Addiction is a disease that can affect anyone at any time. The cruel reality is that addiction knows no boundaries. It does not matter if you are wealthy or living below the poverty line, what religion you are, or your ethnic background is addiction can enter your life and have potent consequences.
Once someone becomes dependent or addicted to a substance, it can become difficult to function daily without using or consuming that substance. Unfortunately, even after someone has completed a treatment program and achieved sobriety or entered recovery, there are a host of potential triggers that can impact recovery or even cause a relapse.
What Are Triggers?
Triggers are cues or events in the environment or a person’s surroundings that encourage drug or substance use in individuals struggling with a previous addiction disorder. Every recovering addict will have a different set of triggers, so knowing what your triggers are and how to cope with them will help ensure your recovery remains on track.
Triggers can have incredibly powerful physical and mental effects. Below are just a few triggers people may deal with or encounter each day.
- Scents or smells in their environment that can be reminders of using
- Locations or people who are reminders of past substance use activities
- Access to a preferred substance of choice
- Attending a party or event where others are drinking or using substances
- A traumatic event such as a diagnosis of illness, physical injury or loss of a loved one
- Hearing a specific song or watching a particular movie
While these are just a few quick examples, there are likely many more individual triggers that could affect you as a recovering addict but have little to no impact on someone else. During the course of your treatment program at The Hills in Los Angeles, California, your counselor will help you examine your individual triggers that have led to your addiction. They will also help you to come up with steps or coping mechanisms you can rely on after your discharge to manage or avoid potential triggers.
Identifying Personal Triggers
As previously mentioned, while some triggers are common among addicts in recovery, they are still very personal and will affect each person differently. During a triggering event, you will notice real and difficult physiological reactions. Some of these could include:
- Elevated heart rate
- Feelings of anxiety or fear
Even after completing a treatment program, it is not uncommon for people who struggle with addiction to relapse at least once during recovery. Some will also “fall off the wagon” several times before getting clean once and for all. Research shows that more than two-thirds of individuals will relapse after completing treatment. That said, recovering addicts must understand what their triggers are and how to manage them accordingly.
Common Triggers and How to Avoid Them
Stress is one of the top causes of relapse. Many people who struggle with addiction turn to their substance of choice as a (maladaptive) way of coping with stress. Studies show that there is an increased “wanting” for the drug, alcohol, or addictive activity during stressful events or situations. This is especially true if the substance of choice was the person’s primary coping mechanism.
One way (and likely the best way) to prepare for this trigger is to take stock in the stress you are experiencing. While it is impossible to eliminate everyone and everything stressful from your life, you can make a concerted effort to avoid extremely stressful situations. By examining your stressors and making changes to your lifestyle, relationships, and priorities, you may be able to reduce the number of stressful events or situations in your life.
It is also important to learn positive ways to manage the stressors you are unable to avoid. Some people choose to exercise, make dietary changes, or try relaxation training and mindfulness. To reduce the likelihood that stress will trigger a relapse, you must find healthier ways of dealing with stress and recognize when you are in a stressful situation and know what to do to alleviate it. Your counselor at The Hills in the beautiful Los Angeles area can help you learn to listen to your mind and body to identify when you’re feeling stressed. During therapy, you will also learn to develop healthy coping mechanisms for mitigating stress.
People or Places with Memories
Unfortunately, part of recovery often requires taking a close look at your circle of friends. People who participated in your addictive behavior with you are potential triggers for relapse as places that remind you of your addiction. For some, even family members can be triggering, especially if their presence or communication increases feelings of vulnerability or failure.
Since it is often challenging to remove everyone from your life who could be a potential trigger, it is important to have effective ways to handle the feelings that will likely arise when faced with certain people or places. For example, if you are recovering from alcoholism and a group of your former drinking companions asks you to go out, it may be helpful to have a few pre-rehearsed responses available. Failure to prepare for these situations ahead of time will make you more vulnerable to relapse.
