As human beings, we are habitual creatures that engage in comfortable behaviors. A routine of behaviors can turn into addiction when the compulsion becomes stronger and stronger. But not all addictions, like behaviors, are unhealthy. In fact, some can be positive like playing a musical instrument or cooking when all done in a healthy way. Addictions can be unhealthy if the behavior is doing harm to themselves or others, like substance abuse, eating junk food, or smoking cigarettes. Exercising and substance abuse are two different types of addictions driven by similar compulsions. Learning how to manage triggers during recovery in a positive way will help to not fall back into unhealthy addictive behaviors.
Triggers are emotions that are fired in the brain when someone experiences a situation that is related to old memories and feelings. Triggers are tied to our five senses: taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound. These senses have strong associations to addictive behaviors of substance abusers.
During recovery, avoid triggers as much as possible to reduce the temptation to fall back into bad habits. Avoiding all triggers can be a challenging task but the best strategy is to learn how to identify and plan against triggers. Doing so will help prevent relapse and going back to your previous state of abusing drugs and alcohol. A relapse trigger gives the user the illusion of justification to go back to drugs and alcohol.
Triggers don’t have to be places like a bar or going to a party as they can be emotions, moods, noises, smells, and dates. Triggers are commonly classified as:
Environmental Triggers – A social place that were once associated with substance abuse:
- Bars and clubs
- Friend’s home
- Former drug-use areas
Emotional Triggers – Feelings that arise from situations or underlying personal emotional states.
Social Triggers – A social interaction that may urge the craving for drugs or alcohol.
- Seeing your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend
- A conversation with your parents
- A fight with your significant other
- Getting yelled at by your boss
Proactive Relapse Prevention
Understanding these triggers and how they work will help you develop a game plan in how to confront them. Write down triggers you experienced or may encounter and plan a way to stabilize yourself in that situation. Learn how to manage and be mindful of triggers to avoid relapse.
Proactive actions and techniques:
- Speak with your sponsor or a friend you trust
- Exercise and eat healthy
- Walking, Hiking, or Camping
- Meditate, yoga, and breathing exercises
- Avoid people or places associated with drug use
- Speak to a therapist or counselor
- Read a book or start a writing journal
- Remind yourself why you chose recovery
Finding the courage to quit and seek help is tremendous and when one relapses it can be difficult for one to seek help again. Self-esteem reduces during a relapse and it becomes much harder to stop again. And depending on the user’s addiction, it can be fatal as they go back to doing what they used to do which takes a toll on one’s body. But when these triggers occur, one must learn to not act on toxic habits and learn new healthy habits. Being self-aware of triggers and having a plan to do something else will allow you to overcome cravings of drugs and alcohol. Learning how to deal with these triggers before they occur can make it easier when faced with difficult situations. Make yourself accountable for these situations and become self-aware to deal with them.