Relapse Prevention: Trigger Awareness is Half the Battle

Completing a rehab program is a huge accomplishment, but it's just the beginning of your recovery journey. Recovery comes with many challenges, and dealing with triggers may be one of the most difficult aspects of staying sober.

When you're aware of the triggers that could tempt you to use again, you can be vigilant about avoiding those people and situations. Being familiar with relapse prevention techniques and methods makes it more likely that you'll stick with your recovery plan.

Understanding Triggers for Relapse Prevention

Everyone has their own set of triggers: situations, people and things that can lead to uncomfortable cravings or even a return to substance abuse. While these catalysts vary from person to person, certain relapse triggers are universal among people in recovery. Painful emotions such as depression, anxiety and frustration can be difficult to bear, and the urge to numb these feelings can be strong.

Many recovering individuals end up using again as a way to cope with unpleasant feelings; it doesn't take long to find yourself sliding back into your old addictive behaviors. Being around people who tend to drink or use drugs is another major trigger, and social events where alcohol is served can also be difficult to endure.

Developing Awareness

The first step in avoiding relapse triggers is to recognize them. Some triggers are easy to identify. Going to bars, parties or even certain homes may bring back memories and sensory experiences that remind you of using. Social triggers aren't hard to spot either. Getting together with a fellow drinker or user or running into a former significant other can spark the urge to use again.

The most difficult triggers to identify are emotional in nature. Underlying emotional issues can be hard to recognize in yourself, so it's important to keep close tabs on your emotional state in order to manage your triggers.

Staying on Track

People in recovery often want to prove to themselves that they've conquered their addiction and can be around drugs or alcohol without a problem. This is a dangerous tactic. You might have avoided temptation so far, but this may not always be the case, especially in the early stages of recovery. For relapse prevention, it's safer to steer clear of the people and situations that could lead to temptation. Try to stay away from places where you know there will be alcohol or drugs, and avoid places or events that may be emotional triggers.

It's also important to avoid slipping into a state of complacency. Once you've maintained your sobriety for a while, it's easy to lose motivation and feel like your usual 12-step meetings and other recovery efforts aren't really necessary. You don't have to keep up the same recovery program forever, but you do need to figure out what works for you and stick with it.

Relapse prevention is hard work, but the rewards of sobriety make the effort worthwhile. Long-term recovery requires constant awareness of your personal triggers and a strong commitment to stay sober. Once you're aware of the people and situations that may propel you to use again, it's easier to avoid those triggers and stay on track.

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