You’ve done the hard work and now you’re navigating life as a sober person. In this vulnerable time, it’s important to be educated about potential triggers that could turn you back to your old ways. So, what is a trigger? A trigger is “a person, place, thing or event that reminds you of the pleasures you used to get from your old habits or lifestyle.” Triggers not only make you think about doing drugs, they can actually bring back drug-seeking behavior.
There are two types of triggers, emotional (internal) and environmental (external) triggers. For instance, you might hear a song playing (external) that reminds you of your old habit, and reminds you of a feeling you use to enjoy, thus makes you have the urge to use. Or, you may experience a stressful situation like an argument with a loved one that leaves you feeling anxious and upset (internal). The way you used to handle those uncomfortable feelings was to abuse a substance, seeking relief. Identifying your triggers and/or working through them with an experienced counselor is key to avoiding those triggers and staying on your new, sober path.
Types of Triggers
- Anxiety/Stress – Anxiety is a state of inner turmoil brought on by difficult or stressful circumstances. Everyday life can be stressful, not to mention dealing with finances, interpersonal relationships, and navigating life newly sober. Anxiety can bring on the urge to use, as using is a coping mechanism. It’s important you be able to identify stressful situations and have other coping mechanisms in place to handle the anxiety, like meditation.
- Depression – Depression makes you feel negative, sad and unable to cope with life. It can affect how you think and act. The withdrawal itself may cause depression, which in turn may make you feel like you want to use as a coping mechanism.
- Thoughts – Thoughts are powerful. You may think about your using past and believe they were the “good times,” forgetting the bad parts. You may fantasize about using at first, but it may gradually get to the point where you are actively thinking about using. You may believe you can get away with it, just once. This is a dangerous trigger, and it’s important you have support (calling a sponsor or friend) and coping mechanisms in place to avoid moving from just thoughts to action.
- Physical – You may experience actual internal physical pain, like fatigue and other uncomfortable issues such as chronic body pain, which is a powerful trigger.
- People – Friends who used with you are a dangerous trigger. It may be that you have to disconnect from them entirely to create a healthy boundary. People or family members who are toxic or bring drama into your life may also need to be disconnected from while you are in recovery. These people may bring up painful, difficult emotions which are certainly a powerful trigger.
- Places – A bar where you used to drink, or a friend’s home where you used can bring up strong emotions and even the physical need to use.
- Events/Situations – Concerts, parties, and social environments that remind you of your past, or make you feel like the only way you can enjoy yourself would be to use, are a trigger. It may be difficult at first to avoid events that are fun and represent the enjoyment of life, but you and your sobriety are worth it.
- Things – A bottle of alcohol, pills in a medicine cabinet, a friend’s smoking paraphernalia; these are all items you may come across any day.
How To Avoid Addiction Triggers
Know Your Triggers – Everyone has different triggers. It could be seeing someone take a drink or a difficult and upsetting confrontation with a loved one. What are YOUR triggers? Write them down and carry the list with you. Read it often throughout the day. When you feel upset or have an urge to use, read the list. Remember, “yes, this is one of my triggers.” Ask yourself, “how can I cope with this in a healthier way?”
Have a Plan – Have a plan in place when you are triggered. Call your sponsor. Call a trusted, sober friend. Write down what your plan will be and go over the steps one by one. Distract yourself and wait 30 minutes before taking any kind of action you will regret later.
Avoid situations where you will be exposed to your triggers – Avoid situations you know will cause you to be triggered if you can. Whether that is a party, social environment, bars, or groups of friends who you used or drank with.
Take care of yourself – H.A.L.T. – An excellent way to remember to take care of yourself is with the acronym H.A.L.T.
- H. – Hungry – Are you really hungry, or just bored? Is it a hunger craving, or a craving to use? Keeping nutritious and healthy food available is an important way to stave off your need to use.
- A. – Angry – Anger creates toxicity and stress in the body. Learn to identify WHY you are angry and HOW to work through the anger to rid yourself of its toxic aftermath, instead of using to cope. Exercise and meditation are excellent coping mechanisms.
- L. – Lonely – It’s hard to feel lonely, particularly in recovery. But loneliness is a natural part of being human. Find healthy ways to connect with others, whether through a 12-step program, classes at the gym, or meeting friends in a coffee shop.
- T. – Tired – Being tired is a dangerous trigger, for you may have used drugs and alcohol to cope with sleep issues. Again, getting healthy coping mechanisms in place is key to avoiding old habits. Exercise and meditation are ways to help your natural sleep rhythm restore itself.
Build Your Life After Residential Treatment
The Treatment Center Outpatient Services relapse prevention program in Lake Worth, South Florida offers counseling to build life skills for maintaining sobriety after residential detox and inpatient treatment. Our compassionate counselors are standing by 24 hours a day to help. Call us at (844) 211-7944 or contact us today. We look forward to helping you stay on your new path.