If you’re in sex addiction recovery, you know what it means to be “triggered.” Triggering incidents can be emotional, such as feeling angry, sad, or anxious, or they can be visual, or tactile, or even auditory. There’s a story in my book Breaking the Cycle: Free Yourself from Sex Addiction, Porn Obsession, and Shame in which I’m walking up the stairs in the building where my office is located. I hear the click of high heels, then see the blue California sky, and realize I’m triggered.
Once I sat down in my office, I was able to unravel or demystify that partly auditory trigger. Hopefully, you are able to handle the multiple ways in which you might be triggered. That said, I have begun telling my clients about another useful technique for dealing with triggers. That brings us to “Really?!!”
The Trigger Versus “Really?!!”
Let’s say that my lovely wife and I are attending a fashionable fundraising event. I notice a beautiful woman in a slinky, red sequined gown and she appears to be looking directly at me. Having been a former addict and going through sex addiction recovery, I could go into being triggered, start imagining that she’s interested, or what she looks like without that red slinky gown. But I don’t go there. Instead, I say to myself, “Really?!” I’m a grown man who is married. Do I really want to go there? Do I really want to give in to the trigger? Am I really that weak?
This intervention comes from what I call “essence,” or the true nature of who I am and who you are beyond being a person in sex addiction recovery. Simply put, you have an identity, a belief that this is who you are, how you are, how you act, and so on. But that is a construct of your mind, your thoughts, and your stories. You are more than that. You have an essence or essential nature of who you are. (For more on essence, read my blog article entitled “Adam’s Essence: Dialoging with Your Essential Nature” That essence is where “Really?!” comes from and that’s what you can use as an intervention when you’re triggered.
How to Use “Really?!” When You’re Triggered
You say “Really?!” to yourself, or say it aloud, or laugh, or take it seriously, and just let it land. Really?! means “Are you kidding me?” I’m more than an automaton who needs to automatically, mindlessly respond to the trigger, the sound of high heels, the smell of certain perfume, the visual of a woman in a red dress. Really?!
Really?! means I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to respond to the trigger. Maybe you’re married. Maybe you have kids. Maybe you’re an adult who can say to yourself, “Do I really want to go for that sexual charge and maybe get carried, maybe have a relapse? Really?!”
“Really?!!” Really Works
Since I started encouraging my clients to use “Really?!” as a way to deal with triggers, I’ve heard numerous stories of how effective it is. Many people in sex addiction recovery have multiple addictions and have used “Really?!” when faced with the possibility of that first alcoholic drink, or that snort of cocaine, or walking into that gambling casino. Do I really want to start drinking? Do I really want that cocaine? Do I really need to walk into that casino? The same goes for: Do I really need to go to that porn site? Do I really need to walk into that strip club or massage parlor?
The truth is I’m a grown-up and you’re grown-up. Do you really need to listen to that addict’s voice? Or can you just say “Really?!” and continue to enjoy your life rather than going down the road to relapse. Try “Really?!” It really works.