What Are Addiction Triggers Exactly? What Is A Relapse Trigger?
It’s a fact that addiction also known as substance abuse disorder can occur to anyone at any time. There are no socioeconomic, ethnic, or religious limitations to this disease we call “addiction” or “substance abuse.” It might be affecting your life right now. Once you become dependent on a substance, it’s difficult to see the world without it in your life. You’re trying to “kick the habit, per se,” and your progress is moving along; However, there are addiction triggers you may encounter quite often actually that can set back your road to addiction recovery and all that comes with it. When you get to know common addiction triggers and how to cope with them, recovery from substance abuse disorder could be much easier.
Triggers are cues in the environment that encourage drug use in certain individuals. Every person has a different set of triggers. Triggers can be incredibly powerful on both physical and mental levels. Consider a few triggers that many people deal with each day, such as:
- Scents that remind them of their “glorious substance abuse” days.
- Sounds, things, or activities all play a large part in firing off the synapses of emotion in our human brains that trigger memories of addiction and “using” drugs.
- Locations or people who are reminders of past activities can definitely set off deep addiction triggers that cause a sudden relapse for the addict or alcoholic.
Access to a favored drug trigger can catch some people by surprise and result in them being very vulnerable at that point in time. At this point in time, each person has a choice to make… continue their sobriety or choose to relapse and enjoy those short-lasting euphoric effects that they will surely regret shortly after wearing off. Believe me, it is NOT A GOOD FEELING to put together a few years of sobriety or “clean time” as they call it inside the rooms of AA and NA, just to start from ground zero and head back to the back of the bus once again. No matter the past drugs of choice, addictive triggers of choice, or drinks of choice, identifying the scenarios that impact the mind can help you cope if you choose the wrong path and relapse in addiction.
Pinpointing Personal Addiction Triggers
Many of the difficulties that trauma-exposed addicts & alcoholics experience arise when stimuli or situations in their immediate environment cause substance abuse disorder trigger upsetting memories, with their associated thoughts and emotions that come along with them. There are real physiological reactions that can occur during a substance abuse triggering episode, such as:
- Elevated heart rate
- Anxious thoughts
When you feel these reactions, observe your surroundings. Write down the circumstances that are occurring at that moment. Personal addiction triggers will reveal themselves during this “observation and taking in of your current surroundings” process. Your personal trigger points can and will vary from time to time. Some examples might include:
- Seeing a person under the influence
- Hearing a specific song
Passing certain locations around your old “stomping grounds” in town, coping with these very real compulsive addiction-based trigger points means that you must be honest about your reactions to the triggers themselves. There’s no shame in recognizing these scenarios. Like they say, “no shame in that game.” You have a chance to empower yourself as a result of your observations and awareness of what makes you “tick” or “tock” in recovery from substance abuse.
Starting With Self-Preservation
When a trigger strikes the mind, it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Start your coping mechanisms by thinking about self-preservation. Every addictive substance is bad for the mind and body. It ages and breaks down tissues that are otherwise healthy. By looking at the substance from a self-preservation perspective, a trigger can be broken down. Compare the drug’s effects on the body to a chronic disease, such as cancer. You may not see the tissues in decline, but it’s still occurring. The human mind is normally fixated on self-preservation. It’s ingrained into the brain. Use this natural reaction to fight off temptation. You want a healthy life that’s free of any substantial damage. Giving in to temptation could create health problems that can be otherwise avoided.
Avoiding Negative Addiction Trigger Causing Habits
Fighting your temptations conjures up both positive and negative thoughts. You may have successfully fought off a trigger last week, and mental praise was the positive impact of this situation. However, you might currently be feeling low and coping with more cravings than ever before. It’s easy to see the cravings as weaknesses. Beginning to put yourself down is natural progression. These negative feelings can include:• Hopelessness• Frustration• Giving up on your goals these cases, remind yourself that cravings are a normal part of life. Everyone has cravings for different things. Being addicted to a substance only means that you have more cravings than other people. Don’t put yourself down. Mentally confront these feelings and turn them into positive outlooks. Your cravings may subside over time.
Taking Care of the Body
Your quality of life plays a part when it comes to triggering influences. At times, you may feel stronger or weaker when a trigger confronts you. Psychiatrists and researchers have narrowed down certain emotions or bodily sensations that contribute to relapse or giving into temptation, such as:
One of the simplest tips for a successful recovery is taking care of your body. These guidelines can help you feel better every day:• Sleep between seven and nine hours each night.• Eat a balanced diet.• Exercise around 150 minutes each week. When you exercise and eat right, the body gives off natural hormones that act as highs. You’ll feel better, which will help give you the strength to fight off temptation in its many forms.
