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How to Avoid Common Relapse Triggers

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There are many obstacles and challenges to overcoming addiction. One of these is dealing with the relapse triggers and cues, emotional reaction that people experience as they go about their lives. This can lead to a desire to relapse to the substance. These cues, also known as triggers, can manifest differently depending on the person.

What is an Addiction Trigger?

Triggers are situations that bring back memories from the past, whether they be social, emotional, or environmental. These memories can trigger strong emotions, leading to a desire to use the substance again. Although triggers don’t necessarily cause relapse, they can make it more challenging to resist sudden cravings.

Addiction is a brain disease that can lead to relapses. Long-term use of drugs and alcohol can create associations between one’s daily life and their experience with intoxication. Specific cues can immediately turn on the association and activate the craving reflex in response to external or internal triggers. 

While triggers are less common if someone isn’t using substances, they can still occur. However, anyone who is in recovery must be ready to react to any triggers.

Common Relapse Addiction Triggers List

There are many types of triggers that can lead to addiction relapse. These triggers can be psychological, emotional, or mental. These are the top 10 triggers for addiction recovery. Here are some quick tips to help you avoid them.

1. HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired

The HALT states can reduce a person’s ability for stress management and increase impulsivity.

Plan meals, practice mindfulness, find support from others and keep a consistent sleep schedule. 

2. Challenging Emotions

People often abuse substances because they feel negative emotions, such as guilt, sadness, or anger. These emotions can come back up during recovery and trigger cravings.

In recovery you must learn coping skills and identify your emotional triggers through therapy to prevent negative emotions from triggering a rebound.

3. Stress

Chronic and acute stress can increase your risk of drug addiction and could be the leading triggers for relapse.

Stress can be solved by combining preventive self-care with employing coping strategies whenever you feel overwhelmed.

4. Overconfidence in Recovery

While it is vital to have self-confidence and humility, it is also essential to be able to accept the limitations of addiction. Someone may forget that addiction can be a long-term condition and be tempted to drink one injection, hit, or bump in the hope that it will not be too much. This can lead to more risky situations and ultimately a complete relapse.

5. Mental or physical Illness

Many underlying mental illness such as depression and anxiety can be closely linked to addiction. This can lead to more or more vital triggers. Chronic pain and physical illness can also cause stress to the body, increasing the likelihood of relapse.

Let your doctor know you are in recovery when you visit them. A non-addictive prescription and alternative medication can be a great way to eliminate triggers.

6. Social Isolation

Engaging socially and creating a support network for recovery can be exhausting for many. Some people try to avoid it, leading them to isolation and increasing loneliness. 

People in recovery often struggle with social anxiety. It is common to have a friend or sponsor to help you avoid isolation and triggers.

7. Romantic relationships

Anyone who has experienced a divorce knows how difficult it can be to get on with your life. In addition to the emotional turmoil that comes with addiction recovery, romantic relationships can cause devastating emotions that make it seem like a person is lost and out of control. These are powerful drug addiction relapse triggers. It is not necessary to be single for life, but it is wise to actively avoid romantic relationships during the first year of recovery.

8. New jobs and promotions

Relapse can be triggered by several things, including promotion or a new job. One is the temptation to celebrate by using “just once” again. One way to keep on track is to plan sober celebrations.

9. Nostalgia about Substance Abuse

Even though someone in recovery is aware that their addiction was causing harm to themselves and others, it’s pretty common to see substance abuse as a positive thing.

 It’s time for your support network to intervene if you are stuck thinking about alcohol or drugs. To remind yourself why you chose recovery, talk to a friend, counselor, or sponsor.

10. Drugs are available in certain places and situations

It can be challenging to avoid substances of abuse. It is especially difficult to avoid alcohol because many people see drinking as usual. You need to identify the people, places, and things that trigger you to avoid falling into a relapse trap.

Identifying Triggers for Recovery

There are two types of triggers that you should be aware of: internal and external triggers. Because they involve people, places, and things that can make someone want to take drugs or alcohol again, external triggers are usually easier to identify. Because they involve complex feelings, internal triggers are more difficult to identify.

People in recovery are especially vulnerable to these subconscious reactions and cues from their brain.  Avoiding people, places, and objects that can remind you of your past substance abuse is essential to maintaining recovery.

