By taking a proactive approach to recovery, you can help yourself from the dangers of relapse when things are starting to slip. Relapse can occur during your recovery journey. Relapse does not mean that you have failed or that you cannot recover from your addiction. Relapse means that you have something new to learn or that you need to change your approach to recovery. When you approach problems proactively, you anticipate the occurrence of triggering events and get out ahead of them. By knowing your triggers and coping mechanisms, you can steer clear from using alcohol or drugs to deal with stressors. By caring for your physical health and well-being, you can ensure that you are strong to face the challenges of life without your addictions. Having a support system can also help you manage your symptoms and keep yourself from the danger zone.
Common Relapse Triggers
Relapse triggers can be common among those struggling with addictions. Triggers are events, things, or feelings that make you crave alcohol or substances. Triggers may make you think about using and you might begin to rationalize these thoughts. You may think things like, “I’ve been doing well, I can have a drink!” or “I deserve to celebrate, I’ve been in recovery for months now!” You may experience some of the same triggers as others and can learn from your peers in recovery. Triggers can occur in two categories: Environmental and Emotional.
Environmental Triggers: People, Places, and Things
Any trigger that exists outside of yourself is an environmental trigger. These are people, places, or things that may make you experience cravings or desires to engage in your addictive behaviors. People might be friends you formerly used with, anyone triggering traumatic experiences, family members causing stress, or anyone judging you harshly about past mistakes. While you may not be able to avoid every person, place, or thing in your life that may trigger you, you can minimize the time that you spend with them
- Give yourself an “out” when near triggering people or family members. You might have something else planned or a meetup with a more positive person after you spend time with these triggering people. Then you can say something like, “I have to go, I have plans to see a movie tonight” or “I have a class I need to attend.”
- Limit the amount of time you spend with people, who trigger you if you cannot avoid them altogether, and reward yourself with something positive to look forward to.
- You may be triggered by specific places, especially bars if you are recovering from alcohol addiction. Try to avoid going to places where drugs or alcohol are available so you don’t have immediate access to them.
- Events can trigger you where others may be casually drinking alcohol. You may need to invite a sober friend, who can help you help you stay accountable to your recovery.
Emotional Triggers: Thoughts and Feelings
Emotional triggers are internal events that may make you feel a craving for your addiction. Get in touch with your emotional well-being to learn healthy ways of coping with stressors in your life.
- Journal to help you understand more about your internal states and what may trigger negative thoughts and feelings.
- Write out coping skills that help you when you are feeling triggered that you can reference when you are having cravings.
- When feeling upset, sad, or angry, you might benefit from a diversionary activity, like art, music, or drawing. Even listening to music or working on a puzzle can help keep your mind off of cravings. Find hobbies and interests that you enjoy to distract you when you are feeling tempted to use.
- List things that you are grateful for when feeling upset or sad. You can help to shift your focus to the positive things in your life when dwelling on negative emotions.
- Learn to manage your emotions in healthy ways through therapy or support groups. You may struggle with emotions and need to address deeper, underlying issues to help you prevent relapse.
- Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and exercise so that you can handle difficult emotional triggers with strength, mental clarity, and resolve.
Support for Relapse Prevention
Support systems can be a huge help in preventing relapse. Build a strong support system with individuals that are encouraging and are looking out for your best interest. Write down a list of contacts and people you can reach out to when feeling triggered. Sometimes, just talking on the phone with someone who cares can help steer you away from relapse. Join a support group to find a healthy and safe environment to share your struggles with addiction. Some support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous, have phone apps that you can use to find tools to help or connect with a support group. You are not alone in this struggle and others are here to help you avoid relapse!
Relapse prevention can involve taking a proactive approach to your recovery. Write down the people, places, or things that trigger you. Figure out which of these things you can avoid entirely and which ones you may need to learn to cope with. For example, you might have to deal with triggering people during family gatherings. Create a plan ahead of time to get out of these situations or to take a break from them. Triggers can be emotional or environmental. When you engage in the recovery process, you may need to experience some negative emotions you may have been avoiding. By learning to deal with these emotions within a supportive and safe environment, you can learn effective strategies to dealing with emotional triggers. Be prepared for dealing with negative emotions–they are a part of life and can actually be helpful to teach you what you do not want in your life. Everlast Recovery Centers can help you learn relapse prevention techniques in our recovery treatment program. Call today at 866-DETOX-25.