What Triggers Relapse?

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You’ve gone through treatment but what can cause a relapse to a return to your old substance abuse? Everyone is different, but there are some common things to watch for to indicate you’re on the verge of derailing your sobriety. We may be able to heed these warnings and stop a potential relapse before it happens if we know the signs. Here are common situations that can put you right back into rehabilitation.

Last Call for Alcohol

“You can have just one little drink, can’t you?” Or maybe you’ve heard “You can have a beer, right?” No. Say it again–NO. All too often, our friends can become our worst enemies without meaning to harm us. People who haven’t been through a substance use disorder don’t understand that it’s all or nothing. No, you can’t have just one little drink because you’ll likely start a binge.

People often encourage you to drink during special occasions and holidays. Maybe they don’t even know that you have a history of substance abuse and they insist on offering you a drink. This is one of the many reasons to make sure you have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand when you go to a party or holiday event. You don’t even have to drink much, just keep a nearly full glass of non-alcoholic liquid in your hand. This can discourage those who don’t know your history from offering you a drink and they won’t feel compelled to make this gesture.

It’s best to avoid situations where you’ll be exposed to alcohol altogether but sometimes it can’t be avoided. The boss asks you to a working lunch and orders a martini. You visit a friend for a football watch party and everybody’s drinking beer. They may simply forget that you’re in recovery and shouldn’t be around alcohol. If they are aware of your situation, excusing yourself from the party is your best course of action. You’ve worked too hard to give up your sobriety now.

Running Into Your Ex-Partner or a Friend Still Using

This can be one of the most difficult triggers to resist. It’s natural to still have feelings for your ex or for your old circle of friends who haven’t been through rehabilitation. You may find yourself tempted to just hang out for a few hours. Or maybe a night. If you go down that path, you will almost certainly use again. They may beg you for money and you feel sorry for them. Don’t help or enable their use and, more importantly, stay sober. This is why you may need to find a new place to live when you get out of an inpatient treatment center. You have too many memories and triggers here.

Pieces of Your Old Life

Old friends aren’t the only thing that can trigger a relapse. Certain kinds of nostalgia can also make you want to pick up the bottle or the needle. Revisiting places where you hung out with other addicts or where you retreated to use by yourself can spark feelings and cravings to return to old habits. Just as you avoid the people from your past, avoid the places where you used.

Objects can also trigger cravings. Walking past a restaurant and seeing the beautiful bar through the window can be a trigger. Empty beer or alcohol bottles can be a trigger. You may even find drug paraphernalia on the street or a glass with some leftover wine on a table at a sidewalk café. Objects can trigger old memories of “the good times,” but remind yourself that those times weren’t so good after all.

Your New Life Is Work

Sobriety isn’t easy. When you were an alcoholic or addict, you used chemical substances to numb the pain. Now there are no barriers to the pain of everyday situations and experiencing them chemical-free can be overwhelming. Now you are missing a way to dampen the stress and everything is amplified. Maybe you’re struggling with stress at work or you’re struggling to find work and you feel like you have a huge albatross around your neck–no one wants to hire you. When you have bills to pay or a household to maintain, it creates stress. Maybe you’re trying to repair relationships with your family or a child and trying to earn their trust again. Maybe you feel alone and feel like the world has abandoned you.

What do all these situations have in common? Stress. One of the most important factors in being successful in recovery is learning strategies to cope with stress. Not only can finding new friends help you reduce stress, but finding new activities to distract you and occupy your day are important. Try anything and everything to find a hobby that you like. You might also find someone with like-minded interests who you can share this new hobby with. Or making some friends at your local support group can help relieve stress and give you someone to vent your daily frustrations with and allow them to do the same. We all need to feel like we belong.

Celebrations with alcohol, old drug friends, and places we used to hang out–plus the daily stresses of sober life–can feel like too much to handle at times. Sobriety isn’t easy. There is a reason they say that alcoholics and addicts never really can be cured because while time makes it easier, you’ll be in recovery for the rest of your life. Sometimes you do relapse and just because you do, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You pick yourself up, you get into rehabilitation again, and you go right back to recovery. At Everlast Recovery Center, we understand that maintaining sobriety is a lifelong journey. While you may have setbacks, we will always be here for you. Treatment doesn’t end when you leave our center in Riverside, CA, and return home. We teach coping skills and provide aftercare to keep you sober. Call us today at 866-DETOX-25 and let us help. 

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