Recognizing the Stages Of Relapse

Although relapse is often seen as a result of an impulse, there are several warning signs that could indicate when someone is at greater risk of using drugs again. There are three types of relapse, each with its own signs.

1. Emotional Relapse

People aren’t initially open to the idea of a return or use of drugs or alcohol. Although they may not remember what happened the last time they drank or used, their minds are still sharp enough to be able to recall the consequences and decide not to do it again. But, this could lead to signs of behavioral warnings such as:

  • Repressing and preserving emotions
  • Self-isolating
  • Skipping therapy or meetings
  • Refusing to participate in meetings
  • Poor nutrition and poor sleep habits

2. Physical Relapse

The likelihood that someone will act on their urges is higher if they don’t have the right coping skills, or neglect to use them fully. Relapse occurs at the last stage, which most people associate with the return to drug or alcohol use.

Relapses can be as simple as one use, followed by the realization of the error. Others may last for any length of time.

3. Mental Relapse

Someone in recovery may experience the mental signs of relapse after a period of poor self-care. You may feel dissatisfied with your progress and discontented in your disintegrating routine. A person who doesn’t have a routine and structure is more likely not to use it again.

One person might start to make a list of pros and cons to justify using again, and then be unsure if they will use it again. Only those in recovery can recognize signs of mental relapse.

  • Feeling the need to consume alcohol or drugs?
  • Excessive thinking about people and places, or things that are related to former uses
  • Glamorizing and minimizing the effects of past use
  • Lying and bargaining
  • Developing ways to “control” future use
  • Look for ways to use
  • Planning for a relapse?

What to do in the event of a relapse

Failure is not synonymous with relapse. It is helpful to think of addiction relapse as a relapse in another chronic condition. The individual must seek treatment to get back on track. 

Most people require some sort of detoxification or withdrawal management to overcome withdrawal symptoms. Residents might need to be treated for a long-term or severe relapse. Those with previous experience with a treatment program may prefer outpatient therapy. The person will need to identify the reasons for their relapse and learn how to prevent it from happening again.

How to Deal With Triggers in Addiction Recovery

Recovering from addiction and other issues is not possible without avoiding triggers. It’s impossible to avoid all your triggers, but it’s possible to have a relapse if you run into one while going about your day. Here are some of our favorite coping strategies.

1. Keep a support system

Recovery is not a journey you must take on your own. Maintain a strong support network. You could have family, friends, sponsors, or other members in your addiction recovery group, just to name a few. You need to feel at ease calling these people if you have a trigger or need help preventing relapse.

2. You can distract yourself by taking these steps

Distraction is another benefit of our technology-dependent society. Distract yourself from triggers in the wild. You can distract yourself by playing a game on your phone, YouTube, or social media until the trigger is gone.

This distraction tactic could be perceived as rude when you are out in public. Don’t. Taking care of yourself and avoiding triggers that could cause a relapse is not rude.

3. Talk to Yourself

If you are faced with a trigger in your day, self-talk can be a powerful tool. Talk to yourself rationally instead of allowing the trigger to take control. You can explain to yourself that you are aware of the trigger and that you are taking steps to eliminate the situation.

4. Relaxation is a practice

Many people find stress a trigger. It’s easy to fall back into addiction when things get complicated. Instead, learn to relax and be comfortable in all situations. It’s not enough to prevent stress from triggering your brain; it can help you improve your mental and physical health by decreasing the stress you are experiencing every day.

Reinforce Recovery at Hathaway Recovery

Hathaway Recovery is a holistic addiction treatment center that has years of experience. It provides patients with the tools and support they need to recognize and reduce triggers for substance abuse recovery. 

Hathaway Recovery can help you navigate the road to recovery. We are here for you every step of the way. Contact Hathaway Recovery luxury rehab today to learn more about the evidence-based, personalized approach to addiction treatment.  Contact us online.


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  • Hathaway Recovery is a very solid, very friendly place. My boyfriend decided to go here and has spent a significant amount of time at the recovery house. They are very good at bringing clients to meetings and on fun outings occasionally! Hathaway is committed to their clients’ recovery and their sobriety and to helping them in any way possible. They go above and beyond for the clients and I definitely would recommend considering Hathaway for your sobriety/recovery.

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