Published in


Dear Triggers; You Can’t Defeat My Sobriety

You would think that the longer one goes into sobriety, the less often and less strong triggers related to addiction would be. Sometimes life in recovery seems to go so well, that on the outside shell of things, one may believe that they are able to say that the triggers are gone. If only life could be so easy.

Triggers are cunning and powerful when one is living a life in active addiction. For my own past in addiction, it was triggers that kept me actively abusing drugs over and over again. And while it basically became a matter of “getting normal and not high” every single day. That was what really lead the obsessive routine, it was still also the triggers that made the entire process of using, continue each and every day.

There was once a time when I had six years sober. Right now I am in the middle of a three-year bout of sobriety. Now that I have added the study of mindfulness to my own personal curriculum, I can see the reality of triggers clearer than ever before.

That is just another example of what I mean when I say that these three years sober, are better than a time long ago when I had over six years clean. Triggers and mindfulness prove that it isn’t the length of time that you stop using. It is instead what you do with your time when you are sober.

While I am currently at a strong time of stability, right now is still quite the hectic time when it comes to triggers. They’re still hanging around. It is a time of awareness for me, and when I really stop and look at the life I am living, I can finally see how subtle and sneaky triggers can be. Triggers seem to have their own little minds to, with an absolute talent for quiet manipulation, and deceitful rationalization.

Those are the tools in the trade of the trigger.

In all my years in and out of addiction, it is now that I am at a better place emotionally and mentally than probably ever before. But what fascinates me in a bit of a confusing way, is the intensity and consistency of the extremely detailed, intense “drug dreams.”

I have written about these for years, and I have not had them since I got sober, but this is the first time that I can remember where my drug dreams are almost daily, seven nights a week. And while I know they are just dreams, I don’t always know that while living in those dreams.

I wake up from them in a highly stressed state of being. And it really involves a lot of detailed components. Many may assume that the use of drugs must be the stressful part, but it runs deep in a whole different way. The stress of the dreams comes from the thought process within those dreams.

Worry and fear over how I’m going to afford another drug habit, the dread of worrying about when I’m going to start waking up in full-blown withdrawal every single day and worrying about staying out of jail and trying to hide this from my family, etc etc. All of that within the drug dream is the trigger showing its mighty power.

Like earlier, when I used the word rationalize, and I can sure tell you that triggers can twist a person’s thinking process into all kinds of nonsense and haywire.

After all the many years of hell, addiction gave me, there are still triggers that come within my thinking and can make a person in sobriety, miss that old life of running all over the streets of Trenton, New Jersey. Now any force that can do that, is cunning in all kinds of truly insane ways. Even if I just have that false thought for even just a minute.

I see and recognize triggers most clearly now, because of my practice of living mindfully. It is that clear sight of it, that sometimes makes a person have to take a double-take and quickly remember that there are a devil and an angel on my shoulders all the time. Even when my ridiculous thinking kicks in and makes me think I miss that life, the same mindfulness that made that happen should be the same skill of mindfulness that makes me stop that craziness in its tracks.

When triggers find their ugly ways into my thought process, I need to remember that to refuse to allow things like morning withdrawal to an addictive drug to dictate my reputation, my wallet, or my dignity. Triggers can still be hard, but if I respond the way I know I want to, then they will remain in the shadows behind me, as the best lessons a man can ever have.

Triggers don’t last forever, and it is the feeding into them, that gives them the stronger, and longer power over the things that you can control. I have had addictions to drugs like cocaine and heroin, and have had to support $200, $ 300-day habits just to barely feel normal in my past.

So I know the struggles with triggers that some of you may be experiencing. I know it sometimes seems close to impossible to get through the trying times that triggers and drug abuse cause.


You’re not alone, and you don’t have to fight this world alone.

Michael Patanella

is a Trenton, New Jersey Author, Publisher, Columnist, Editor, Advocate, and recovering addict, covering topics of mental health, addiction, sobriety, mindfulness, self-help, faith, spirituality, Smart Recovery, social advocacy, and countless other nonfiction topics. His articles, publications, memoirs, and stories are geared towards being a voice for the voiceless. Hoping to reach others out there still struggling.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store