Understanding and Managing the Triggers for Substance Abuse

The key to long-term sobriety is identifying and managing the triggers for substance abuse. Before completion of a rehab program for substance abuse, individuals will have learned skills to prevent relapse. The five rules of recovery provide a solid framework for navigating the sometimes rocky path post-rehab. However, there are bound to be times when people, places, emotions, and the substance itself may be a trigger for another bout with addiction.

What are Some Common Relapse Triggers and How Can You Defend Against Them?

Substance abuse triggers are cues – whether internal or external – that can cause such a level of craving that the individual will stray from even the best-laid recovery plans. Continue reading to learn about common triggers and ideas for how you can fight them.

Social and Environmental Triggers

The first rule of recovery is to create a new life where it’s easier not to use.[1] Revisiting people and places from your past violates that rule and will make it more difficult to stay sober.

The people who were part of your social circle when you used drugs or alcohol – and the places or events where you would use – may bring back memories of the good times you experienced when you were using. Those flashbacks might cause you to romanticize that lifestyle. If the people in your life during that time are still using, you may be tempted to join them again. If it’s impossible to completely separate yourself from the people or places associated with your addiction, then you must plan how you’ll respond to every person or situation that might tempt you.

For example, you may decide you’re going to stand firm and decline an invitation that could endanger your sobriety. Alternatively, you could suggest a different activity. Maybe you’ll have to take a different route home from work, not to see the place that triggers those memories. Be prepared for any situation or scenario you may encounter. Knowing exactly how you’ll respond will help keep you accountable and less likely to slip back into your old ways.

Uncomfortable or Challenging Emotions

Anger, sadness, stress, anxiety, insecurity, fear, and other negative emotions may trigger you to reach for an easy fix in drugs or alcohol. In the past, you likely used those substances to help you cope with bad feelings or uncomfortable emotions. But now that you’re in recovery using is no longer an option.

First, take a beat to tell yourself that everyone experiences emotional challenges. Remind yourself that you have options other than resorting to addictive substances to cope. If you’re dealing with stress, try to identify situations that cause this emotion and see if you can either remove them or adjust them in a way to take some of the burdens off of you. Don’t try to escape your emotions. Instead, take the opportunity to face them and learn why you feel the way you do. You can turn a negative situation into one that leads to growth.

Just as you made a plan for coming face-to-face with people and places that triggered you, prepare alternative ways to deal with your uncomfortable or challenging emotions. Try meditation, journaling, speaking to a therapist or addiction counselor, or embracing your faith. Remember, you have options to cope with your bad feelings. You don’t have to turn to drugs or alcohol to manage them.

Encountering the Substance You Gave Up

One of the best arguments for avoiding social environments that were part of your pre-recovery life is that it limits the possibility of catching a glimpse (or a whiff) of the substance you were once addicted to. Witnessing people drinking, smoking, or taking pills can be exceptionally triggering.

What can you do if you find yourself in that situation? Stepping away is the best idea. You’ll need space – physical, mental, and emotional – to confront your feelings and remind yourself of every sacrifice you made to build a new life. You may be tempted to close yourself off to those memories and the feelings they bring up. However, you need to be present and acknowledge how your addiction has hurt you and the people you love. Take a moment to grieve. Then, move forward with thoughts of your new life and all it has to offer.

As soon as you have the opportunity, participating in one of the activities you’ve discovered helps you deal with uncomfortable emotions. It’s also important to share your feelings with someone supporting you in your effort to stay sober. Don’t think you need to be strong and face this alone.

Find Help Managing the Triggers for Substance Abuse

If you’ve tried to give up drugs or alcohol in the past but haven’t been able to break the patterns that keep you addicted, reach out for help today. Silver Sands Recovery can provide the tools and support you need to build your new life. We’ll create a program that’s customized for your unique struggles and the specific triggers you face, exploring the root causes of your addiction. You’ll discover how to navigate the world from a new perspective and learn how to deal with the obstacles that you’ll face in your effort to stay sober.

To learn more about our programs, please contact one of our supportive team members. Long-term sobriety is in your future, and Silver Sands Recovery can make that possible for you.

Sources:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/

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