Identifying Relapse Triggers
In early recovery it's important to identify relapse triggers. A trigger is an event or series of events that potentially causes you to drink, overeat or engage in addictive behavior.
You may not be aware of your triggers until you have a slip or relapse. What most people don't realize is that a relapse starts weeks or even months before actual use. Yep, keep reading!
A relapse trigger can be a specific event, such as a relationship problem, a loss, or change that throws you off balance. Or, it can be a series of stressors that overwhelm you and create an inability to cope. When using, you don't feel but in sobriety feelings come back with a vengeance because you aren't used to feeling them.
In early recovery your first reaction is to ignore it and hope it goes away. Be careful! Any form of denial is a relapse warning sign.
That's why learning how to handle stress and emotions are vital in early recovery. You must learn to face what's happening so those feelings don't get buried under a mountain of denial.
Part of handling stress is being able to identify feelings in the moment. Lots of feelings tend to surface when newly sober. Sadness, unresolved losses, and anger are common one the addict avoids. Learning to feel your feelings is a vital part of recovery.
Here are some common situations that can trigger the desire to use again.
- Socializing with people who still drink and use
- Getting into an argument with a friend or spouse
- Getting negative feedback at work or home
- Feeling too Hungry, Anger, Lonely or Tired (HALT)
- Experiencing a major stressor or sudden change
- Any significant loss such as unemployment, a break up or death
- An unsafe or unsupported living environment
- Physical illness of self or family members
- Feeling depressed or worthless about life
- Past traumas that are coming up
- Ignoring emotions and hoping they'll just go away
How to Handle Relapse Triggers
Learning to handle life without using is a big task in early recovery. That's why going to 90 meetings in 90 days is a popular tradition. You need that continuous support to stay sober. Plus you'll want to be closely connected when triggers happen so you can reason things out with other members.
This commitment to attend meetings helps you feel a part of the group. It provides a safe place when uncomfortable feelings surface.
You need a safe place to express your feelings so they don't get shoved under the rug. Stuffing feelings is another relapse behavior that leads to using.
Build Your Tribe
12 step programs are successful because they provide immediate support. Many seasoned members sponsor because their own sobriety depends on it. You can't keep it unless you give it away.
Regular contact with a sponsor can minimize relapse as long as your honest about what's happening. They can walk you through whatever you're struggling with without judgment.
Here're some tools to use when you're struggling.
Tools to Help
- Write your concerns in a journal.
- Go to a meeting.
- Call your sponsor or trusted friend.
- If there is a problem, don't avoid it. Ask for help.
- Pray or meditate.
- Get additional support if needed.
- Make sure you have time to relax and have fun.
- Learn strategies like mediation/mindfulness to handle stress.
- Get vigorous exercise to improve mood.
- Develop better self care by getting plenty of sleep and eating healthy.
- Use the slogans such as One day at a time, or This too shall pass to get through the tough times
Everyone feels tempted to use on occasion but if you stick close to the program you'll learn how to face the pain and move on. If the pain is too much, please consider seeking professional help. There are counselors like myself who can support you.
Recovery is about learning live one day at a time without substances. It takes time to change old habits but these tips with keep you focused on the solution. Sober life is a perfect life but it's a more manageable one.
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