Managing Triggers During Addiction Recovery

triggersPulled up from the rocky bottom of your addiction, completing a treatment program has you feeling accomplished and optimistic. You have reached a major achievement in life. However, it is only the beginning of your journey. Don’t let this statement scare you—let it motivate you: the real work begins as soon as you walk out of those doors and back into reality.[1] Here, you will encounter your triggers and may begin craving your substance of choice.1 Rough patches will have you feeling down and, without an escape, you may have a thought of using again.1 Don’t do it.

Here are five tips to manage your triggers and help you maintain the sobriety you worked so hard for:

  1. Identify Your Personal Triggers. You may already know many of them personally, as treatment has helped you to pinpoint what makes you want to use.1 Since everyone is unique, your set of triggers will be unique as well.1 Only you know what makes you tick. Identify them and avoid situations where triggers could be lurking.1 Instead, involve yourself in activities where your chances of encountering a trigger are low. Involve yourself with people who don’t use so you have support when you come into contact with one.
  2. Know What You Are Working With. Triggers and cravings are a completely normal part of recovery.1 It isn’t realistic to think that you won’t experience cravings or encounter some of your triggers.1 Instead, it’s realistic to have a plan in place for when it happens, because, most likely, it will at some point.1 Seek out support from your family and friends when you are feeling triggered. Leave any situation that makes you crave using. Refer back to the plan you created in treatment that specifically referred to dealing with triggers. If you need extra help, seek the support of a professional.
  3. Practice Your Trigger Plan. Practice makes perfect, after all. Role play with yourself in the mirror.1 Say what you will say when you feel like using again, and say it out loud.1 Hearing yourself say those words only strengthens your ability to do so in difficult situations. You’ll feel more confident about yourself and your decision to maintain sobriety.1 Practicing may save you from a rough day, a temporary lapse, or a full-blown relapse.1 You’ve worked too hard to get where you are today to allow yourself to go back to the beginning.
  4. Take Care of Yourself. When you get enough rest, eat healthy, exercise, and keep up with your personal care, you will feel better about yourself and will likely handle triggers more easily.1 Remain aware of your emotions and stay familiar with H.A.L.T.: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired.1 These four things cause the most lapses and relapses.1 When you take good care of yourself, you are able to identify when you are feeling any of those four feelings.1 Take action to resolve those negative feelings and you’ll have full control of yourself again.1 Seek support when needed.
  5. Do Not Test Yourself. Don’t put yourself in situations where there are likely to be triggers.1 For example, if walking into a bar is a trigger, do not walk into a bar just to see what progress you have made and how strong you have become.1 You are setting yourself up for failure. Something else that triggers you, one that you may not have identified before, may happen, and that combination will lead you right to a drink.1

Know your triggers, understand the power they have, practice avoiding them, take care of yourself, and don’t test your recovery. You have just reached a major achievement becoming sober—don’t let yourself climb back on the addiction bandwagon.

[1] Green, K. (2013, October 3). 5 Tips for Managing Triggers during Addiction Recovery. Psych Central. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/10/03/5-tips-for-managing-triggers-during-addiction-recovery/

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