Have you ever found yourself overcome with emotion over something someone did or said? Those instances of immediate emotion as a result of a stimuli are called triggers. As a person in recovery, know that it is especially important to identify your personal triggers, as well as other common triggers. Here are 10 triggers that can jeopardize sobriety and how you can keep them in check.
When you are feeling hungry, angry, lonely, and/or tired, your recovery could be in dangerous waters. Therefore, it is essential to learn healthy coping mechanisms for these triggers. To combat hunger, come up with a meal plan and pack snacks. If you’re feeling angry, step aside for a few minutes and practice deep breathing exercises or meditation. Stay cognizant of your emotions and be prepared to regulate them accordingly.
Untreated Mental Illness
Often, individuals use drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication to mask the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental disorder, such as anxiety or depression. If you have struggled with substance abuse in the past, it is best that you check in with a mental health professional to analyze your thought patterns and help you establish healthy coping mechanisms. Know that your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Difficulties in Personal Life
Because of the added stress and negative emotions that relationships and breakups can cause, it is recommended that those new to recovery do not date during their first year of recovery. This also ensures that people in recovery will not replace their alcohol or drug addiction with love or sex. But you don’t just have to be vigilant in your romantic life; how you interact with friends and coworkers also plays a role in your recovery. If your friends are not supportive of your sober lifestyle, you should break free of the toxic friendship. True friends will want to see you succeed in recovery. Similarly, if your work environment is too stressful and demanding, to the point where you are feeling acute unhappiness at your job, it is time to search for a new position elsewhere.
Overwhelming stress can often lead to relapse. However, establishing productive ways to manage stress can help you avoid decisions that could be detrimental to your health. If you are more stressed than usual, try meditating before bed. Chances are, you will wake up feeling well-rested and more prepared to problem-solve. Alternately, ask yourself why you are stressed. If your current obstacle could have been bypassed with better planning, consider implementing an alternative approach to make your life simpler.
Pondering About Past Use
Romanticizing your past addiction is a slippery slope. Daydreaming about use can cause you to overlook the horrific consequences and dangers of your past use. Therefore, it is incredibly imperative to stay in contact with your sponsor and let them know if you ever experience any thoughts in which you glamorize use. They can help you get your thought process back on the right path and remind you why you need to prioritize recovery.
Spending Time with Old, Substance-Using Friends
Although you might miss the people you used to hang out with when you were using, immersing yourself back into that unhealthy social circle puts you at high risk for relapse. You may feel like you just want to see your old pals without engaging in substance abuse, but eventually temptation is likely to kick in. Think about it: if you are surrounded by a bunch of people using, how would everyone’s high make you feel? What would you want to do? As they say in the A.A. community, “If you visit the barber shop often enough, you're bound to get a haircut.”
Environment with Drug or Alcohol Culture
Hanging around an atmosphere where other people are using drugs or alcohol, or where there are substances present, is one of the surest ways that you could become triggered and relapse. Being in close proximity to substances can remind you of the highs you have experienced in the past, which can cause you to glamorize substance abuse. Romanticizing your past use is likely to persuade you to use again.
Birthdays, holidays, and other blissful events can cause you to feel like you are in control of your addiction, which can lead you to use one time with the assumption that you can stop using thereafter. However, the truth is that using once is likely to cause you to spiral out of control. To make celebrations a safe space, ensure that there is at least one person present that will make sure you do not do anything detrimental to your recovery and health.
Thinking that you have reached a point where your addiction no longer has influence over you ignores the fact that addiction is a disease that is not curable. Being in recovery and staying sober for years does not take away from the fact that you have an inherent problem. Know that in order to flourish in recovery, you need to stay mindful and careful each day, always putting your sobriety first. As Demi Lovato has said, “recovery is something that you have to work on every single day and it's something that doesn't get a day off.”
Isolation from Peers
If you have noticed that you have been withdrawing from social interaction with family, friends, or your support group, know that the resulted feelings of loneliness can often result in you romanticizing use. To prevent social isolation, connect with your therapist or sponsor, who can keep you in check. Additionally, going to your support group meetings regularly can be a great reminder that you do not have to be alone in recovery. Many people can relate to what you have been through because they themselves have went down very similar paths. There is solidarity to be found. And in solidarity, there is strength.
By staying mindful of these common triggers – in conjunction with more personalized triggers – you are actively putting your sobriety first. Remember: reaching out to a mental health professional is an essential step in learning to establish coping mechanisms that work best for you!