The 5 W's of Addiction Triggers

Triggers are a beast aren't they?  They can be giant or they can be small.  They can be apparent or they can be isolated/hidden.  They can show up in the most obvious places or in the most ambiguous places.  They can manifest from our own doing or be completely out of our control.  

What is it?


  • anything, as an act or event, that serves as a stimulus and initiates a reaction.
  • to initiate or precipitate (a chain of events, scientific reaction or psychological process)
  • to become active; activate.
Who is at risk?

Triggers effect everyone.  Anyone who has  a brain with functioning memory retention is susceptible to triggers.

Where can it happen?

The fact is, they are everywhere and all around us.  We can find them in:
  • Music
  • Commercials
  • Television
  • Movies
  • Clothing departments
  • Clothing ads
  • Jokes
  • Boredom
  • Anger
  • Staying up late
  • Smells
  • Taking showers or baths
  • Memories
  • People
  • Talk radio
  • Fabrics
  • Scantily clad people
  • Websites
  • Food
  • Laying down for naps
  • Old haunts
  • Social media sites
  • Apps
  • Games
  • Conversations
  • etc... the list could go on and on

Why does it happen?

Triggers are nostalgic, sparking memory of images, situations or stimuli related to our addictions.  In essence, through any of our five senses, we remember the euphoria that comes from acting out.

When can it happen?
Are we responsible for them?

Sometimes we are responsible for our own triggering.  If we indulge music or media or conversation that offends the Spirit, shewing Him away, then yes, we can expect the adversary to replace that Spirit and move in with his seductive whisperings.  We are never truly completely alone.  If the Holy Ghost is not with us, then surely Satan's followers are, and likewise, if the Holy Ghost is with us then Satan's followers cannot stand to be in the light of our countenance.  We are never without one or the other and they both have very distinct purposes: 

Satan seeks to destroy.
The Holy Ghost seeks to save.

If we offend the Spirit, and trigger, we are responsible and we threaten the protection of the Spirit.  If we have not offended the Spirit, and trigger, we are not responsible and the Spirit will sustain us through the temptation, so long as we don't allow our thoughts to linger too long.

If we are responsible for the trigger, it is then our duty to acknowledge our accountability and work to right our wrong.  If we don't, we are putting ourselves at risk for greater temptation and the Spirit will no longer stand by waiting, but will completely withdraw.

However, if we have not offended the Spirit and the trigger manifests, we are in no way accountable for that thought.  Our slates are still clean, even with that temptation.  We learn in the scriptures that Satan tempted the Savior.  The Savior felt the very triggers we experience day in and day out and yet He still remained clean and perfect.  As heavy as those temptations were for the Savior, He still denied them.  He denied and refused them in the very face of Satan himself.  He did not shy away from them, feel shame for them or blame Himself for them.  But instead He placed accountability where it belonged.  At the adversaries feet.  He rejected them completely and told Satan "get thee hence."  That is the example we are to follow.

There are also times when we trigger for no apparent reason; when we are doing everything right; reading scriptures, working on dailies, attending the Temple, remembering our gratitude and generally striving to do what is right.  And yet, even in he wake of all that hard work we can still feel an intense pull to act out – as if we are standing in front of a giant steel door called 'addiction' and every cell in our body is magnetized.  There is no way humanly possible that we would be able to withstand that temptation on our own.  

It is during these times that I often reflect on the wise words of my Stake President when I once asked him why, when I am doing everything right, does my Father in Heaven still let me suffer through such horrific temptation?  He paused and then looked at me and said:
Your Father in Heaven has heard the promises you have made to Him, and He is now letting the wind blow on your branches, to see if you meant what you said.  
Our Heavenly Father wants our roots to grow stronger and for that to happen He allows the wind to blow on our branches.  It is up to us to remember that no matter what Heavenly Father see’s fit for us to bear, that His plan does not require us to do it alone.  He has provided us with His son, an army of Angels, the Priesthood and a plethora of other protective barriers to sustain us through the hard times.  We are only  required to be obedient and trust Him.  And truly, we are safe in that.


  1. This post was very helpful in many ways. I was able to identify my own personal triggers. Identifying them has been helpful so that I can avoid them.

    I like this thought a lot. I seriously forget that I am never alone... it's a comforting thought. I have heard it my whole life, but I loved how you put this. I can imagine this more easily than an all powerful Savior, who I know is also with me... but this imagery was very helpful. And it is very true. it's either one or the other -
    "If the Holy Ghost is not with us, then surely Satan's followers are, and likewise, if the Holy Ghost is with us then Satan's followers cannot stand to be in the light of our countenance. We are never without one or the other..."

    Ok, this thought was also very helpful to me. What I told you about that happened the other night, I was triggering but I had not offended the Spirit. However, I still felt shame for my thoughts going in a direction I'd rather them not, even though it was quick, it was not ME that invited that in, etc. Reading this was helpful for me to realize that I do not need to carry shame for those uninvited things happening. It is also comfroting to know that "The Savior felt the very triggers we experience day in and day out." Thanks!!!

    And I know you have told me about the wind blowing in my branches before, but I just LOVE it. Seriously, the imagery that you use is so helpful to me. But, it's nice to know that there's a reason. I am being continually tested - the Lord is watching and testing me to see how firmly I am planting my roots. It's nice to think about Him trusting me at all to do that, and how He probably hopes with all His might that I will withstand the test and remain strong.

    Awesome post, thanks Sidreis!

  2. I also see triggers as a way for me to grow stronger at resisting them. I used to get so angry because I had built this world where I was protected from triggers but then I got this job and triggers were everywhere! and I couldn't take away others right to choose what they did and listened to or watched. But you can't live in the world and avoid any and all triggers. My job has been really hard in this aspect, BUT I know that with prayer and help (including reaching out) that I can overcome those triggers and learn how to deal with them successfully next time. ~Stacey


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