Relapse is sometimes considered to be a part of recovery, but it doesn’t have to be. Many people in recovery can quit once and quit for good. But, if relapse does happen, it doesn’t mean you failed and can’t start again.
If you do relapse, then more than likely you experienced one or more relapse triggers. When getting sober, everything can seem uncertain. You don’t know what to expect, and you’re unsure if you can live life sober.
This is normal, but it helps to learn from people who have been in your shoes before. Those people are in large part your fellow recovery group members. Counselors, rehab programs, and healthcare professionals can also assist you in staying sober as well.
The truth of the matter is that you can learn how to live a successful and sober life. One of the most important tools for recovering long-term is to be aware of your relapse triggers. So, what are some common relapse triggers most people in recovery will face?
Common Relapse Triggers
During recovery, life will continue. There will be ups and downs, and knowing how to deal with them is the key to your success. Explore the following relapse triggers to become more aware of potential obstacles along the way.
Many people entering recovery are disconnected from their emotions. They may even fear or avoid their feelings entirely. This fear and avoidance may have led them to their addiction in the first place— to dull their feelings or replace them with a high.
In essence, your substance of choice can be, at first, a coping mechanism. But, it can then turn into an addiction when you feel physically or psychologically dependent on it.
When you first get sober, your emotions may feel overwhelming. Not only are you fearful of the unknown, but you also may be experiencing discomfort while detoxing.
Learning how to cope and accept your uncomfortable emotions is essential. After some time, you’ll how to soothe them effectively. To start, listen to others at recovery meetings and pay attention to how they express their emotions.
Feel free to speak up at a meeting, or talk with your sponsor or a friend. Emotions are a part of being human, and having an awareness of them will be helpful on your road to recovery. To cope with your uncomfortable emotions, try meditating, praying, talking with a trusted friend, or exercising.
You can also accept your emotions and then attempt to distract yourself. Journaling is also helpful.
Remind yourself that it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be happy and joyful all the time. It’s okay to be sad, angry, stressed out, or fearful. The critical part is catching it in the early phases and using coping skills to move past them.
People, Places, and Things
“People, places, and things” is a common saying in recovery communities. What it means is to be aware of the people, places, and things that may trigger you and remind you of your addiction. By knowing what may trigger you, then you can create a plan for avoiding them or coping with them.
In the beginning, it’s helpful to avoid these triggers as much as possible. Going to a bar, visiting with friends in active addiction, or keeping reminders of your addiction around is never a good idea. In the long-term, it may be a good idea to avoid your “people, places, and things” altogether as well.
If you do come into contact with one of your “people, places, or things” during recovery, have a plan for coping with the trigger. For example, speak with your sponsor, go to a meeting, or call another recovering addict.
Many people in recovery may feel uncomfortable being around people without their substance of choice. Initially, they may have used their drug of choice to deal with social anxiety, to give them courage, or to feel like they fit in with their peer group. While it may take some time to feel at ease in social situations, it’s best to avoid social isolation.
Social isolation can provoke feelings of loneliness. If you experience anxiety around people and find it challenging to be in social situations, then discuss this with your sponsor, a therapist, or a medical professional. Accept that you feel fearful in social situations and try not to judge yourself harshly.
If you think you may have a social anxiety disorder, then speak with a doctor, counselor, or medical professional for additional help.
In many ways, you’re just getting to know yourself again. And just like being “the new kid in school,” it’s natural to feel a bit apprehensive. Trust the process and continue going to meetings regularly to engage in social interaction.
Highly Positive Emotions
Intense positive emotions like excitement and delight can also be triggers for some. Positive, high-energy emotions feel wonderful, but they can also remind you of past use. In advance, determine healthy ways for expressing your excitement such as by planning a sober get together or calling your sponsor to share to the good news.
Making a list of coping skills and tools will also be helpful. Having these nearby and being prepared will also make you feel more at ease to experience positive emotions in a healthy way.
Thinking About “The Good Ol’ Days”
Thinking about the “good ol’ days” can make you start to believe that your addiction “wasn’t so bad.” Of course, there were good times, but there were also a lot of negative aspects as well. And the negative certainly outweighed the positive.
Just like breaking up with an unhealthy partner, seeing your addiction through “rose-colored glasses” could cause you to believe that you can recreate all the good times and avoid the bad.
When you catch yourself reminiscing about the good times, “play the tape forward.” In other words, be realistic about the real consequences you could face by returning to drug or alcohol use. Remind yourself of how it felt to be addicted, of how you will need to detox again, and of the negative aspects of your addiction.
Accepting that you are a person addicted to a substance can also be helpful.
New Romantic Relationships
Many recovery programs suggest not dating or getting into a new relationship for the first year of sobriety. New relationships are exciting, but they also can cause emotional stress, which could trigger a relapse. There also may be a concern that you may replace your previous addiction with a sex or love addiction.
Many people use relationships to fill a void within themselves, not just people in recovery. But, people in recovery are at risk for jeopardizing their sobriety if they do enter a relationship too soon.
Keep in mind that you’re learning more about yourself and how to manage your emotions. Fully developing these skills and knowledge is essential for having healthy relationships and choosing a healthy partner.
Taking Action Against Relapse Triggers
Being consistent in your recovery program will help you to manage your relapse triggers. This means going to meetings, talking with your sponsor, and making a habit of practicing self-care. Recovery is a lifelong endeavor that can lead to a fulfilling life, but it needs care and attention along the way.
Be prepared for relapse triggers and have a plan in mind to successfully avoid relapsing. If you do relapse, then use it as a way to understand your triggers more in-depth and to create a plan for managing and avoiding them in the future.
If you or a loved one need help to get sober, Addiction Treatment Services can help you get the support you deserve. Contact us for more information.