Relapse Prevention Strategies: Overcoming Triggers
Recovering from an addiction will present obstacles. One of the most challenging is being able to overcome triggers or reminders to use drugs. Rehab centers will prepare individuals to face triggers with strength and courage as they are a reality of recovery. Being unable to control triggers is one of the leading reasons for a relapse because they have a profuse psychological power on a person. Giving into a trigger is not a sign of weakness, but rather an inability to overcome them in a healthy manner. In the case of addiction, it’s important to have a plan or strategy in place to deal with triggers and avoid a relapse.
What are triggers?
A trigger can come in several variations and are anything that reminds a person of drinking or using. This can happen during a current addiction or post addiction recovery and will evoke a desire to use. For example, a person who stops by a local bar every day after work; that bar would be the trigger. It’s not only addicts who experience triggers. Overeaters, gamblers, sex addicts, shoppers and even coffee drinkers can have triggers. These people are stimulated by a specific thing and they are “rewarded” when they fulfill that stimulation. The biggest difference between an alcoholic or drug user and a coffee drinker is the former can have more severe consequences.
Triggers Are Normal
Everyone in recovery will experience triggers at one point or another. They are normal and will pass with time. During rehab and into the very beginning stages of recovery, triggers can be intense. If you know how to deal with them, they will subside and decrease as the weeks, months and years go by.
Internal Vs. External Triggers
You won’t always experience a trigger from outside stimulation. Often it’s internal triggers which pose a real risk of relapse. For example, driving by a bar you used to visit could make you think about not having paid enough attention to your children and cause feelings of guilt or resentment. These are often deeply rooted issues and without addressing them, could lead into drinking or using. Likewise, mental health issues such as depression, stress or anxiety can act as internal triggers and should be treated simultaneously with an addiction.
A rehab facility will help you to identify your triggers, whether they are external or internal. From there, addressing them in a healthy way and working to overcome them will be confronted in various therapies. Even so, it’s important to continue working on your own recovery to avoid a relapse. Maintaining triggers is a key element to do this; here are a few strategies to help get you started.
Acknowledge Your Triggers- Sometimes you may think you’ve identified all your triggers when actually the most notable ones are deeply hidden. Carefully consider feelings, emotions, people, places, social situations and objects which could cause you to want to drink or use drugs. Make a list of these triggers and do your best to acknowledge, and expect, them.
Plan Ahead – Once you have identified your triggers, you can begin to plan. Referring to the example above, if you know you are triggered when you drive past the bar after work, find a different route to take home. Likewise, if you know your low self esteem is causing you to have triggers, it’s important you address this so you can begin to feel better about yourself.
Note the Desire – When you realize you are being triggered, rather than trying to ignore the feeling, acknowledge that it really exists. Once you can accept it’s there, you can wait and allow it to subside. It will disappear. If it does not, you should remove yourself from the situation because it is likely triggering you. Once it’s gone, realize how proud you should be of yourself.
Think and Think Twice – When you are feeling triggered and want to prevent a relapse, think about the thoughts going through your mind. Start to break them down; slowly asking yourself why these thoughts are there, how they make you feel and what you can do to eliminate them. If you still feel triggered ask yourself if this is what you really want to do and what could happen if you do it. If you’re still feeling out of control, think about whom you can call immediately. At the same time, avoid counterproductive thoughts like “I cannot fight this”.
Find a Distraction – If you’re feeling like a situation which is triggering you cannot be avoided, find a distraction. This can be difficult; often, we don’t immediately realize what distracts us because it’s rooted in the subconscious mind. Take time and make a list of healthy distractions. These could be walking, dancing, singing, writing, exercising, cooking, calling a friend or even meditating. Imagine yourself overcoming the trigger with the distraction. Keep a positive attitude and think about something that makes you smile. This will automatically start to release dopamine which eases anxiety and fear; ultimately reducing the trigger.
Reach out – It’s okay to reach out for help and support. If you are experiencing a trigger and think you’re going to relapse, go to a local support group meeting, call a sober buddy or loved one or contact a therapist. These places will encourage you to discuss problems, emotions and your triggers in a safe and supportive environment.
Finally, recovery from an addiction takes time and triggers will be a part of this experience. Rather than dwelling on the past, feeling guilty or upset, stay focused and remain positive. This mindset will have a psychological impact and help you to live a happy, sober life.
About Serenity Chiang Rai
Serenity Chiang Rai is a private rehab center in Thailand. As one of the foremost treatment facilities in Southeast Asia, our integrated programs will encourage a person to heal the mind, the body and the spirit. We are so confident in approach, we will invite a person back for 4 weeks should they relapse after going through our entire treatment program. Contact us today to find out how we can help you out.