Triggers

Photo by Lee Campbell on Unsplash

I felt my back pocket. It wasn’t there. I looked in my purse. It wasn’t there. I looked in the console of the van. It wasn’t there either. I had left my phone at home. Ugh! My heart raced a little at the thought.

What was the big deal? I was only going to be gone 10-15 minutes. My kids were definitely old enough to take care of themselves. Any question that came up could wait 10-15 minutes.

I thought back. This wasn’t the first time I felt a slight panic because I forgot my phone. It had happened quite a bit in the past year or so. Usually I was diligent about taking my phone with me everywhere, even on a quick walk around the block; but, if I happened to leave it behind, I felt unnerved. It seemed irrational.

That’s when I realized why it was so alarming. The day I learned of my son’s relationship with pornography my husband and I had been on a walk, and neither one of us had our phones on us. My son had tried calling us both several times, and we hadn’t been available for him. I can still visualize the missed call notice on my cell phone. Since then I had ritualistically taken my phone with me on every walk I went, double-checking before I shut the door and circling back if I realized I was without it.

I think subconsciously I could not bear the thought of leaving my son hanging again–unable to reach me if an emergency situation arose, like I had that fateful day he stood on our front lawn in hysterics because he thought the police were coming any minute to get him.

It was a trigger. Whenever I noticed my phone wasn’t with me, it was a trigger, a reminder that I had not been there when my son needed me most. There are other triggers, words or actions that bring up memories or remind me of our family’s predicament–that everything isn’t as it should be. But I hadn’t noticed this one until now.

We all have triggers, some outside stimuli that causes a specific reaction or response.

Our children have triggers. One of my first goals was to identify what triggered my son’s desire to watch pornography. We asked him to pinpoint his environment when the thoughts arose. Was he happy? Was he angry? Was he in a particular room? Was it a particular time of day? Was he stressed? Was he bored? We asked him to pay attention so we could help him combat the thoughts.

After we identified two or three triggers, we went to work. We asked my son to change some of his behaviors, offering him advice and working through the difficult parts with him. To fight some of the triggers, both my son and I had to change some of our daily routines. I updated some house rules to allow for his new routine.  He said it helped.

The day I pinpointed the reason my body reacted negatively because my phone was missing, I rejoiced. It was the first step to being free of the unsettling feelings and negative memories that surfaced by simply leaving my phone behind. Had I answered the call my son tried to place and reached him a few minutes faster, it would not have stopped the years leading up to that moment. Or the years of battle and healing since then.

A few days later I took a walk. I left my phone at home. On purpose. Then I went to the store. I left my phone at home. On purpose. And everyone was okay.

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

Do you notice triggers in your own life, some outside stimuli you react to? How about in your child’s life? Let me encourage you to identify the triggers and deal with them head on.

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