5 common relapse triggers

5 Common Relapse Triggers: How to Avoid Them

More than 85 percent of individuals in recovery relapse in the first year after receiving treatment

It’s important to understand how relapse happens before knowing about the most common addiction triggers. Thoughts in our mind, as well as people and places in our environment, are all factors that can contribute to relapse. First, we’ll break down how relapse works, then we’ll talk about what to do when you come across them.

The Three Stages of Relapse

Contrary to popular belief, relapse doesn’t just happen in one moment. Relapse is a gradual process that ends in the physical act of using drugs or drinking. Before you know the five most common addiction triggers, you must educate yourself on the three stages of relapse so that you understand it and know what to expect.

Emotional Relapse

Emotional relapse, which is the first stage of relapse, consists of troubling or confusing feelings. You might not be actively thinking about using, but you’re remembering what it used to feel like when you did. You’re also in denial about the possibility of relapse.

Typical signs of emotional relapse include:

  • Bottling up your feelings
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Not regularly attending recovery meetings
  • Poor hygiene
  • Isolating yourself from family and friends
  • Going to recovery meetings but not participating

Mental Relapse

During a mental relapse, your thoughts are drifting toward using again, even if part of you doesn’t want to go back to that part of your life. This can be a tough stage to come back from, so you’ll have to do some relapse prevention planning and get a family member or trusted friend involved. 

Typical signs of mental relapse include:

  • Glorifying past drug/alcohol use
  • Craving drugs or alcohol
  • Thinking about people with whom you used drugs
  • Planning for the next time you’ll use drugs
  • Thinking how to better control your drug use
  • Lying to your loved ones

Physical Relapse

Physical relapse is the official act of using drugs and alcohol again. Once you’ve physically relapsed, it can be hard to realize that you need help.

The 5 Most Common Addiction Triggers

By knowing the typical addiction triggers that can spur you to use drugs and alcohol again, you can prevent relapse from ever happening. Keep in mind that you don’t need to beat yourself up for giving in these triggers. Recovery can be extremely difficult, but knowing what your triggers are in advance can help you stay drug-free in the long run.

Environment

People who and places that you associate with past drug use are common addiction triggers. When you start hanging out with old drinking buddies, even if they no longer drink, you’re more likely to reminisce about using and feel tempted to drink again. 

When you’re recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction, you must have a response to these people if you end up encountering them and they ask you to have a drink. Think of healthier ways to spend your time, like having dinner with your partner or seeing a movie.

Stress

Stress is one of the most predominant addiction triggers. Troubles at work or home can drive a person to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their feelings. If in the past you constantly turned to harmful substances to deal with your problems, then you’re at an even higher risk of relapsing.

Try to evaluate the stress you’re going through. If there is a certain situation that consistently stresses you out, like a financial situation or an abusive relationship, try to avoid or get out of it. Listing the people, places, and things that stress you out can also help prevent relapse.

If you’re feeling stressed by conditions in your everyday life, try practicing healthier coping mechanisms like mindfulness. Meditation, exercise like yoga, eating healthy, can all help you find peace within yourself and give you feelings of achievement.

One of the most important things you can do in recovery is learning which scenarios stress you out and finding healthy ways of dealing with them. Your therapist or mental health counselor can help you do this as well. By eliminating stressful situations and people from your life, you can make positive changes and strides that will lead you to long-term abstinence from drugs and alcohol. 

Negative Emotions

Feeling sad, angry, or ashamed are precursors to relapse. Learning how to healthily deal with these emotions is key to avoiding relapse. When you use drugs and alcohol to cope with these feelings, they only provide temporary relief. Once the effects wear off, these challenging and negative emotions will still be there to bother you. 

When these feelings come on, you need to realize that everyone feels upset or angry sometimes. Don’t view these feelings as setbacks. Rather, use them as opportunities to grow and understand yourself better. In the same way that you deal with stress, you need to also deal with these emotions. Release your feelings through writing, painting, or drawing. Negative emotions can usually lend wonderfully to creativity.

Celebrations

As big a part as unhappy events can trigger a relapse, celebrations can play similar roles. During weddings and birthdays, you might get overconfident and feel that you can handle one drink, but this can be a risky action. People who are addicted to drugs and alcohol have trouble controlling how much they can consume, and you might find yourself relapsing at a special event. When friends and family are around, this can be incredibly embarrassing.

