An activating event can be big and it can be small. A small activating event might be stubbing your toe or getting a parking ticket. Big events might be losing a job, a break-up or a death in the family. These activating events are bound to happen in life and it’s the way that we deal with these activating events that can put us back into the cycle of addiction. Activating events will produce uncomfortable feelings, this could be sadness this can be anger, this can be any kind of adverse or negative emotional state. When negative feelings come up in response to an event, they may create a need to escape. How addicts usually cope with that need to escape is a maladaptive coping behavior
Maladaptive behavior is something that’s learned from childhood. These behaviors can look like anything from isolating, excessive use of video games, eating too much, etc. What they do is provide a temporary escape, however it is temporary, and it will eventually fail to negate bad feelings. So, if somebody has the disease of addiction, because the relief is temporary, it may eventually progress to actual drug use. This, in turn may lead to negative consequences.
Negative consequences can consist of relationship issues, it can be losing a job, it can be financial issues, it can be legal issues. Negative consequences are native to what happens when an addict puts drugs or alcohol into their bodies. This then produces shame and guilt which is directly connected to the negative consequences. In an addict, shame & guilt are their own activating events which bring them full cycle, round and round.
At this point, only an intervention or moment of extreme clarity will help this individual to pull themselves out of the activating event and into some kind of treatment center or recovery program. Once there, they’ll be able to learn about activating events and be able to own the feelings associated with those activating events. Developing and learning about new, healthy coping mechanisms or utilizing a support network before things progress to active addiction.