Understanding and Avoiding 9 Common Relapse Triggers
Part of any successful treatment plan for alcohol or drug addiction involves managing the risk of relapse.
Although no two substance abusers are exactly alike, there are some common relapse triggers that you should be aware of during the early stages of sobriety.
Using drugs and alcohol to manage unpleasant emotions is a common coping mechanism among people who seek substance abuse treatment. When you leave the rehab facility, you’ll need to come up with a new way to address feelings of anger. Try writing in a journal, venting to a trusted friend, or working out your frustrations with some vigorous exercise.
Stress is something that everyone experiences, and it’s high up on the list of relapse triggers. Although it’s impossible to avoid stressful situations like a breakup or job loss, there are plenty of smaller steps you can take to reduce the minor stresses in your daily life. Look for shortcuts to help you save time or consider saying no to obligations that don’t bring you joy. For example, if running late at work makes you scramble to get dinner on the table, keep a few quick freezer meals on hand so you’re free to enjoy more quality time with your family. If your schedule is so jam-packed that you don’t have a second to yourself, choose one night per week to designate as time for rest and relaxation.
Everyone gets bored occasionally, but the recovering addict needs to be proactive about managing this relapse trigger. Brainstorm lists of movies to watch, music to listen to, books to read, people to call, home improvement projects to tackle, and new hobbies you’d like to try. Keep this list handy so you’re never left wondering how to fill your free time.
Feeling alone and isolated can make building a sober life for yourself seem next to impossible. If you don’t have a strong support system with your family and friends, reach out to members of your recovery program. Connecting with others who understand the struggles associated with substance abuse can make you feel less alone. If your faith is an important part of your life, becoming more involved at your place of worship can also help build vital social connections.
For many people, their daily routine is so hectic that sleep is the last thing on their minds. However, not getting the rest you need can put you at risk of relapse. Being fatigued lowers your immune system and impairs your judgement. This makes it harder to continue making the types of healthy choices you need to stay sober. Set yourself up for success by creating a relaxing nightly routine that promotes a restful slumber.
6. Peer Pressure
Peer pressure isn’t something that just affects teenagers. Even adults can fall prey to peer pressure when they’re offered a drink at a party or encouraged to reminisce about past drug use. Stay on top of this relapse trigger by making a point to always attend social events with someone who is fully aware of your recovery efforts and brainstorming ways to make a graceful exit if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
7. Falling Back into Old Routines
This is mistake that’s similar to what people do when they’re trying to lose weight. They start off strong, snacking on carrots and going the gym instead of grabbing a candy bar and binge-watching Netflix. But, there’s a natural impulse to fall back into old routines. When you’re in recovery, you need to actively work to make sure you’re not slipping back into the same behavior patterns that initially triggered your urge to use. This may mean coming up with new rituals to celebrate special occasions and avoiding old haunts you strongly associate with drinking or using drugs.
8. Believing You’ve Been “Cured”
Never forget that addiction is a chronic illness. You can be sober for several months or even years, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune to cravings or the temptation to make unwise choices. Staying connected to aftercare resources such as addiction support groups will help you avoid this common relapse trigger.
9. “All or Nothing” Thinking
The path to recovery is a journey you must take one step at a time. If you make a mistake along the way, this doesn’t mean that your efforts are doomed or that you should give up hope of meaningful change. Stumbling blocks merely indicate that it’s time to reevaluate your treatment plan and develop strategies that are better suited to your recovery needs.
For further reading:
The Disease of Addiction: Changing Addictive Thought Patterns.