5 Tips to Avoiding Relapse Triggers

Published On: July 7, 2016|Categories: Recovery, Treatment|
avoiding relapse

Relapse is an all to real worry for people in recovery for substance use. While life-long sobriety is possible to achieve for every individual, many people will turn back to drugs or alcohol one or several times before recovery sticks. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 40 to 60 percent of those in treatment for substance use disorder will relapse at some point.

Relapse is preventable, though, when you have the right tools at your disposal and know how to use them. One of the key components of treatment is developing these tools so that you can respond to triggers in constructive ways and avoid substances for good.

Here are the top five relapse triggers and how to overcome them.

  1. Physical cravings

In the first days and weeks after your last use, physical cravings will compromise the bulk of your urges to use again. Later, psychological and social triggers will have a larger impact, but figuring out how to manage bodily cravings is the first hump to get over.

During early recovery, your body is experiencing withdrawal, which means your system is readjusting to the absence of substances, and this transition is harsh. You’ll experience difficulty sleeping, fatigue, nausea, restlessness and more. These feelings compiled with the compulsive habit of using drugs will be one of the toughest relapse triggers.

The good news is that physical cravings can be overcome and there are many tools to help you bear through them. First, the assistance of a medically supervised detox facility can provide support and medical monitoring through withdrawal. Medication-assisted treatment can lessen cravings, too, and the knowledge that the strength of these cravings will subside soon can give you motivation to keep going.

2. Negative emotions

In recovery, avoid relapse triggers has a lot to do with learning to regulate your emotional state. When you think back to the origin of your substance use, it’s likely that negative emotions (like loneliness, anger, depression, disappointment and so on) led you to start or continue using.

Addictions are fueled by negative emotions, so finding other ways to handle them when times get tough will be key to lasting sobriety. During drug addiction treatment, you’ll focus on growing in emotional awareness and emotional regulation. This means being able to name the sensations you’re experiencing and find ways to return to a baseline state without relapsing.

Fostering coping strategies will be important in avoiding relapse triggers, too. These strategies can be anything from deep breathing to calling a friend, and are designed to help you address the trigger in a healthy way or distract yourself for a short time until you can approach it with a level head.

3. Exhaustion

There’s no sugarcoating it— recovering from substance use takes plenty of time and energy and the process can drain you. Putting in plenty of effort and feeling like results are slow-coming can feel defeating, and this exhaustion can often be a trigger to relapse.

It’s true that recovery is hard, but the people that succumb to relapse for this reason are often attempting to achieve sobriety on their own. Healing from a substance use disorder is a complex journey, and because addiction is a chronic disease, medical and mental health treatment are essential to success.

Going the road alone will lead to exhaustion at some point, so having the support of a treatment team and seeking out help on the darkest days can prevent this trigger from affecting you.

4. Too much change

Overcoming drug or alcohol addiction requires a transformation in every area of life. You’ll need to modify social circles, maintain employment that doesn’t jeopardize your sobriety, address your mental health and potentially even need to find new housing to avoid substances. For some, this change will be easy or relieving. For others, this change could cause distress that leads to relapse.

Your best bet for avoiding relapse triggers regarding change is to engage in mental health counseling. Typically, this is included in addiction treatment. Your therapist or counselor can guide you in understanding and processing necessary changes, as well as help you find ways to balance the familiar with the new.

5. Self-licensing

Victories in recovery are sure to come, but sadly some people use progress as an excuse to justify indulging in substances again. This subconscious phenomenon is called “self-licensing” and occurs when an individual allows him or herself to give way to something following a positive behavior.

For example, if you decided to go on a trip to celebrate six months of sobriety and then decided to use drugs on the vacation based on the fact that you haven’t used drugs in months, this would be self-licensing. While it may feel enjoyable in the moment, one use could easily spiral into a full-blown relapse and take you back to square one.

Preventing this type of relapse requires maintaining a strong commitment to complete abstinence. No one knows better than you the devastating effects of a single use, because it always leads to one more. Avoid self-licensing through positive self-talk, goal setting and accountability from friends, family, a counselor or a mentor.

Get in touch

If you’re having a hard time avoiding relapse triggers, get in touch with Pyramid Healthcare. You’re not meant to walk this journey alone, and finding support can make all the difference in your recovery. Call Pyramid Healthcare to set up an appointment.

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