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Posted by on in Alcoholism

IncreaseAnother concept often discussed in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous is triggers-- people, places and situations that create an environment where relapse is more likely.  At face value, being aware of situations or people that can make you more prone to drinking or using drugs is certainly valuable, particularly in early recovery when we're more vulnerable to the physical urges and mental obsessions that are part of the disease.

But the concept of triggers comes not from Alcoholics Anonymous but from the rehab industry, where the philosophy of recovery is more about fighting the urge to drink than it is removing the urge to drink.  While it's certainly well-intended, the idea that the chronic alcoholic can fight pitched-battles against urges for the balance of their lives, and win, runs completely counter to the idea of powerlessness as presented by the program of AA. Yet the fellowship of AA, by and large, embraces the idea of triggers and perpetuates the myth that we can stay sober by controlling our environment and interaction with others, that we are forever "recovering" and vulnerable, and not "recovered" and safe.  We seem to have forgotten what our textbook says on page 84 and 85:

"...we have ceased fighting anything or anyone--even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thoughts or efforts on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality--safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been remove, it doe's not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition."

Further, the idea that my disease is catalyzed by situations is fundamentally flawed.  I drank always, when the sun came up, when it went down, when life was good and life was bad.  When I begin to analyze conditions that led to drinking, I fall into the very trap that my alcoholism loves-- thinking that I can somehow control it. That is conditional powerlessness.  It was only through a very thorough understanding of my first step that I was able to realize the futility of these efforts.

The idea of triggers, like "One Day At A Time" and so many other alleged AA slogans and concepts, dilutes the fundamental message of the AA program-- that we can recover for good and forever.   If I believe my disease is occasion-based, I'll likely have occasional recovery.

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Chris is the Director of Media for C4 Recovery Solutions. In his role with C4, he has been tasked with hosting and developing the webcast show, The Afflicted and Affected, interviewing leaders in the addictive illness field and other interesting personalities revolving around the recovery world.

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