Coping with Triggers

Avoiding triggers after getting treatment for your addiction can be difficult, but there are many things you can do to decrease the rate of temptation.

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Learning To Avoid Temptations

coping with triggers

Making the decision to get treatment for an addiction can be life-changing. Addiction treatment centers will help you detox and stabilize, but the real recovery work begins when you’re focused on staying sober.

You may be struggling with resisting drugs or alcohol once out of treatment and getting back to your daily routine, and this is normal for those who have recently entered recovery.

Living with temptations takes willpower and strength, but once you identify what your triggers are and come up with a relapse prevention plan that works for you, you’ll be on your way to starting your new, sober life.

Identifying your Triggers

The important step of recovery planning usually takes place while an individual is still in a treatment setting.

During the course of the treatment program, addiction recovery counselors help patients examine the triggers in their lives that have led to addiction, and come up with steps post-discharge to manage or avoid these potential triggers.

Specific triggers are unique to each person, but some are fairly universal. They are:

  • Continuing friendships with users. Nothing threatens sobriety more than returning to social situations where drug and alcohol use are common.
  • Extreme emotional states. Depression, stress, frustration and anxiety provoke a reflexive desire to use substances in order to relieve the discomfort of these emotional conditions.
  • Living conditions. Returning to the same dysfunctional or isolated living situation will reactivate the addiction memory, the behaviors that led to substance use in the living environment and/or the people in it.
  • Social settings. Parties or events where alcohol or drugs are common can quickly trigger a relapse. Someone in the early phase of recovery should avoid all social scenes where substance use is abundant.
  • Deep-seated childhood traumas. Dysfunctional family dynamics, childhood abuse or trauma can set into motion coping mechanisms that later develop into substance abuse.

Careful and thorough coaching by a professional addiction counselor is key to helping an individual with an addiction identify their specific triggers, and to make a plan to manage them.

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Making a Relapse Prevention Plan

Residential treatment programs provide a highly structured environment, allowing patients to stabilize without risk of using. Having a solid strategy prepared for discharge from a treatment program is key to navigating obstacles that can sabotage the newly sober.

The work involved to make an effective plan is invaluable and should not be underestimated. Deep reflection, honesty and cooperation with a counselor can produce a detailed plan to navigate through the people, places and things that can derail your hard-won sobriety.

Set boundaries. [You] must be completely free of old lifestyle, including friends and social groups. Develop as many accountable partners as possible, [get] a sponsor and develop healthy coping mechanisms. I am thankful for every single moment of my life.

- Nichole S.F., recovering addict

The transition from treatment to the home environment can include many challenges to someone in early recovery and these must be anticipated and planned for. Learning how to remain sober on a day-to-day basis is the purpose of developing a relapse prevention plan.

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A good plan will include the following:

  • Engaging a supportive family member or friend to help make the transition go smoothly. For instance, seeing that the home has been rid of anything that can be ingested for a high, including items like cold medication, vanilla extract, hidden bottles of alcohol, etc.
  • A physical list of your anticipated triggers. Writing down and keeping track of the various people, places or things that can test your sobriety helps you stay aware and focused on recovery.
  • A regular 12-step meeting schedule and the help of a sponsor. Keeping communication open and honest with loved ones builds a support system and accountability. Making new friends who are also committed to sobriety is one of the benefits of the fellowship found within 12-step programs.
  • Taking steps to change unhealthy habits. This includes things like committing to a fitness plan, a healthy diet and a regular sleep schedule. Addiction takes a toll on both mental and physical health, so restoring both is intrinsic to a successful overall recovery.
  • Commitment to an outpatient program for the first 3-6 months post-discharge. This will allow for continuity of treatment elements, such as counseling, biofeedback, yoga and general support for the newly sober.
  • Abiding by the H.A.L.T. rule; that is to be aware that most relapses occur when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, so it is important to manage those conditions to avoid a relapse.
  • List out all the negatives of using and all the benefits of staying sober. Keep the list handy for moments when you may be tempted to use to remind yourself why you have worked so hard to get clean and sober.

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Seeking Help In Recovery

Even with all this planning and effort, there is always a chance that a relapse can still occur. If you have relapsed, this should not be considered the end of recovery — but rather an opportunity to understand and respect how fragile early recovery is, and to go after sobriety with even more focus and intensity. Relapse is humbling, but it does not mean failure.

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