Many readers may be surprised to know that addiction relapse is common — something I discussed in my post, “5 Reasons People Relapse After Years of Sobriety.” As David Sack, MD, explained in his October 19, 2102 article,” Why Relapse Isn’t a Sign of Failure,
As with chemical addiction, patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension frequently fail to comply with their ongoing treatments—relapsing, if you will, oftentimes with dire consequences. Thus, no matter the chronic disease, it is ultimately up to the individual to adjust his or her lifestyle and assume responsibility for managing his or her own care. Unfortunately, removing the drug (detoxing) is the easy part. Changing the behaviors that compel the addict to use is significantly more difficult.
Helping readers identify common addiction relapse triggers and what a person can do to avoid them is the topic of today’s post by guest author, Trevor McDonald. Trevor is a freelance author who has shared his recovery story with BreakingTheCycles.com as one of its Faces of Recovery. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; via LinkedIn; or through his Website.
Addiction Relapse Triggers You May Not See Coming by Trevor McDonald
No one can tell you what your road to recovery will look like. They can only tell you the experiences of those who have walked this path before you. One person may crave a glass of wine at dinner while another may need a hit before every social gathering. Relapse triggers are as personal as cravings.
You’ll have your major triggers that are obvious. If you are recovering from alcohol abuse, you may be triggered by the mere smell or sight of alcohol. But you may not expect these hidden dangers and relapse triggers.
When you were using, you escaped stress by your drug of choice. If you were always drunk or high, you might not even remember your major stress triggers. Family can be a big one for a lot of people, especially when taken in large doses like at the holidays. Answering questions about your past and future may be a trigger you didn’t see coming because they may affect you in ways you wouldn’t expect.
To combat family stress, learn healthy ways to manage your feelings. Meditation, yoga, and exercise are all good outlets for stress.
Watching tv is a favorite pastime for most of us, but it can present recovering addicts with a hidden source of triggers. You don’t always know what you’re going to see. Although that’s part of the entertainment, you may see something on television that triggers a craving.
Try limiting your television time and be careful about the shows you watch. Some are more prone to triggers than others. The news can be especially dangerous for a recovering addict.
As you scroll through your newsfeed, you never know what you’re going to see. You may see a nice story about adoptable kittens or a tragic tale of a fatal DUI accident. Just like television, social media can trigger cravings, stress or negative feelings that lead you down the path of a relapse.
If possible, give yourself a social media break in early recovery. When you feel it’s time, step back in slowly.
There’s a good reason why you’re advised to stay away from romantic relationships in early recovery. Getting involved with someone before you’re ready is one of the biggest dangers people unwittingly face in recovery. Wait until you feel strong on your own and aren’t as concerned about relapse. Co-dependency can be a major issue, and many people use new relationships as though they are drugs. Dealing with heartbreak during recovery can also be a major relapse trigger. It’s best to avoid sex and relationships for the first year out of recovery, if at all possible.
Reasons to Celebrate
Just as you turned to drugs as a coping mechanism, you probably also used them to celebrate. Now, whenever it’s time to celebrate in your sober life, you may get pulled back into your old way of thinking. Celebrations can be a relapse trigger because people tend to want to celebrate with things that make them feel good. Alcohol is especially tied to celebrating in our society, so this is most problematic for recovering alcoholics. Job promotions, weddings and anniversaries are all hidden triggers for anyone in recovery. You can’t avoid celebrations altogether, nor would you want to, but you can find healthier ways to celebrate. Maybe find a non-alcoholic beverage to toast with or suggest taking a friend out for coffee instead of drinks.
The most difficult triggers to manage are the ones you weren’t expecting. You may not even realize their effect until it’s too late. Learn to look for the warning signs of relapse, including depression, irritability and lack of structure, and get help if you think you’re on the verge.