Figure out what to do before a celebration happens. Tell yourself that you need to stay humble and know that you could lose control even if you have just a small drink. 

Objects

Seeing someone take a drag of a cigarette or smoke marijuana, as well as looking at people drinking at a bar can immediately bring back memories of drug use. When you encounter these objects, think about how drug use negatively impacted your life. Concentrate on all the good that being sober has brought you.

Besides the above five addiction triggers, others include H.A.L.T. (feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired), having an untreated mental health disorder and boredom.

How Can I Prevent Relapse?

Some addiction triggers are unavoidable. When you feel a craving coming on, don’t try to cover up the feeling; accept it, and let it pass. You’ll usually feel it for about 15 to 30 minutes before it fades. 

Regularly attending recovery meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery will help to keep you accountable for your actions and keep you humble. There is a saying in AA, “Just for today,” which means that you need to take your recovery one day at a time. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who are also trying to permanently abstain from drugs and alcohol will be good motivation for you.

Keep yourself busy with hobbies you enjoy that don’t revolve around drinking or using drugs, like riding your bicycle, exercising, crafting, journaling, cooking or playing board games with friends. It’s possible to enjoy life without harmful substances taking over.

It’s extremely helpful to develop a relapse prevention plan, which is one of the many services we offer at Sana Lake Recovery Center. Even by doing all this, it’s still possible for you to relapse.

What If I Do Relapse?

If you do relapse, the first step is to ask for help. There is no shame in seeking assistance from your friends, loved ones, or sponsor. It’s not unheard of for drug-dependent persons to relapse in their first year of recovery, so don’t be discouraged if you do. Recovery is a lifelong journey that takes plenty of willpower and dedication to maintain.

Sana Lake offers a wide range of addiction treatment programs as well as multiple types of therapy and sober living programs. Whether you have a severe addiction that requires inpatient treatment or a mild one that only requires some outpatient sessions, we have a treatment plan that will meet your needs.

Addiction Recovery Programs

Addiction recovery programs are proven to help millions of users all over the world with addiction triggers and drug and alcohol cravings. They provide a supportive community of people who have been where you are and have managed to maintain recovery throughout their life. Below are a few examples of addiction recovery programs that you can find all over the U.S.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Arguably the most popular and well-known recovery group, Alcoholics Anonymous follows a 12-step approach that acknowledges a higher power and forces people to admit they are powerless over addiction. In AA, you are assigned a sponsor who will help you through your addiction recovery and be there for you when you encounter an addiction trigger.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

NA follows the same model as AA, except it focuses more on addiction to illegal and prescription drugs like alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl. NA also has sponsors who will help keep you accountable.

SMART Recovery

If you don’t believe in a higher power and want a more scientific approach to recovery, SMART (Self-Management And Recovery Training) Recovery might be the perfect group for you. SMART Recovery emphasizes methods for helping drug-dependent persons improve their lives and develop healthier lifestyles. SMART Recovery also uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on changing negative behaviors and thoughts into positive ones so that you can make productive lifestyle changes.

Relapse Prevention at Sana Lake Recovery Center

At Sana Lake, we can help you devise a relapse prevention plan so that you can be aware of your addiction triggers at all times. Once you complete medical detox in which harmful substances are flushed from your body, the real work of recovery begins. In addition to therapy and other aftercare activities, relapse prevention is a crucial part of the recovery process. 

Our licensed therapists can help you identify your triggers and help you take steps to avoid these. If you can’t always avoid them, your therapist will teach you coping skills for when you come across these situations.

Whatever your addiction, our certified professionals at Sana Lake can help you achieve your recovery goals and kick drugs and alcohol for good.

Identify Your Addiction Triggers and Prevent Relapse Now

See how the clinical staff at Sana Lake Recovery Center can help you reach your recovery goals. Contact us today to speak with one of our representatives who can talk you through our various treatment processes. You don’t have to struggle with your addiction by yourself. Call us today!

References:

https://www.verywellmind.com/why-did-i-relapse-21900

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/heartache-hope/201202/6-common-relapse-triggers-0

https://drugabuse.com/drug-relapse/

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.