Addiction triggers can hit when you least expect it, but it doesn’t mean that you’re in for a total relapse. Addiction relapse triggers are important reminders that it’s time for a self-check-in to evaluate your sobriety.

The problem is, triggers can present in many ways, some harder to identify than others. Identifying your triggers is necessary to help break the cycle of addiction.

Chart representing the cycle of addiction

This list covers 10 of the most common triggers and how to avoid them.

1. Emotions

Negative emotions like fear, anger, and sadness are normal human emotions that we all feel at one time or another. But when negative emotions turn into bigger issues like chronic depression or anxiety, it can lead a person to start abusing drugs or alcohol to cope with uncomfortable feelings.

If you know you have negative thought patterns or suffer from depression and/or anxiety, it’s best to work with a licensed therapist or medical professional to get the help you need, so you can process all emotions (positive and negative) in a healthy way.

Emotional coping strategies may include:

  • Self-forgiveness exercises
  • Prescription medication
  • Mindfulness exercises
  • Regular talk therapy
  • Thought & emotion journaling
  • Support groups

Negative emotions are an addiction trigger, so the sooner you can identify when you’re falling victim to negative thoughts and feelings and get help, the sooner you can find peace of mind.

2. Physical Illness or Injury

Physical illness or injury is one of the main culprits of the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States. Roughly 21-29% of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. And while opioid addiction is incredibly difficult to overcome, it can be done with the right support systems in place.

On the other hand, individuals in substance recovery without a history of physical illness or injury can become sick or injured. Every day, people get into car accidents, work-related accidents, or fall ill. These situations are stressful and can lead a person in recovery back to substance abuse.

If you experience physical illness or injury while in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse, be aware these are potential triggers in addiction. Make sure to disclose your history of substance abuse to your doctor, so they can give you the support you need as you heal.

3. Life Stressors

Life stressors come in all shapes and sizes and can do a number on the mind, body, and spirit. Couple everyday stress with recovering from substance abuse and coping can feel overwhelming. Some of the most common life stressors and addiction triggers are:

  • Losing a loved one
  • Moving
  • Starting a new job
  • Losing a job
  • Having a child
  • Finances
  • Illness

Prolonged stress can wreak havoc on your body and lead to chronic issues such as high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and much more. That’s why it’s important to take stress seriously and find healthy coping skills to avoid a relapse.

4. Over Confidence in Sobriety

Recovering from addiction is something to be celebrated, but recovery should never be mistaken for immunity from addiction relapse. Overconfidence can put your sobriety in danger, especially if you grow complacent and stop doing the things that support it.

Substance addiction is a chronic disease, meaning it requires on-going maintenance, just like other chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and even cancer. You have to take the right steps to keep chronic disease at bay. Whether it’s been months or years since you last used, it’s important to not only know your triggers but to know how to manage them in a safe and healthy way.

Former addicts should never grow so comfortable with their sobriety that they think they can have “just a drink” or “just one pill”. Full-blown relapse is always a possibility. Maintaining a positive support system is a great way to stay accountable throughout your lifelong recovery journey.

5. Isolation

Isolation, whether self-imposed or not, is an addiction trigger for a lot of recovering addicts. If you notice yourself cutting off support from friends, family, or sponsors, it’s time to re-evaluate your relapse prevention plan.

The main problem with isolation is that you don’t have people keeping you accountable for your actions, so you may be more likely to use again.

Humans are social creatures and not meant to spend their lives alone, so try developing a supportive group of sober friends and schedule regular meetups with them throughout the month. Having positive friendships helps protect your vulnerability to outside forces that can affect your sobriety.

6. Cravings

Cravings are your brain remembering what it’s like to use. Sometimes cravings manifest in physical symptoms, like your entire body tingling with anticipation. Other times, it’s more of a mental push and pull, where you’re thinking about using, craving the high, but not enough to actually use again.

Cravings can be big triggers for recovering addicts but having an addiction triggers worksheet on-hand can be extremely helpful when they hit. This type of worksheet outlines various situations in which you’re most likely to use and often includes resources and alternatives to using (for example: “when I get a craving, instead of using, I will go on a long run”).

7. Finding a Romantic Partner Too Soon

Every person deserves to be in a loving, committed relationship. But in early recovery, you should focus on your own well-being. Finding a romantic partner or engaging in sexual activity too soon after recovery, can lead to an entirely new stressful situation like enmeshment or an addiction to sex or love.

Give yourself ample time before entering into a new relationship. In fact, experts recommend that people in recovery wait a year before dating again. This allows you time to get your bearings, work on your self-love, and learn how to be alone. If you can develop a healthy “you” apart from a romantic partner, you are less likely to be triggered by relationship stress and subsequently relapse.

8. Going Back to Work

If you’ve already been to rehab, then you may know what it’s like to take a leave of absence from work to get treatment. Returning to work and all its pressures can be a big addiction trigger. Additionally, a lot of people don’t have much choice whether or not to go back to work, which adds to the stress.

If you feel comfortable speaking with your supervisor or an HR specialist, take some time to talk with them about your recovery. Chances are they want to see you succeed in your sobriety just as much as you want to succeed. If you’re triggered by returning to work, but do not have a support system there, then it’s vital you have a support system outside of work to help you—especially in your early days of recovery. Lean on a sponsor, a parent, sibling, friend, or doctor, to support you in the transition back to your job.

9. Social Gatherings

One of the cardinal rules of early recovery is avoiding social gatherings or places where there is drugs or alcohol. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Clubs
  • Bars
  • Hookah lounges
  • House parties
  • Tailgates
  • BBQs

It can be especially difficult to avoid social situations when there’s peer pressure or family and friends are involved (like a birthday party), but it’s imperative. Social gatherings where substances are present will likely trigger you and put your hard-earned sobriety on the line.

10. Taking a Walk Down Memory Lane

Icons representing the three stages of relapse: emotional, mental, and physical

There are three distinct stages of relapse and they include:

  • Emotional – A person isn’t thinking about using again, but their emotional well-being is not at its best.
  • Mental – A person is reminiscing about using, downplaying past use, visiting old haunts, seeing friends who use, and engaging in deceitful behavior. It’s just a matter of time until they use again.
  • Physical – A person has started using drugs or alcohol again, whether just once or daily. It’s time to consider returning to rehab.

As you can see in stage two of relapse, a person in mental relapse is essentially taking a walk down memory lane and re-visiting their life pre-sobriety. This is a particularly dangerous addiction trigger because it means you’re on the brink of using again.

If you notice yourself slipping into old habits, please reach out to someone you trust to help you get back on track. In this case, a sponsor might be a great resource since they too are in recovery and understand the challenges of staying sober.

What Should You Do in Case of Relapse?

This addiction triggers list covers the most common triggers, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t others. It’s important to communicate with your doctor, therapist, family members, and sponsor to identify your biggest triggers for relapse, so you can be prepared for anything.

If you relapse, remember, it’s going to be okay. Relapse is a common part of the recovery process. The most important thing to do after relapse is to get professional help and a strong relapse prevention plan in place to set you up for future success.

At AION Health Group, we provide patients suffering from relapse with a comprehensive approach to addiction recovery through a variety of addiction treatment programs at three, Florida-based treatment facilities. Call for help today at 888-912-2454 or contact us through our secure website. Our admissions staff is standing by 24/7 to help when you’re ready.

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