That Time I Slept on the Bar Pool Table

Have you ever been in an all too familiar situation and all of a sudden flashbacks from your past come flooding back as if you’re reliving the moment all over again?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is called a trigger.

It happened to me recently. All of a sudden, I wasn’t the 32 year old Sundi Jo anymore. I was a broken-hearted little girl, sleeping on the pool table at the bar, waiting for my dad to finish drinking so we could go home. Music from the juke box played, the crowd laughed, and the all too familiar smell of Seagrams 7 and Pabst Blue Ribbon filled the air.

I would beg him to take me home. He’d say, “Just a little bit longer,” as whiskey dripped off his scraggly mustache. His face didn’t smell like the Old Spice cologne I would often help him splash on during his morning shave anymore. The bartender must have had sympathy for me because he’d give me virgin Shirley Temples and money for the jukebox “on the house.” The fact that I can still stand the taste of Ginger ale amazes me.

Finally it was time to go home and wake up the next day in a house full of shame, bitterness, and guilt. He or my step-mom would cook breakfast as a peace treaty. Silence. No talk about the night before. Everything was just supposed to be okay. Until the next time.

What is a Trigger?

A trigger refers to an experience that may set off a memory or flashback of a former event that may have caused trauma in your life. It can bring an overwhelming sense of sadness, anxiety, or even panic.

Triggers affect each person differently.

Is It Normal to Get Triggered?

Absolutely. Sometimes you don’t know you’re going to be in a familiar situation and you don’t always have time to prepare yourself for what’s coming.

Sometimes a simple smell, word, or the sound of someone’s voice can take you back to a past memory you thought was long forgotten.

Even if you’ve dealt with the specific trauma of the event that triggered you, that doesn’t mean you haven’t healed from what happened. It just means you were triggered, but it is important to make sure there isn’t still a piece of the puzzle God still wants to heal.

What Do I Do When I Get Triggered?

No, we can’t always avoid triggers, but that doesn’t mean we have to allow them to control us. Some triggers are easier to combat than others.

For example, there are certain words that still trigger me and take me back to specific struggles. But because I know those are trigger words for me, I have a battle plan in place to remind myself of the truth. Those words no longer define me. They aren’t my reality. I’m saved by grace. I’m a new creation in Christ Jesus. I’m redeemed from my past. And I will continue to remind myself of those truths as many times as I need to.

This recent trigger has been a little harder to deal with, honestly. It’s taken several days to remind myself of my true reality. I’ve gone back and forth through the emotions of that childhood trauma and the event that led up to it.

I’ve had to remind myself multiple times I’m not that little girl anymore. I’m safe. I’m in a safe place. I don’t have to wait for my dad to rescue me from that pit, because my Heavenly Father has rescued me. I don’t have to be controlled by words spoken to me or the haunting smell of a smoke-filled bar, because the fragrance of Christ overpowers the fragrance of my past.

Today as I write, I’m still reminding myself of the truth, but I’m also opening the door to allow God to heal any uncovered hurts from that time I perhaps haven’t dealt with yet. A deeper fear of abandonment maybe. Desperate to be somewhere else. Silently wishing I had the power to save my dad from those dark days.

But in the midst of the struggle — in the midst of the trigger — in the midst of the truth — I am reminded of the gift God has given me — the gift of hurting deeply for others and loving them deeply enough to go into battle for them, risking being triggered if it means they know they are loved by our amazing God.

I encourage you to have a battle plan in place, my friend. A plan to combat the enemies lies when he tries to throw your past up in your face — both the things done to you and the things you’ve done to yourself. A plan to put those triggers back in their place and be reminded of the truth God longs to put on your heart — the only truth that can set you free!

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