Written by: Leah Roberts

Overcoming Triggers And Traumatic Pasts

One monumental step you can in your recovery, is learning to connect with yourself. And one way to connect with yourself is by learning to be self compassionate and self-forgiving. 
Often times, we turn back to a substance, because we aren’t happy, or we feel guilty, or worthless. Perhaps we’re afraid, traumatized, or angry. The point is that we can’t escape these poisonous feelings. We can’t escape particular memories that engulf us with these poisonous emotions that are too heavy to carry.
We start to feel like we can’t bare to be present in our lives… We can’t move forward from this trigger of our past. The guilt, shame, fear, worthlessness, anger… it’s all too overwhelming.. We can’t forget the pain involved with this memory, nor can we escape it. 
But perhaps part of the reason for why this past keeps coming back to haunt you, is because you haven’t truly forgiven yourself. Maybe you are not showing yourself compassion; perhaps you are shaming yourself or somehow blaming yourself for the events that transpired back then.
You’re not truly forgiving yourself, or maybe you aren’t forgiving what happened in the past, in your heart. 
So let’s talk about why creating a strong Connection with yourself is so vital for your recovery, and how you can use self-compassion and self-forgiveness to move forward from memories that trigger you, from a past that poisons you, so that you can ensure a successful sobriety.

Connecting With The New You

When we are consumed with addiction, the reality is that we don’t really think about ourselves anymore. We don’t think about other people, or responsibilities we have anymore; we think solely of the addiction.

We think only of the craving and urge that this substance leaves behind in us. But suddenly, the addiction that we’ve been clinging to, and has been the central focus of our lives for so long, is now something that we can never do again…

We now need to learn how to chose sober activities, sober events, and sober emotions, in a sober way, that doesn’t require drinking or using again.

As we begin to recover, it is important to retrain our minds to think differently, to open up to new ideas and opinions, to process emotions differently, to make a conscious choice to change. To re-learn who we are- sober. Your true and honest first step in recovery, should be rediscovering yourself.

Connecting with, and re-learning, the new sober you! Everything has changed; everything is different now.

You are different now.

So instead of trying to regain that person you once were, focus on the person you want to become. This doesn’t mean that you forget the past, or try to pretend it didn’t once exist. Remembering and working with our past, changing with it and learning from it,and learning to handle these triggers properly, is the most efficient way to get through it.

This is an incredible opportunity and chance for a new beginning. To create an authentic connection with our emotions, feelings, thoughts, likes and dislikes. Opening our minds to new ideas, thoughts, and opinions. We have a new beginning- a fresh sober start. Let’s use it properly!

Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness

As you begin to get further and further into your recovery, everyone processes differently. Some may struggle with their addictive tendencies more than others right out of the gates of sobriety.

Some may have an easier time at first, and later down the road, begin to feel the weight of their urge. One of the biggest reasons we can’t shake this urge to use, other than physical reliance, is the fact that we haven’t dealt with the past properly.

We’ve found that most people who turn to a substance, have turned to it for a reason. That reason often being a traumatic memory or trigger that can’t be forgotten or forgiven.

So as we begin to strengthen this Connection with our sober selves, we begin to learn self-compassion and self-forgiveness, which is used to overcome the emotions that accompany a traumatic past.

The Inability To Escape The Past

Every person has a different story- a different past, a different struggle, a different background. Regardless of the situation, most of us addicts all have one thing in common- we’re running from something, aren’t we?

That traumatic past; that past we are trying so hard to ignore, or run away from, seems to always catch up with us in the end anyways, doesn’t it? We find that we turn back to our addiction nearly every time we’ve tried to get sober.

Likely because we aren’t happy with the person we are, or because we haven’t made peace with a past that has impacted us. We’re unable to forget and forgive an event, decision or mistake, that occurred in the past. And now this memory has become a poison, and a trigger to use.

Some may be plagued with flashbacks or nightmares. Some may be consumed with guilt for a mistake, or decision once made.

In the end, those feelings from a dark past, create a hole inside of us, that we can’t forgive, in order to properly recover.  We are consumed with the emotions that come with these inescapable pasts; guilt, shame, fear, anger, worthlessness.  These emotions are, and seemingly always will be, an unbearable weight.

So how are we able to move past these triggers, so that we can maintain our sobriety and recover the best that we can?
It all begins with self-compassion, and self-forgiveness.

The Process of Compassion

In the process of dealing with the past and the emotions that come with it, we have to learn to sympathize with ourselves. It is quite the process to consciously and continuously make an effort to remember to be sympathetic to yourself.
When you feel compassion for others, it means you feel moved, or touched, by someone else suffering. You feel a softness for them in your heart- sometimes you see, understand, and take in their pain. You are taken with a desire to help them somehow- to ease their pain and suffering.
To care.
To feel and offer kindness.
So why is it, that we can feel compassion and empathy towards others so easily, but it can be so difficult to feel compassion for ourselves.
Self-compassion means extending that same sympathy for yourself, at times when you feel pain and suffering. Feeling understanding and kindness for yourself in trying times. In times when you make a mistake, or fail, or feel pain.
But instead, we often feel shame, embarrassment, guilt; or maybe we feel anxious, afraid, angry.
Why can’t we be understanding to ourselves in trying times, instead of judging ourselves, and being hard on ourselves? Instead of wallowing in self-pity, or feeling sorry for ourselves. Instead of enveloping ourselves in our feelings and drowning in all of our emotions.
We’re too busy focusing on the guilt, or the fear (or whatever the emotion might be), that we don’t take the time to realize that it is okay to feel these things. What happened to you was traumatic, or yes, maybe you did make a mistake- but it is okay.

Your Challenge

So as you continue your journey of recovery, and feel the emotions of your past begin to overwhelm you, we challenge you. Instead of letting the feelings overpower you, consciously make an effort to recognize the feelings when they surface, and tell yourself that it’s okay to feel this way.
Give yourself some self-love and self-compassion. Be understanding of why you feel that way about your past.
You want to begin to recognize when the feelings and memories resurface, and consciously make an effort to feel compassion for yourself. Try saying the following out loud to yourself, or even thinking them to yourself, if you are not comfortable with saying them aloud:
“It’s okay to feel afraid. What happened to you back then was traumatic. You’re allowed to feel this way.”
“It’s okay to feel guilty for that decision you made back then. But it’s in the past now, and it’s okay to let your guilt go.”
“I know you are angry. I understand why you feel this way and it’s okay.”
Be understanding of why you feel that way about your past.

 

To be continued…
Connection, Self-Compassion, and Self-Forgiveness in Addiction Recovery Part 1
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