Not everyone who’s gone through addiction treatment knows the importance of watching out for triggers after treatment. This lack of alertness has many contributing factors. One is overconfidence. Some people think that after reaching sobriety after weeks of hard work, they are safe from relapse. Another reason is ignorance about what might be triggering in post-treatment life and how relapses can follow triggers. To prevent relapses, one needs to be educated on what makes triggers, and how relapses happen.
What Is a Trigger?
The word “trigger” refers to something which leads to a certain reaction. People struggling with PTSD from combat, for example, might find loud noises trigger an intense reaction marked by fear, stress, and anxiety. Among recovering individuals who struggle with substance addiction, triggers are physical or emotional stimuli that tend to lead to cravings.
Physical triggers are external things in the environment that might tempt one into using substances. Having drugs and alcohol within one’s sight may be an obvious trigger. Spending time with friends who use these substances in front of someone in recovery can also be a direct trigger. Environmental triggers may also include visiting certain places which remind recovered addicts of past substance use experiences. Being around people or things that relate to one’s past addiction can lead to cravings and triggers.
Emotional triggers that rise inside of someone without environmental factors are also possible. Simply feeling stressed, frustrated, or anxious can lead to strong cravings for substances. Emotional triggers are strong feelings that propel one to self-soothe by using drugs or alcohol. They usually include being hungry, angry, lonely, fearful, anxious, and tired. One may even find that big celebratory moments or emotions can be triggering. All these times are when one’s emotions are most vulnerable.
Where and When Do Triggers Tend to Happen?
Recovering individuals may experience triggers in all areas of life, including the home environment, social events, or the workplace. Take the home environment for example. If there are drugs and alcohol present, and family conflicts are bringing one a lot of stress, these are major physical and emotional triggers for someone who has just finished treatment. Having a support group while you work through family tensions can help newly recovered people better cope with the stress. Family members should also be recovery-supportive by removing tempting substances and attending family counseling.
Workplaces can also produce a range of stress and intense feelings. Whenever a newly sober person feels overwhelmed by work, misunderstood by colleagues, or simply feels frustrated at work, they should consider building more support around you where you can verbalize such emotions and stress. The fact is, even receiving a paycheck can be triggering, as addicts often wait for the next payday to hit to afford their next fix. An accountability partner is a good idea in this case.
Social events or occasions where drinks or drugs are present and old friends are using them can also be big triggers. Avoiding these events when possible—or at least reducing one’s frequency of attendance—is a good plan. When a newly sober individual has to be at a high-risk event, they might consider bringing an accountability partner or even a sober escort as a prevention tool.
How Do You Identify and Deal with Triggers?
Understanding and educating oneself on the complexity of triggers and the best ways to mitigate them is the first step toward overcoming triggers in post-sobriety life. Recent treatment graduates need to be aware that in times of extreme stress or heightened emotion, it can be difficult to identify triggers. Luckily, there are ways to recognize and cut out triggers when possible and work through them when it’s not.
One way to understand and identify personal triggers is through keeping a journal. One can think back to the time before treatment and try to identify people, places, things, or situations that used to be triggers. Write them down in an organized way. It can be beneficial to journal how each item made one feel during those moments of cravings.
Other things to track in a journal are people and things that help combat cravings. They might include sober friends who live a healthy lifestyle, one’s 12-step group sponsor, family members who can be accountability partners, medication practices, a favorite relaxing hobby, or a certain place where you feel relaxed and calmed. By doing so, one can identify different who makes up their support system.
Triggers cannot be one hundred percent avoided, but what matters is how one deals with them. A good sober and trigger-prevention plan can include a support system, a daily routine that carves out time for healthy eating and exercising, and crisis management (or relapse/trigger-prevention) strategy.
If you have just achieved early sobriety, it’s all too easy to pretend away the triggers around you. Do you know that before a physical relapse happens, there is usually a mental relapse due to triggers? Educating yourself about how, where, and when triggers happen is key to avoiding them. The fight for sobriety is an ongoing one, and you need to stay alert, informed, and positive. If you are struggling with managing cravings and triggers in post-treatment life, our licensed professionals at Laguna Shores Recovery can support you with coaching and therapy. We believe in the strength of science and holistic recovery. We have strategies to work with clients to build long-term recovery. Even if you have experienced a relapse, our complete medical and residential facility can help you get back on track. We support the needs of your body and mind. Do not wait. Call us at (866) 906-3203.