the best golden rule of all – stay communicating with others who are kind, warm, non-judgemental and empathetic. In other words – keep active here at Living Sober! We are the best trigger busting gang on the internet.

Love, Mrs D xxx

P.S. What are your triggers? Let us know below …..

29 Comments
  1. Chloe 4 years ago

    I work from home and usually start around 5 am. So my triggers are getting in from the school run at 4 pm in the afternoon. It signals my son being home and the evening starting. Wine wine wine!!!

    two hours later the dinner may be on the table but I am tired, angry, put the child to bed often without a bath. The kitchen is filthy. My husband is annoyed that once again I am catatonic on the sofa and irritable.

    No more. I have been on-off sober since March 2014 and have really committed this year. It is bliss. Love being sober. Love the peace I feel. Love the extra hours I get in the evenings. Love that I can supervise homework, make dinner, play games, do bath story and bedtime then relax with a cup of tea and a book. My life to all external indicators seems the same- but me, and within our family- life for all of us is so much better.

    Giving up alcohol is the best thing I have ever done. Ever.

  2. Judith 4 years ago

    I don’t think I have a trigger, I just want to drink, to get numb and high.
    How sad is this? My triggers in the past , I think unhappiness
    Hope, hope I will get on the right track, trying every day without a result

  3. Anonymous 5 years ago

    Nothing makes me want to drink more than resentments……… The Twelve step programme alleviates so many issues every issue in fact as we stay sober a day at a time. Everything can be resolved just don’t pick up the 1st drink and you can’t get drunk …….

    AA saves lives daily …. God Bless AA.

  4. AlexP 5 years ago

    I’m worried that now at Day 220 (and onwards) I’ll start getting complacent, having quietened my (fuck you) Delores Voice of Triggers. And suddenly she’ll wake up, when I’m least expecting it. Or I’m presented with a properly stressful/or excitingly fun social situation ( which I’ve been avoiding for months now) and it will be ” oh this time last year you were drinking at such and suchs party, and no harm came to you” or it’s sunny and spring /Easter; have a drink in the sun”. So how to relax and enjoy my new sober life, while remaining alert for Triggers???

    • Author
      Mrs D 5 years ago

      hi @alexp hopefully you will just be relaxed and happy and when you get tempted your re-trained brain will kick in with all it’s clever thoughts reminding you that booze is shit and sobriety rocks. And remember to fast forward the tape and call bullshit on all those romantic ideals we have of alcohol having the power to make events fun. xxx

  5. KAM 5 years ago

    My triggers seem to vary. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me to be around someone who is drinking but about once a week my husband gets in the bed smelling like whiskey and it makes me crave a cocktail. Any other night I tell him he stinks and needs to shower. Is it weird that my triggers change or aren’t consistent. Ultimately my biggest trigger is boredom. I didn’t sleep worth shit last night and really could use a day off but I’m too damn scared that I will spend the whole day drinking so I took my tired asa into work.

    • Natalie 5 years ago

      Well done 🙂

  6. Caroline 5 years ago

    Any and every emotion seems to trigger me, this is my first day sober. I have to succeed this time. I’m petrified but also excited at the prospect of not feeling like a shithead! Thanks for this site, it’s a stroke of genius.

    • janus 5 years ago

      I thought I knew what my triggers were and seems to be the same as most mentioned. Major trigger at the moment is waiting to here back for a d.i.c. just feeling real lost and is trying to stop worth it. Main trigger for the event waa hearing from family-who seem not to give a jot as to how I am. But that wont change. Scared that while waiting to see if lose license I will just want to seek oblivion. 🙁

    • mummaofthree 5 years ago

      Good for you Caroline, its day one for me too!! Its about emotion for me also, any emotion at all, and yes, I have to succeed this time too – we can do this together!!!

  7. Jasminasper 5 years ago

    Triggers … Mine were when I wanted to escape from my reality I’d drink . I had some pretty hard times with one of my teenagers who has been ill and struggling for about 5 years . Also I had the stress of blending 2 families . So in a nutshell it was ;
    Stress
    & escape .
    Of course it only made it worse as I added feeling hungover and more detached to the list !
    Now I find being sober I actually deal with situations so much better with no side effects !
    I’m in the process of finding a new lifestyle too … Yoga , learning a musical instrument , and looking at part time work . So still living with the family of course but replacing alcohol with better stress relievers that add to myself rather than take away from my self .

    • Author
      Mrs D 5 years ago

      wonderful stuff @jasminasper – just great! xx p.s. what instrument?

  8. soberlynn 5 years ago

    It’s no secret to anyone in this LS community that I drank wine all day (10am start time), every day. It didn’t take long to become less about the reasons I may have started drinking, or why, and just more about the drinking. I didn’t do anything, nothing, without drinking. So, when I stopped, everything in my very existence was a trigger. And I mean everything! Now, over 6 months later it seems that rarely anything triggers me to want to drink. I’m at peace with my decision to live alcohol free. My sobriety, however, has yet to be really tested through extremely stressful times. Extreme sadness or stress may be a trigger for me. I hope I’ll be strong.