Cutting Unhealthy Ties
Us humans, addicts, or “normies,” are major creatures of habit. It’s only natural to fall back into certain habits & behavior patterns, especially if you’ve just been through drug rehab, medical drug detox, or any fairly recent addiction-based program. You need healthy habits friends and recovery road warriors because unhealthy routines will lead to addictive triggers that are difficult to overcome or to come back from at all, period. Take an honest to God, true account of who was an unhealthy influence in your shitty, former addiction-ruled life. These people might include:
- Friends who enable you
- Individuals who deal with the substance
It may be a challenge, but you just may need to 110% completely cut ties with these individuals. Removing unnecessary temptations (relapse causing triggers) from your life is a healthy way to start on a sober pathway or clean road to recovery. Allowing these individuals into your life will only create extra stress that strains your sobriety & recovery goals overall.
Once these memories, caused by these unhealthy influences, are triggered, the addict or alcoholic in recovery may experience a cascade of thoughts involving, for example:
Imminent danger, betrayal, abandonment, or need for retribution. Along with these may be emotions the adolescent experienced at the time of the trauma, such as fear, anger, shame, or sadness. The end effect of these processes may be an episode of “acting out” or tension reduction as a way for the youth to reduce internal awareness of these experiences. For example, a young man is insulted by a peer, which triggers (often implicit) memories of parental maltreatment and extreme, unfair criticism, which, in turn, activates feelings of low self-esteem and thoughts about “getting even.” These thoughts and memories may then activate anger and motivate an action (e.g., aggression) that is out of proportion to the actual insult by the peer. He has been triggered and now is involved in an act that is more relevant to his childhood than his current situation. Examples of other triggers and responses are (1) the break-up of a dating relationship triggering early memories of abandonment with associated desperation and emptiness, leading to a suicide attempt; (2) a consensual sexual activity triggering flashbacks of childhood sexual abuse, resulting in intense fear or disgust, or (3) criticism at work by an employer triggering physical and psychological abuse memories, resulting in the youth throwing something and quitting his or her job.
Focusing on the Mind Rather Than The Addictive Trigger Stimulus
Although addiction is certainly a physiological state, there’s also a psychological component to it. Your mind may be swimming with concern, regret, and other emotions. These feelings are entirely natural, but you’ll want to work on improving your psychological health. Begin with positive thinking. Sit down and meditate on a subject. Consider the simple things in life, such as sunsets, wind through the trees or flowing water. If you ever feel like a trigger is getting the best of you, use your meditation to calm the mind and body. Scientific studies suggest that meditation can calm you down after only a 10-minute session. Remind yourself that your mind is more powerful than those temptations. Focusing on meditations gives you a chance to step back from the trigger and move forward without its influence.
Understanding Urges Or Sudden Triggers
Coping with triggers means that your life may be full of ups and downs. Don’t let this fact deter your goals, however. Familiarize yourself with the concept of urges. Feeling an urge is a reaction to a stimulus. For example, you just saw a sign advertising pizza, and a sudden urge for that food is now on your mind. Urges pass with regularity. That pizza craving might go away after 10 or 20 minutes because you focus on another subject. Apply this concept to addiction triggers. An urge may be incredibly strong, but that doesn’t mean it will be a constant thought for hours or days. Calm yourself and know that it will pass.
Distracting yourself is still one of the best ways to cope with a trigger. From the moment you recognize the temptation, think about a diversion that you can accomplish. These diversions might involve scenarios such as:• Walking in a park• Helping out a charitable organization• Reading a book• Calling a friend you may be tempted right now, but a diversion helps undermine that urge. Being focused on an activity forces the temptation to be reduced in urgency within your mind. At some point, you might forget about the trigger that just bothered you. The diversion will also be more rewarding in the long run.
Concentrating on Downsides
Another way to fight off your triggers is by focusing on negative components. This strategy may seem counterproductive to wanting to stay positive about yourself. However, concentrating on the negative aspects of drug use is a strategy that enables sobriety. Remember back to the times when a drug may have made you sick, caused you to lose work, or created stress with your loved ones. These memories aren’t good ones, and that fact works in your favor. Associating the substance with negative sensations can help you fight any triggers. Go a step further and ask loved ones about any negative scenarios that occurred in their presence. You may not remember some of these hard times. These realities can help you in your sobriety. They take away the power inherent to triggers in the first place.
Avoiding Certain Relapse Triggers That Just Make You Uneasy
Diversions work for most scenarios. However, you don’t have to face every temptation head-on. Avoidance is a perfectly acceptable choice to make in your recovery world. Be conscious of the environment around you and avoid places, like bars and clubs, that remind you of using substances. A friend’s house may also be a trigger area. This friend was probably an enabler, which means that you shouldn’t be near him or her in the first place. There’s no weakness associated with avoiding areas that are damaging to your sobriety. Taking control of your life is part of the process. A person who’s willful about their surroundings can find success in a clean life.
