Identify & Avoid Relapse Triggers & Stressors
It is possible to recognize behavioral clues that indicate an addiction relapse trigger is approaching - and be able to intervene if that occurs.
In recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, relapse occurs when a person returns to substance use. Usually, relapse triggers or stressors are things that will trigger an individual's desire to use drugs or drink alcohol.
There is a common addiction recovery myth that relapse triggers can be permanently removed. That's not true. It is possible, however, to recognize behavioral clues that indicate a trigger is approaching - and be able to intervene if that occurs.
Common Relapse Triggers & Stressors
Everyone experiences different triggers that lead to a craving for substances, but the most common triggers are emotional, mental, or environmental. The behavior may have been triggered by stress, boredom, guilt, or another emotion, or by people or places associated with it.
1. HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired
People who relapse are often triggered by feelings such as hunger, anger, loneliness, or being tired. Prioritize avoiding becoming overwhelmed by hunger, anger, loneliness, and fatigue. It means planning meals, adhering to a strict sleep schedule, and attending support groups.
2. Emotions: Stress, Boredom & Guilt
Assessing your level of stress can help you prepare for this trigger. Under what circumstances do you feel the most stressed? Do you have a toxic relationship or a financial situation that stresses you out?
You can reduce your stress by changing your lifestyle, your relationships, and your priorities. To avoid operating in panic mode, it is also important to learn positive ways to successfully manage stress, such as practicing mindfulness, journaling, and managing time effectively.
Boredom is common in early recovery. Days were previously filled with substance use, so much so that with their discontinued usage there seem to be hours upon hours of idle time. Early on in addiction recovery, a schedule for reducing boredom will facilitate the development of new healthy habits.
3. People & Places
Whether someone is still using or not, being around people who are abusing substances is a sure-fire way to trigger a relapse. Additionally, certain places that remind you of your addiction can trigger you.
Sobriety requires staying away from people, places, and things associated with substance use.
Whenever you're reminded of the addiction, it's crucial to find effective ways to deal with it. It might help to be prepared with a specific response if you're an alcoholic and see people from work going to happy hour.
You might also find it helps to do something healthy instead - such as go for a run, meet with a sponsor, or read a good book.
Relapse triggers can be minimized in large part through preventative measures. It's important to create a relapse prevention plan because it lays out a detailed, structured plan that can keep you on track with recovery goals. With a clear plan of action already in place, this is an opportunity to take control and identify situations that may lead to relapse.
More tips to sidestepping relapse triggers:
- Keep in touch with loved ones to keep up your recovery.
- Make a big deal out of any milestone you reach, such as finishing a rehab program, staying sober for six months, or getting through a rough day. The sentiment adds to your self-esteem.
Coping With Triggers
Triggers can't always be avoided. Here are several potential actions you can take in response:
- Distracting Activity: Playing an instrument, working out at the gym, or reading might all qualify as distracting activities. Any material that helps you refocus and doesn't remind you of your past drug use.
- Connect With Someone: if you’re part of a 12-step program, talk with a sponsor, addiction counselor, or a supportive family member or friend in your sober support network.
- Get Active: running, yoga, or another form of exercise can help vent negative emotions or distract from a trigger.
Finding Treatment If You’ve Relapsed
If you have relapsed, this does not mean you’ve failed or have to start completely over. It’s important to remain positive and to consider seeking treatment. At Care Addiction Center, we believe there needs to be a comfortable and inviting environment for patients to share as well as be receptive to new ideas and skills. This is why we remain a small and intimate group for our treatment - between 4 to 8 individuals at any given time.
If you or a loved one need help or want to learn more about treatment options, feel free to contact us at: 630-402-0144