Trigger-nometry

I have always hated the maths. I mean, 2 + 2 = 4 and knowing how many quarters you need to make a dollar are useful bits of information, but throw letters into the equation and I’ve all of a sudden got pit stains. I failed Foundations of Math 101 twice in college. The third time I’d signed up for it, I gave up on college entirely. I won’t blame math for that, though.

But in high school one of my favorite teachers was of the math persuasion. That guy was fucking nuts. He loved hockey and if you got a problem wrong he’d make you stand up and he’d run at you and ‘check’ you hockey-style. Oh my god, he would so be fired these days. But we loved him. Or I did at least. Enough to acquiesce to the fact that the college track meant I had to take Trigonometry and Calculus.

Mr. K had integrated into his curriculum lesson plans on preparing for the SAT. Yes, I’m that old. Now, while math scared the shit out of me, I’m actually quite adept at logic. And as it turned out taking the SAT involved a bit of logic. Not quite sure if the answer is A or B? Statistically, B is the better choice. B and C were more common ‘correct’ answers than A or D. Not confident at all in the answer? Not answering at all garnered less penalty than answering incorrectly.

I actually managed to learn some lettery math stuff in his class without once attempting to sneak out the calculator I’d pinched from my Dad. He had taken a college course and it had about fifty buttons that did all kinds of crazy shit. Shit our phones today would mock, but whatever. It was also as big as my damn forehead. Have you seen that thing?

It’s a fivehead…

Hell, it doesn’t even fit in the picture. Ahem. I take selfies like that on purpose. I figure people have ample enough imagination to visualize the rest. It would have been near impossible to cheat with that calculator is all I’m saying. Anyway, it turns out that while I might not be a gifted mathematician, I do okay at taking tests. Or, more specifically, the SAT. I ended up with a 640 which is a fairly high score for a self-proclaimed dumbass. And a skill that has expired in its usefulness.

Wait…why am I even talking about this? Trigonometry. Trigger-nometry…Uhhhh…

Oh! Got it! Fast forward 27 years. My Overcoming Fear of Math with Letters cape is gathering dust somewhere in a long forgotten closet and I’m sitting at a picnic table smoking a cigarette at rehab. Come on, we fast forwarded a lot! So I’m sitting there and I’d say I was minding my own business but you don’t really get to mind your own business in rehab. You’ve made your business everyone else’s business and there are no secrets with your rehab crew. What’s the point? Besides, secrets make you sick.

Three of us were flapping our jaws in between puffing away, contemplating which bitch was Seroquil sleep-eating all the pop-tarts and life and death and stuff, when one of the girls got really big eyes, moved in closer, grabbed my arm, and said, “Oh my god, girl, look at your veins!” I was kind of an oddball in rehab, which really surprised me. Not. But most everyone else landed there doing real far out shit and I was just a run of the mill alcoholic. Boring. I used to enhance my stories some so I’d fit in a little better.

“Oh yeah! Well I drank perfume!”

*crickets*

If I hadn’t really, really wanted to be sober by the time I’d gotten to rehab, I learned a hell of a lot about a hell of a lot of stuff I hadn’t tried yet. Fortunately I really wanted sobriety.

So my two IV adept newfound homies ‘ooh’ed and ahhh’ed over my apparently voluptuous veins while I showcased my arms feigning modesty and feeling strangely proud until one suddenly proclaimed, “Ah, gotta stop! Trigger! We’ll get in trouble.” Triggerish stuff led to breaking rehab rules. Actually, it bended rules. But romanticizing and glorifying using snapped rules in half.

We ended up having a very useful conversation about triggers. One I’ll not forget. There were two camps in rehab. The Triggers Are Bad Camp. They screeched ‘Trigger!’ every time they didn’t want to deal with something. The other camp felt like rehab was a really great place to explore triggers. I mean, it’s safe there, right? Surrounded by a bunch of detoxing, rude and loving assholes who understand your own rude and loving assholiness. I’m sure the appropriate approach is a messy blend of the two, some magical wiggly line somewhere around the middle. I imagine we did an all right job finding that balance, all bullish and clonky surrounded by fine china and fragile feelings, because many of us are still sober today.

“Triggers should be faced,” we concluded. This, among other important lessons, earned us all a graduation from The Ranch Mississippi. Whee!

The thing about people today is this…I think they all need to go to rehab. In a sense I’m grateful I chose such an obvious and destructive unhealthy coping mechanism for dealing with a sick world. It landed me somewhere that made it impossible to hide from myself.

It seems like everyone is so effing triggered by every-damn-thing these days. They’re triggered by triggers. They even borrow other folks’ triggers and get triggered by the possibility of other people getting triggered. It’s a trigger-ific society we live in.

What in the actual…? In my world, my triggers forced me to wake up. I dove deep into having no kind of life, fearing my own existence, having panic attacks and wondering if I should call 911 because I was so afraid of my own brain. I was addicted to alcohol, sure, and that addiction even evolved into physical dependence, but I was also addicted to what my mind was telling me. Which was why I drank in the first place. To shut that thing up for a little while.

