I logged onto my blog and email to check for visitors and found a message from Facebook that they had deactivated my page because it was not linked to a real account. I went into an immediate emotional tailspin unlike anything I’ve felt in a long time. I was shocked at how strong the feelings were and immediately recognized it as a major trigger event. Wow! I didn’t think I would have those anymore, but all I can say is, “Yes, I still have them.” The difference is I recognized it for what it was and immediately went into defensive mode to mitigate the emotional turmoil and not let it fester or bury it in my old emotional bottle (with the really tight cap to keep everything in until it explodes like fireworks!). I said a prayer. I could not talk to anyone in that moment because my wife and children were busy helping with dinner so I went straight to service and helped set the table, clear the counters, do dishes, etc. Once my wife was done with the dinner prep I pulled her aside to share with her what my feelings were in that moment. This was about fifteen minutes later. By that point the intensity of the emotional trigger had greatly subsided and it was more dull. I’ll describe the difference in a bit. Needless to say it was good to finally talk to her and I realized that all in all it went well, but I definitely need to stay practiced with handling these emotional events as I wouldn’t want to be caught off guard and end up moving into a state of giving in to the emotions and just wanting them to go away (usually via acting out to numb the intensity of the emotions).
A few takeaways from all of this worth mentioning (that I will delve into deeper in future posts):
- Strong emotions cause major chemical reactions in our brains. They can come from anger, resentment, frustration, fear, hatred, pain, anxiety, loneliness, tiredness, hunger, as well as strong happy emotions too (this was a surprise when I found out but makes sense — it’s outside the normal “numbed” range of emotions an addict is used to).
- We need to be trained to recognize the event when it first begins and be practiced at taking immediate steps to mitigate it. Do not wait! In fact, next time I hit something like that I’ll try to find a way to act even faster to talk to someone instead of waiting 15 minutes. That’s playing with fire and I never want to be burned again.
- Finally, learning to recognize and talk about emotions for those of us that have numbed them for years and/or bottled everything up is very, very hard. It took me a long time and a lot of repeated practice to learn to identify strong emotions and give them words. Part of my practice included talking to my wife and close friends about them as well as writing them down. Writing is VERY powerful!
To help me move through this (I still feel some small remnants of the feelings) I thought I’d try to identify what I was feeling at the time in case it’s helpful to you to recognize your own emotional state and to gain a vocabulary to give them words. I’m no expert, but practice is helping me get better.
When I read the email and tried to login, FB requested a picture ID to validate my account. I did not mind sharing that with FB as long as they kept it private. However, I immediately realized I had created the base account (owner of the page) with a pseudonym. That wouldn’t work. They would either ban me (worst case — but immediately where my emotions took me), or simply close the artificial account permanently but leave my real account alone.
Within seconds I was falling off of a cliff. I felt anger at being “mistreated”. I felt frustration. I felt fear. I felt pure anxiety — the kind where I have trouble breathing deeply and I feel like my chest is pressing in and I start to doubt myself. I felt like I had lost. I felt alone. I felt resentment towards FB’s policies. I began to doubt what I was trying to do. All of that in seconds. And at REALLY HIGH intensities. It was CRAZY!
I feel a lot better now. I’ve done my 10th step “put out the fire actions”. (I’ll create a post about that more tomorrow.) In my prayers I asked God to take away the intense emotions that I couldn’t handle. I asked Him to help guide me to what I should do. I suggested a few things but none of them seemed right, I just had an impression that I needed to study the problem more. Having studied the problem out I’ve found through some experimentation that I can create a FB community page using my real FB account and keep it 100% anonymous. I’ll link it to this blog. I’ll add my feedback email for people to contact me. I’ll pay to boost my posts to try to reach a broader audience and hopefully find more people to help and more people to help share their stories with others as well.
All in all a good day. It could have gone worse. It didn’t. God and my wife helped me through it. I am grateful. I feel at peace now. I’m excited to be back at working on this and spreading the word. I’ll go build my FB page and post this on it.
Watch those intense emotions my friends! Those chemicals can really push us down a path we don’t want to go — face them, deal with them, reach out for help. You can do it!
My name is Mike.
2 thoughts on “Major trigger event – total surprise!”
Talking with my wife is probably the single most important aspect of my recovery. I am extremely honest with her about my use, and it has come to the point where she can almost always tell if I have had a slip, even a partial or minor slip, just by the way I act when I come in the door. Although she is my primary agent of accountability, I also have to be careful not to lean on her too much. There was a time when I made her partially responsible for my recovery (I would blame her if she left the computer on and I had a slip) and obviously that was not at all appropriate. I do now occasionally not tell her if I have a minor slip (like looking up “swimsuits” on Google Image Search), because I am trying to become more independently responsible for my actions. I am actually trying to lean on her less, while at the same time still being 100% honest with myself. It’s a tough balance.
If I do something that I regret deeply, I always end up telling her, even if it takes a few days. I usually end up coming to the conclusion that it is unfair to go through the major mood swings that accompany a slip without letting her know what’s going on. I end up thinking “if she’s going to leave me, fair enough. It’s better than lying to her.” So far, she hasn’t left.
Jon, I completely agree with your sentiment about staying honest with your wife and not turning her into the individual who is responsible. I can totally remember the 2-3 day delay in telling my wife whenever I would slip. Man how I dreaded that conversation. I just felt like a failure and I felt bad that I knew I was hurting her even though she would try to put on a brave face. Interestingly enough, it was because of that continuous honesty with her that I finally sought help through outside parties.
One evening she looked right at me and said, “I know you tell me that you’re not looking at porn for the women, but rather because of your addiction to the high. But you need to know that every time you do it I feel like you’re cheating on me.” Boy did that hit me square between the eyes and right in the heart. I had been lying to her. I had been lying to myself as well — and I believed my own lies. That was when I hit a real bottom and decided to meet with a professional counselor for the first time — which turned out to be such a positive thing in our lives.
Good on you for being honest and watching the boundaries of partnership and co-dependency. That’s a fine line but well worth the dance.