Even when you’ve been working really hard at getting past trauma, the unexpected does happen. And it can come out of nowhere – where your addict is triggered in some form or fashion, and you’re left shocked, speechless, and frozen because you thought you were past all that.
And the memories can come flooding back for you.
Something similar happened to me two weeks ago. My addict was triggered, and I just sat at the table after the experience, jolted. That’s the only way to describe it. It was like a big jolt, and it took a few days for me to shake it off.
5 Things I Learned After My Recent Reactive Trauma Response:
It Can Come Out of Nowhere. What triggers them, does not necessarily by any means trigger you. His overreaction, triggered my reaction. My go to is freeze; so I became quiet, subdued, withdrawn, nervous, sad, and isolated. I couldn’t believe I was back here.
Be Prepared for Next Time. Because there could and probably will be a next time. Pre-think what your response next time will be. So, instead of sitting there in shock, what actionable items will I do? Walk away? Go for a drive? Talk to a trusted friend? Meditate? Sit on the beach?
Remember Recovery is a Process. It will never happen overnight. Giving ourselves both grace and compassion to take a break as needed. And then come back around to clearly address your boundaries.
Know Common Physical Reactions to Trauma. In trying to learn more about my own responses, I found from the National Center of PTSD, that things I experience like feeling on guard or alert all the time, or feeling jumpy and getting startled easily at sudden noises is all part of my trauma response. You should see me at the gym when they drop weights loudly. I’m as jumpy as it gets!
Know Common Emotional Reactions to Trauma. Emotional reactions, according to the National Center of PTSD, include the inability to trust others, feeling nervous, helpless, numb, fearful, or sad, are also common. Even feelings of rejection and abandonment, or having negative views of yourself, are other feelings and emotions you may experience.
If and when you experience a reactive trauma response, remember this is never your fault. It’s part of what may be a conditioned response of trauma.
When It Came Time for Me to Actually Walk the Walk
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to put my own words into action. He got triggered again, but this time I was ready. I was prepared for what I knew would happen again. So instead of freezing, I immediately got in my car, and drove to a place where I knew I would feel instant joy and safety.
I drove to what I like to call “my beach,” though it’s known mainly to natives of San Diego as Kellogg Beach– a secluded, hidden gem mainly for the locals. I put my feet in the sand, and took a breath.
I removed my banging headphones out of my ears, and instead listened to the soft waves and felt the hot sun and warm air on my body. And I did what I never do: I napped. Not to be facetious, but it was the best nap I’ve ever taken.
Be Prepared for a “Next Time”
The next time you feel yourself about to freeze or get caught up in your old response routine, remember this: life has a way of throwing curveballs.
So why not flip the script? Prepare, strategize, and create a plan in place. And when that moment comes, execute it. And if, in the midst of life's setbacks and challenges, your plan happens to include a well-earned nap, then so be it.
Because even superheroes need their beauty sleep.