When it comes to addiction recovery, a relapse might seem inevitable. After all, studies show that two-thirds of people who have been in recovery for less than a year will relapse. However, for those who manage to make it through the first year, the statistics get better.
If you stay sober for a year, your chance of relapse falls to 50 percent. After a five-year stint of sobriety, you’ll have a mere 15 percent likelihood of relapsing.
So how do you make it through those critical first years and avoid becoming another statistic?
While every addict and every recovery are different, one of the most important keys to maintaining sobriety lies in learning how to handle relapse triggers. While it’s impossible to avoid every situation that could push you towards relapse, recognizing the triggers is your first step to overcoming them.
Common External Triggers
The mantra “People-Places-Things” is one you’ll hear often during your recovery. These are the most common external triggers that are likely to push you into a relapse.
While it goes without saying that you’ll need to avoid your former drug dealers and bartenders, unfortunately, sometimes the people closest to us are just as likely to trigger a relapse. Friends, family, spouses, co-workers, employers, and neighbors can all trigger you, particularly if these individuals engage in drinking and substance abuse.
Even if this isn’t the case, when the people closest to you don’t understand what you’re going through, you’re likely to feel isolated and alone. This can push your back towards substance abuse as a way to find that familiar comfort.
To combat this, you’ll need to find new, healthy relationships. Focus on spending time with those who make you want to be the best version of yourself. Go to meetings and find positive support outside of your old friends and family members.
This isn’t always easy, but your recovery needs to be your number one concern.
High-risk places remind you of the times when you engaged in substance abuse. Some of the obvious spots may include bars and nightclubs, concerts, and friends’ homes. Sometimes, though, just driving through a particular neighborhood, freeway exit, or a place where you used to buy, stash, or use drugs is enough to trigger feelings that could lead you down the path to relapse.
Avoid these trigger-locations as much as possible. If necessary, find new routes to work or school so you can avoid passing by the spot where you used to meet your dealer or the bar where you liked to binge-drink. There’s no reason to invite temptation when you can simply circumvent it.
Common, everyday items can trigger an addict. For a heroin addict, simply seeing a spoon could be enough to do it. Other things that can trigger you might include TV, magazines, and movies, cash, credit cards, and ATM machines, empty pill bottles, and ATM machines.
Clearly, you won’t be able to avoid all “things” that could trigger you. The key to getting around this lies in developing positive coping methods and maintaining a strong support system.
The final external trigger you’ll have to deal with is high-risk situations. This can include many different scenarios, but one of the most common is times when social drinking is the norm. Although you can avoid parties and bars, it’s not as easy to skip family functions, weddings, and other important events.
Other stressful situations that can lead to relapse include:
- Arguments with family or friends
- Calls from bill collectors
- A stressful commute
- Dating and sex
You’ll want to avoid as many negative situations as you can and work with your recovery counselor to learn how to cope with the others.
Common Internal Triggers
In addition to the external triggers discussed, many of the things that can lead to relapse happen inside our own heads. Group sessions, one-on-one counseling, meditation, yoga, and exercise can all help you deal with these internal triggers.
For people in recovery, there are countless sources of stress. From avoiding relapse and trying to find your way in life to deal with the expectations of others and handling everyday things like work and bills, it can feel like you never get a reprieve.
When we feel stressed, it’s natural for our bodies to crave relief. Since your brain know that alcohol or drugs can bring that relief (at least temporarily), it’s easy to see how undue stress can quickly spiral into relapse.
Whether they’re positive or negative, our emotions tend to cue cravings. Some of the feelings you’ll have to deal with include boredom, insecurity, loneliness, anger, guilt, anxiety, fear, and frustration. You can also feel triggered by feelings of happiness, excitement, confidence, sexual arousal, or just the joy of feeling “normal” again.
It’s important to allow yourself to feel all of your emotions but also remain aware of the potential for them to create cravings. If things start to feel like too much, turn to some of the positive coping sessions you’ve learned through your recovery process.
As you move forward in your recovery, you’ll start to build confidence. While this is a good thing, over-confidence can lead to a slip. Always remember that you’re suffering from a disease that never goes away.
Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of believing you’re “fixed” and can now go back to your old habits, as long as you’re careful. Despite what your friends or family might say, just one little bit will hurt you. Only you can take responsibility for your recovery, and it’s a life-long commitment.
Choose the Right Aftercare Program to Cope with Relapse Triggers
Addiction is a disease that requires a lifetime of recovery. At DreamLife Recovery, we understand that a quality aftercare program is critical for helping you deal with your addiction triggers.
Whether you’re already in recovery or you’re just starting your journey into sobriety, we’re here to help. Give us a call at 844-402-3592 or complete our online contact form and we’ll reach out to you. Don’t wait any longer, now is the time to get the support you need.