Sober Help: A Quick & Dirty List of Relapse Triggers

Sober Help: A Quick & Dirty List of Relapse Triggers | Transcend Recovery Community

Sometimes when you know the circumstances that are going to lead to trouble, you can avoid them. When you know what’s going to cause a relapse with drugs and alcohol, you can do your best to stay away from those triggers.

This might be especially true if you’ve already relapsed and you’ve recovered. You probably don’t want to relapse yet another time. Relapse can feel uncomfortable. It can come with feelings of embarrassment or shame. If friends and family know that you’ve gotten clean and then they hear you’re using again, it can be uncomfortable to be seen in a way you don’t want to be seen.

Not that the judgment of others should be the reason to stay clean. Rather, your desire to take care of yourself or your desire to live a life that is meaningful to you could be reasons to move towards seeking sober help.

And one way to do that is to know and understand the triggers that cause you to relapse and the contributing factors that create a desire to use again. In general, there are various triggers that can put people at risk for relapsing. Of course, they can be different for each person, but here are some common ones:

  • negative emotional states (anger, sadness, trauma or stress)
  • physical discomfort (withdrawal symptoms or physical pain)
  • positive emotional states (wanting to feel even better)
  • testing personal control (“I can have just one drink.”)
  • strong temptations or urges (cravings to use)
  • conflict with others (such as an argument with a spouse or partner)
  • social pressures to use (situations where it seems as though everyone else is drinking or using other drugs)
  • good times with others (such as having fun with friends or family)
  • isolation and loneliness (not having a strong support network)

When faced with these challenges, those who chronically relapse might not have the coping skills to manage the various challenges of life. Learning new coping mechanisms, healing unresolved issues that lead to the negative emotional states, and creating strong support networks can help keep relapse at bay. Furthermore, making a commitment to yourself to stay clean can help avoid those situations in which you want to test your personal control. That commitment can also help you resist social pressures to use, especially when you’re enjoying good times with friends and family.

Of course, depending on where you are on the road to recovery or seeking sober help, the smallest trigger can set you off. Or if you’re further along on the road to recovery, you might get to a place where you can resist triggers that would have caused relapse in the past. It’s like building the muscle of sober living. Even though there are temptations, urges, cravings, and triggers, your sober living muscle can get stronger and stronger. Your inner strength to avoid temptation’s call only continues to get stronger with each “No!”

Of course, even still, there still might be a turn towards old habits and ultimately, relapse. Dr. Sack, a certified doctor in addiction medicine and addiction psychiatry recognizes loneliness as the prime relapse trigger. He encourages those who are still using or experiencing relapse and who are longing for the company of others to find support.

The support of others can promote a feeling of connection, being a part of a group, and feeling welcome among others who are experiencing the same challenges. Ways to avoid loneliness includes finding a support group, such as AA, seeking the support of a therapist, and making amends with sober family members and friends where it’s possible, and giving back. A way to give back is to lend a listening ear to those who are currently in the shoes you wore previously. Perhaps they’re just beginning to get sober help, or perhaps they are younger and need your perspective. Staying connected to others can help prevent loneliness as well as relapse.

This is a quick list to give you a clear picture of the potential pitfalls on the road to recovery. On your path, however, if you know what to avoid, you can make it to the finish line of sober living.


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