Addiction Recovery Triggers
One of the benefits of staying in a treatment centre is it means you are away from challenging environmental factors that trigger your substance abuse. Support and protection can be vital during the early weeks of your recovery, it gives you a chance to build your strength, but you will need to be able to deal with these triggers once you return home. It is the job of an addiction rehab centre to give you the tools you need to do this.
What Are Addiction Triggers?
A relapse/addiction trigger is any stimuli in your environment that causes you to think about drinking alcohol or using drugs. In the 12-step groups, they refer to these stimuli as ‘people, places, and things’. A relapse trigger can be practically anything, and there are sure to be ones that are unique to you – for example, there may be a specific song that you associate with getting high or a place that triggers sad feelings!
Addiction triggers work by giving rise to certain memories in your mind. For example, you are having a bad day at work, and you start to remember how nice it was to have a glass of wine at the end of the day. These memories can then bring about cravings, and if you are feeling weak and complacent you could easily give into them.
Common Relapse Triggers
The number of potential relapse triggers is almost infinite, but the four most common are easily remembered using the acronym ‘HALT’ which stands for:
Some of the other common relapse triggers would include:
• Complacency (i.e. taking your recovery for granted)
• High-risk situations (e.g. spending time in a night club)
• Unethical behaviour such as anger displacement through aggression
• High expectations leading to disappointments
• No control over daily schedule-overdoing it
• Addiction substitution (e.g. internet addiction or comfort eating)
• Success – this can trigger the urge to celebrate with drugs after all addicts will ‘use’ on ANYTHING!
How to Deal with Addiction Triggers
Avoidance can work with some addiction triggers, but it is not going to be possible to completely protect yourself from this type of stimuli. It is a good idea to avoid hunger, loneliness, and tiredness in early recovery as much as possible because these weaken your resolve. It is common for people who fall into addiction to struggle with anger, so you need tools to be able to manage this intense emotion such as discussing these feelings with your therapist or sponsor.
The other key aspect of dealing with relapse triggers is to be able to identify when it is happening. For example, once you notice that a certain situation gets you thinking about drinking or using drugs, you can be prepared and better able to protect yourself. The fact that you know what is going on means the trigger has less power to do damage.
Other strategies for dealing with addiction triggers would include:
• Avoid high-risk situations. ‘If you sit in a barber shop long enough you will get a haircut’
• Develop techniques to help you relax and deal with stress (e.g. meditation, exercise)
• Have a system whereby you can get support quickly when your recovery feels under threat (e.g. contact a sponsor)
• Make staying clean and sober your number one priority, have fun and start a hobby
• Learn anger management techniques such as counting to ten before responding
• Be honest with yourself always because this makes you less vulnerable to attack from the illness
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process