People who struggle with addiction need healthy and productive ways of managing, tolerating, and making sense of the negative feelings and emotions they encounter as part of everyday life. The use of alcohol or drugs used to provide temporary relief from those feelings; however, those coping mechanisms can no longer be relied upon. Consequently, as a recovering addict, it becomes necessary to get comfortable with uncomfortable feelings and emotions. These feelings do not need to be a sign of impending relapse or setback. Everyone feels negative feelings or difficult emotions from time to time. What matters is how they are dealt with when they arise.
When viewed as an opportunity for growth or understanding, these emotions can help you to learn more about yourself. They also provide the opportunity to learn how to face your feelings without using substances as an escape. Consider using meditation or journaling as a way of releasing negativity.
Confronting Your Object of Addiction
Reminders of your addiction can very quickly lead to relapse during recovery. Wanting to retreat back to your previous addiction is normal. Unfortunately, reminders of addiction seem to be everywhere during the early stages of recovery, and that makes wanting to remain sober very difficult.
Remember that recovery and life after addiction are not just about “quitting” and “staying clean.” Recovery and ongoing sobriety are about creating a new life where addiction is not necessary to live to the fullest. It can be helpful to think about some of the negative consequences that you experienced while using. Embrace the idea that you are creating a new and healthier version of yourself.
It can also be helpful to have a substitute behavior to partake in when you are feeling triggered but sights and smells. Consider yoga, reading, hiking, or even taking a long bath.
Tips for Managing Triggers
No matter how hard you try, you will encounter triggers in the form of events, people, and emotions that will make you want to drink or get high again. So, what can you do to help manage these triggers and avoid relapse in a healthy way? Below are a few tips you can use to help manage your triggers during your recovery from addiction.
Identify your personal triggers:
above we discussed what personal triggers are and different ways that you can identify them and ways to avoid them. We also discussed how triggers are different for different people. Because of this, every recovering addict’s set of triggers will be different as well. Some common triggers, such as walking by a bar, seeing someone who is drunk or high, or even making it to Friday afternoon, can be challenging during recovery. Knowing and understanding your own specific personal triggers will be essential for a successful recovery.
Know what you’re working with
triggers and cravings are a real and unavoidable part of recovery. No matter how hard you try or what you do to avoid them, they will occur. Do not try to convince yourself or fool yourself into believing that you will be immune to triggers. Instead, know what your triggers are, understand them, and remain open to any that may surprise you. Also, it is essential to have a plan in place for when you feel yourself being triggered.
Practice your trigger plan
Roleplay, even if just with yourself in the bathroom mirror. Practice what you will say or what you will do when the moment comes that you feel like using again. This practice may seem silly, but it may save you from a rough day, temporary lapse, or even full relapse back to substance abuse and addiction.
When you are sleeping well, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and remaining aware of your emotions, you are better equipped to handle triggers when they arise. If you are in recovery or know someone who is, you have likely heard the acronym H.A.L.T. This stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These four emotions or symptoms are said to be the most common causes of lapse and relapse. Taking care of yourself will help to ensure you avoid these four challenges.
Do not test yourself
If you know visiting your friend’s house is a definite trigger for you, do not go over there just to see if your willpower is as strong as you believe it to be. While you may be able to avoid partaking in substance use this time, the seed has been planted, and you may not be able to next time. Also, an event or situation you had not previously identified as a trigger may occur.
Recovering from addiction and maintaining long term sobriety can be challenging under even the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to avoid them, triggering events will occur and proceed to threaten your recovery. Your level of success in coping with triggering situations will depend on the coping mechanisms you developed during treatment, as well as other factors such as how well you are taking care of yourself during your recovery. At The Hills, we understand how challenging achieving sobriety can be. During your time experiencing our California luxury addiction treatment program, we will teach you how to identify and cope with triggers. We will also help you develop a trigger plan you can use when faced with previously identified triggers or surprise triggers. If you are ready to seek treatment for your addiction, contact The Hills today.