    • Author
      Mrs D 5 years ago

      you WILL be strong @soberlynn because you have developed your ‘sober muscle’ to the point where it will take the stress, AND of course you have all of us to lean on if/when the going gets tough xxx

  9. peacenow 5 years ago

    The 15-minute drive home after work was my trigger. I used to need to have a swig before I got there (in car) or in the garage where I kept my secret. Now that the early days are past, my triggers are more difficult to identify. I sometimes get a generalized anxiety in the morning (today!) and I am trying to figure out what it’s about??? Something from yesterday? Something from my dreams? Something anticipated for today? It might be the latter, as I just need a do-nothing day but am feeling the tug of needing to check in on my aging parents and visit a friend who is expecting me. I just want to be alone reading and journaling and visiting my alcohol-free friends here online or maybe taking a short shopping trip just to look at the new spring clothes. I need a me day so very much. I guess I just figured out my anxiety’s cause and my trigger. I probably need more me time than the average person.

    • Author
      Mrs D 5 years ago

      I hate that generalised anxiety you talk of @peacenow… I know what you mean.. sort of like a ‘sense of impending doom’.. I get it sometimes too and now try to stop myself in my tracks and close my eyes and take three big deep breaths to calm myself. Am also working on mindfulness techniques because I do think that will be a big help to me going forward. Am writing about it in a new blog if you are interested http://www.mrsdisgoingwithin.blogspot.co.nz Take care of yourself. Are you a member here? Are you in the Members Feed? Hope so! That’s where lots of the lovely support and encouragement goes on. xxxx

  10. PJNT 5 years ago

    Yep, all of the above are triggers for me – in fact any heightened state of emotion – sad, angry, happy, relieved, excited etc as well as boredom. An of course, wanting to escape inspecting the reality I had created for myself too closely. I find gallons of tonic water does the trick these days.

    • Author
      Mrs D 5 years ago

      sounds like me @PJNT… except it’s soda and lime for me all the way at the moment! xxx

  11. Ermintrude 5 years ago

    My triggers are also varied but always evening drinking, never daytime (except maybe on a Sunday…or during a BBQ)
    Now I am a part of this community I have started to think more about my triggers and I definitely think hunger is a massive feature.
    I would get home from work longing to open the wine while I cooked dinner for the family but then I would put mine to one side to allow more drinking time before I filled myself up on food! How twisted we become! Lol xxx

    • Author
      Mrs D 5 years ago

      yep I’ve heard a few people identify hunger as a big trigger @ermintrude … so great you are here xxx

  12. Rosieoutlook 5 years ago

    -When friends stay for a weekend and we drink wine and talk into the early hours. BUT…… then waking up and not remembering what we talked about. So don’t miss that!
    -5 O’Clock and in the weekends anytime from 4pm. Just celebrating it was the weekend. Mmmmm.(my motto was It’s five O’Clock somewhere in the world. Even brought friends the fridge magnet!)
    – My thought was I deserve a wine because………
    “I worked today”
    “I’m grumpy”
    “I’m happy”
    “I’m new here and don’t know anyone” ( we have moved a lot. So this was a reason I drank wine for years”
    “It’s my right”
    ” The kids are driving me CRAZY!”
    Really,I had an excuse to drink for any Occassion.

    • Author
      Mrs D 5 years ago

      Me too @rosieoutlook … am very happy that all of those triggers aren’t powerful for me any more. Although I can use them as triggers for sugar!! (still working on that) xx

  13. Lily 5 years ago

    Fri nights out with the girls, and they’re all boozers. After which it would take me all weekend to recover!!! X

    • Author
      Mrs D 5 years ago

      I was lucky in that my life wasn’t about ‘Friday Nights Out Boozing in Bars’ at the time that I gave up (although I’ve had many hundred wasted weekends from killer Friday night hangovers, for sure). In the last years of my drinking most of it was done at home on my sofa…. how are you re-shaping your Friday night’s now @lily and @gee ? xx

    • Gee 5 years ago

      So relate to that!! What a lot of time we have wasted – oh well guess that wasted time got us to this point in time – all up from here I hope & pray xxyg

  14. Momentsofgrace 5 years ago

    Thanks for another thought provoking post @MrsD.
    My triggers:
    1. Five O’clock (three o’clock on weekends).
    2. Arriving home from a long day with an empty stomach because I’ve been too busy to eat lunch and knowing I’ll get a great buzz after the first few sips.
    3. Being happy and wanting to make my good mood even better.
    4. Wanting to make the monotony of afternoons/evenings with small kids more fun.
    5. Wanting to make boring social events go quicker.
    6. Sitting in front of a roaring fireplace in winter, or on the front porch watching a sunset in summer.

    • Author
      Mrs D 5 years ago

      Hi @momentsofgrace.. boy we sure did use booze for so many reasons didn’t we, I could relate to your entire list .. but luckily now I can do all those things and not need booze (some social events I just walk away from early or don’t even go nowadays – life’s too short!).. hope you are doing ok xx

  15. Noelle 5 years ago

    The main trigger for me was 5pm too. My drinking only usually lasted until I had dinner. Then I just stopped just like that. I have overcome this problem by being “out” somewhere at this time. I make appointment later in the day now eg Dentist at 4.30 tomorrow and I prepare dinner earlier in the day to have at 6pm.
    Another big trigger for me is happiness! Yup if something great happens or if I’ve had a good day I want to drink. It’s sort of a celebratory thing… Stress as mentioned is also a biggy for me. Going on LS and listening to music helps me. Also Printerest, a complete time waster but I always learn something new.

    • Author
      Mrs D 5 years ago

      I like my 5pm now, usually I put on my yoga pants & slippers (if I don’t have to go out!) that’s a big ‘relaxation trigger’ for me (not booze) and I flick on the radio to listen to the 5pm news and pour myself a tonic or soda & lime
      Hope you are doing ok @noelle – love your avatar by the way xxx

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