Coping with Addiction Triggers

It is very common for people with addictions to relapse during recovery. These relapses are often the result of triggers, which come in many forms.

It could be a certain day, an anniversary of a past event or even a physical place.

These triggers can cause overwhelming anxiety, sadness, panic, and stress, which can often lead to relapse.

It is very difficult to navigate these triggers and not give in to temptation. By identifying a person’s triggers, and acting upon them early, it can help to prevent a relapse.

Identifying Triggers

Identifying these triggers is important and can help to prevent a relapse in recovery.

Triggers that bring back feelings, thoughts and memories of addiction can be powerful, and cause a person to have an intense urge to drink or take drugs again.

Triggers can be hard to avoid at times and so identifying them can help when trying to work through them.

Triggers can be such things as:

  • Visiting places associated with past alcohol and drug use
  • Seeing other people drink or take drugs
  • Certain music and songs, triggering a memory of past addiction
  • TV programs or films with scenes showing alcohol and drug use
  • Associating with the same people who you would drink and take drugs with
  • Driving in the areas that were places where drugs were picked up

These are known as external triggers, as they come from the environment around you. Internal triggers such as thoughts or feelings, like worry, stress and boredom can be much more difficult to avoid.

There can be certain situations in your life that could also become triggers, such as:

  • Financial worries
  • Family problems
  • Problems with employment
  • Relationship breakdowns

By identifying these different triggers, it can help a person in recovery to try and avoid them, or deal with them in a manageable safe way, helping to prevent relapse and enable them to stay sober or clean one day at a time.

Relapse Prevention Plans

By creating a relapse prevention plan, it can help stop frequent relapses and aid longer periods of sobriety.

Relapse prevention plans are usually written documents that can be shared with a persons support group and treatment team. A plan may include information on a person’s cravings, triggers and coping tools.

Relapse can happen in three phases or key areas. Mental, emotional, and then physical relapse.

Having a plan makes it possible to recognise and acknowledge certain events, or feelings and act upon them, which would help a person recovering to prevent a physical relapse.

When creating a relapse prevention plan, it can be helpful to do so with the help of a counsellor or support group as well as considering the key areas.

These stages of a plan include things like:

  • A person’s drug and alcohol use history: Knowing specific factors of a person’s alcohol or drug use history can help in the future to avoid further relapses. By avoiding specific associations, factors, places and even times can all help to prevent a person from turning back to alcohol and drug use
  • Identify personal triggers and signs to prevent relapse: By creating a list of situations that could lead to a possible relapse, it can help a person to prevent giving in and having a physical relapse. Sometimes, people can think, feel, and even act differently if a relapse is looming
  • Having an action plan in place of what to do, instead of turning back to substances: Having an action plan in place to prevent turning back to drugs or alcohol can be a very helpful idea. Being able to find other ways and outlets instead of relapse, such as calling a friend or family member straight away or going to a support group. Having specific plans of action can help relapse prevention

By going through these areas, it can help to create a realistic plan for relapse prevention and instead, help the person going through their recovery to stay clean and sober for lengthier periods of time.

Trigger Management – Healthy Coping Skills

There are many ways in which triggers can be managed in a healthy way and including some of these in the action plan can be very helpful.

Some of these healthy coping skills include things such as:

  • Exercising or going for a walk
  • Daily journaling
  • Eating healthier food options
  • Staying hydrated with water or tea
  • Joining support groups
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Being around positive people
  • Finding a new hobby or learning something new

By using healthy coping skills to deal with triggers, it helps a person to deal with them in a positive way, without turning to more damaging mechanisms which could be harmful to them, or even others around them.

These healthier coping skills help to improve mindset, especially with things like hydration and meditation. They can also help to reduce stress and prevent frequent relapses.

Trigger Management – Unhealthy Coping Skills

By using unhealthy methods to cope with triggers, it can cause them to get worse or become more intense.

People who have been unable to find healthy ways of coping with triggers can often resort to unhealthier choices of coping which has a negative effect on them.

These unhealthy triggers can be any of the following:

  • Self-harming
  • Substance abuse
  • Binge eating or poor diet choices
  • Anger, misdirected anger, or violence
  • Lying, denial and deceit
  • Becoming friendly with other users or those who sell drugs
  • Physical, mental, and financial abuse

Negative triggers are the most damaging to a person in recovery and are often the ones that end up causing relationship breakdowns, isolation, depression and in some cases, suicide.

Some emotional or mental triggers can be traumatising for a person, and when triggered, can cause a person to make poor decisions.

Coping with triggers can be difficult, but knowing what triggers a person, and having a plan in place with healthy coping choices can help towards preventing relapses.