My house flooded in 2016. It was a big deal. I remember walking in my front door after an evening spent at my boyfriend’s and foot in the door, my shoe slopped into a floating welcome mat. There was water pouring down the walls. I felt like the loneliest person on the planet. A wet planet where insurance companies argued about responsibility and I dissolved, however voluntarily, sipping on a concoction of vodka and second floor busted bathroom sink pipe water.

If I were to get all finger-pointy about my life, that event alone triggered (oh, the puns) my descent into madness and a timeline shift that bounced me from mental hospital to sleeping in my car to rehab.

It was like a desperate game of Frogger and the frog was drunk.

As luck would have it, one night at the ‘hab, the unit I shared with a few other girls flooded. I launched through the front door one evening after our on-site AA meeting and my foot announced itself with an all too familiar ‘SLOSH!’ accompanied by my stomach immediately splashing to the wet tile.

It didn’t take but a second for my roommates, who were in their own rendition of ‘Is This Really My Life!’ to ascertain that the shock and horror they felt kinda paled in comparison to what my pallor must have indicated. I’m sure my stomach twitching on the floor added a heaping spoonful of evidence that I was about to fall apart and there were more organs where that came from…

They knew all about The Flood.

The girl nearest me grabbed on and rushed me out in a bear hug, like two soldiers seeking cover, the other girls yelling, “Get her out of here, we got it.” Even those unaffected, who’d meandered over out of morbid curiosity, or perhaps wondering if all of the pop-tarts had disappeared, launched into action and moved everything to our newly appointed unit, including all of my belongings.

Whew. I’m getting teary at retelling this.

And I cried and cursed and shared and hugged and swam fiercely and bravely through a vast and relentless sea of fear and terror that night. Until I landed, ugly and weak and exhausted in a dry bed in a new room that had been lovingly and perfectly set up by chicks I’d walk through fire, or water, for. They did it all while I’d fought for the life of someone tiny and scared who wanted to live.

I honestly believe that flood in rehab was a blessing. Divine intervention.

Can you imagine a more perfect set-up? A flood in rehab? It’s almost hilariously synchronistic.

What better a place to learn that it was not the world’s job to not flood for me…

That night I learned one of the most important takeaways, of which there were many, rehab had to give me. I realized that triggers are best friends. Triggers indicate places that need exploring. Where a trigger lives is a scared child. A child that needs care.

These days when I feel that hair-raising sensation…the churning stomach…the blood-rushing to my face…the pointer finger twitching…I actually go, ‘Oh! I feel that! I see you! I know you’re there,” and I roll up my sleeves and take care of my kid. In my experience, my Inner Child hides behind triggers. I know Inner Child is a fluffy, popular term, but call it whatever resonates with you.

The most reliable way I’ve come to deal with my triggers has been to fracture, in a sense, and experience myself as a grown woman with a little kid in need of some TLC.

“Life is scary! If I drink vodka for breakfast, it won’t be as scary!” Sheesh, this kid is sweet, but she’s not so good at navigating the world sometimes. I’d better take care of her.

“That person said I’m a piece of shit! I must be a piece of shit!” “We are not a piece of shit, sweetie. People can say whatever they like, that’s their prerogative, but we don’t have to believe it. We are just fine. We’re a diamond.”

I take care of my kid now. And here’s where getting spiritual has really launched me into loving Trigger-Land. I’ve got a Universe to call on when I’m struggling to care for my kid. And Guides and Angels and…I won’t get too weird on you.

But I don’t have to rely on other people who have their own kid to care for, with varying degrees of awareness and success. Some let their kids run amok, playing games and bullying and teasing. I’m not offended by kids anymore, though. Arguably some are more pestering than others but I have two feet and a life to live so I dodge any sand or snowballs thrown my way and take my business elsewhere.

I mind my own business now. Take care of my own kid. Keep my own house. All metaphorically speaking.

I’ve got problems to solve and equations to master and with Foundations of Math 101 twenty five years in my rear-view, these adventures are thankfully not of the numbers and letters variety. They’re even more complicated now. Because they’re logic. And I do just fine with logic.

All of this to say, babysitters have their place and there’s no shame in utilizing a babysitter to help you with your kid now and again. But since I’ve opened my perception I’m mindful of both whom I’m hiring out that care to and whether what I’m doing in the meantime lends itself to sturdying me as an adult so I can care for my kid and her fears and penchant for playing hide-and-seek with more savviness.

And that change in perception triggered a colossal shift in the way I deal with fear and triggers. We look under the bed and peer in the closet. Together we seek and dispel the monsters. And each day we become more sovereign, impervious, and fearless. It’s amazing.

I was once told I live in my own reality and I thought that was a horrible insult. These days it’s a beautiful way to live. Better than trying to live in other people’s realities.

So go buy your kid an ice cream cone and talk to it, so other people aren’t left to its tending. Together, armed with a flashlight, you can do some exploring. Start under the bed.

XO

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