Practicing Mental Strength
Many individuals are intimidated by the fact that triggers tempt them. Staying indoors and isolating yourself isn’t the answer. Instead, it’s time to strengthen your mind with a role-playing game.Ask a loved one to play the drug dealer. Create a role-playing game that involves a temptation. The person might offer you imaginary drugs. Use this situation to practice your mental strength. Facing a loved one is easier than the real scenario, but it prepares you for the real world. Practice several different scenarios so that there’s no real shock if you happen to encounter real substances in the future. If someone or a specific situation tempts your mind, recall the role-playing games to strengthen your resolve. Sobriety is your reward.
Leaning on Loved Ones
Your loved ones can help you on several levels. Role-playing is just the start of their love and support. If you’re feeling tempted, ask your loved ones to help you by • Taking a walk with you• Talking with you about your concerns• Watching a funny movie with youDevelop a routine with a family member or friend where you participate in a sport or a game. Playing video games might be a fun choice that brings the entire family together. Change the activities if they become tiresome; there is an unlimited number of activities that can be shared among family and friends.
Seeking Out Support Groups
When you need more support with your triggers, find support groups in your area. There are groups today for nearly every substance. They’re led by professionals who understand your situation. Make friends in these groups so that there’s a support system to lean on when your loved ones aren’t present. It helps any recovering person to have a friend with similar struggles. Share your worries, dreams, and triumphs with the person. In many cases, this person may become a lifelong friend. Be aware of support groups being held in your area on most nights of the week. You should be able to join in on any group if the need is there.
Thwarting the Boredom
A scenario that’s often overlooked as a trigger is boredom. If you’re in recovery and you find that you have a lot of time on your hands, try and stay busy. Donate your time to a worthy cause. Charitable organizations are always in need of volunteers. Think about local organizations that might interest you. The key is to enjoy the activities. Focusing on the substance use issue takes a backseat when you’re more concerned about someone else’s success. Being able to identify your triggers is a step in the right direction toward recovery. Sobriety is the ultimate goal. It may not be easy, but you can fight those personal demons and win.
The Ultimate Goal In Recovery When It Comes To Relapse Triggers
- Learn about triggers, including their historic nature
- Identify specific instances during which he or she has been triggered,
- Determine, based on these times,
(a) what seem to be the major triggers in his or her life and,
(b) how to identify when he or she is being triggered,
- Detect the “unreal,” non-here-and-now nature of triggered thoughts and feelings, i.e., that they are more relevant to the past than the present, and
- Problem-solving recovery strategies that might be effective once triggering has occurred.
Every time a client trips and falls, also known as a relapse, we here at Mountainview Recovery in the beautiful Asheville, North Carolina mountains provides an opportunity for the client to explore the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with each major trigger, so that triggering becomes more obvious to him or her, and his or her responses to the trigger are better understood as reactions to the past, not the present. This exercise may help the client to discriminate triggered states from “real” (i.e., here-and-now) ones, and thus have less reactivity to them.
Trigger Management 101: Healthy Recovery Coping Skills
There are healthy ways to cope with difficult triggers, and those suffering can feel reassured they don’t have to give triggers power. One of the most important steps to identifying triggers and managing them in healthy ways is to be self-aware. Being self-aware allows for individuals to understand the driving force behind their behavior or the trigger before and after they react. Simple recommended methods to effectively manage triggers include:
- Therapy or counseling
- Meditation or mindfulness
- Spending time with positive people
- Drinking water or tea for relaxation/hydration
- Joining a support group
- Eating nutritional meals
- Using positive distractions
- Reframing negative attitudes or perceptions
Find an Empowered Solution To Addiction & Relapse Provoking Triggers
Triggers can cause individuals to develop a “flight or fight response.” Since addiction triggers can cause great distress and anxiety, many times leading to relapse in recovery, it is often suggested for those struggling with these substance abuse issues to get help immediately!
Individuals with problematic triggers may not know the cause and can benefit from many of our therapeutic programs here at Mountainview Recovery. Therapy or treatment for distressing addiction triggers and relapse triggers can reduce the likelihood of one developing troubling compulsions and chemical use disorders. Therapists in rehab facilities can offer individuals tools and ideas that can be helpful while battling troubling emotions and compulsions. Individuals can learn new and healthy coping mechanisms. Additionally, individuals who suffer chemical use disorders can find help to decrease the risk of a relapse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy to help individuals control their impulses, which can lower compulsions. Peer groups offer support and empathy while someone recovers.
Contact a treatment provider today to find your way to peace and sobriety.