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Understanding triggers

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Understanding triggers

Through my many failed attempts to stop viewing pornography I became so frustrated. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just stop or prevent myself from going back to that same place over and over again, even though I knew it wasn’t working for me.

One of the reasons why I kept ending up in the same place was because I had never really thought about triggers and the effect that they were having on even my very best of intentions.

When I went to rehab, it really helped to hear from people who struggled with other addictions, especially around the area of triggers.

What is a trigger?

A trigger is something that starts a chain reaction that leads to a response – just like pulling a trigger on a gun will begin the firing sequence that will lead to the discharge of a cartridge. For someone who is struggling with an addiction a trigger can be internal or external.

Internal triggers

An internal trigger happens inside of us, for instance an emotion. There are a couple of acronyms that are useful for remembering some of the feelings that can act as a trigger: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired (HALT) or Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stressed, Tired (BLAST). For me it was a mixture of boredom and loneliness. Somewhere along the way I had taught myself to turn to chatrooms and pornography whenever I felt bored or lonely. That’s not to blame my actions on my feelings, but understanding that these feelings were triggers helped me to identify when I was vulnerable. In early recovery it was really important for me to learn new responses to these feelings, rather than going online, I needed to make a phone call to someone I could be accountable to.

External triggers

An external trigger is outside of ourselves. For an alcoholic, it might be a billboard advertising beer, while for someone who struggles with lust, it could be  an image on a webpage, a sound, a location, or even a person. Just like I can’t blame my emotions for my actions, neither can I blame the world for putting triggers in my way. Learning to deal with external triggers involves a combination of blocking out the ones that can be blocked out, and learning a new response for the ones that can’t. For example, there are certain TV shows and websites that I knew I could no longer watch or visit. They may not have been pornographic, but they contained enough triggers to lead me down a path that would end with me searching for that next fix. Installing software like Covenant Eyes on my computer that blocked certain sites was a huge help to begin with.

That said, you can’t necessarily block out every trigger, so I also needed to learn a new response. For example, seeing a sexually provocative advertisement in the past would have started a particular thought pattern eventually leading to viewing porn. Today when I see the same advertisement, I will try to surrender it in prayer saying, “God, I know right now I want this, but please help me to want You more, help me to surrender this to You.”

I had never really stopped to consider that these triggers were leading me back to chat rooms and viewing porn over and over again, but now that I am aware of it I can prepare myself and avoid situations where I know that I’m vulnerable. I realised that I could no longer go into the computer room in my parents old house because I had spent so much of my teenage years viewing porn in that room that it had become a trigger for me.

In future blog posts we will take a look at brain tracts and how they are related to triggers.

For mor information check out this article from Kate Green on managing triggers.


By |2016-10-14T11:11:16+00:00May 7th, 2014|Men, REDColumn|0 Comments

About the Author:

Luke Gibbons
Luke Gibbons is a volunteer with Guilty Pleasure. Luke's struggle with pornography and sex chatting eventually led him to open up to two friends who supported him in seeking professional help and going to rehab, beginning his recovery journey. Luke knows first hand how avoiding this topic and keeping a struggle with porn in the dark can disrupt friendships and destroy someone's character, but he also knows the hope and restoration that comes withe a life free from porn. You can read more of Luke's story right here.

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