How to identify your triggers in addiction recovery

A trigger is anything–a person, a place, a smell, a sound–that makes you think of using drugs or alcohol. Knowing your triggers will help you develop a plan to manage them. Still, it’s not just about avoiding triggers, but about having a support system in place so you’re less likely to give in to temptation if you’re trying to stay sober.

Getting help from friends, family, and co-workers is one way to stay sober. It may also mean avoiding places where you used to drink or do drugs. If a trigger does occur, you need to have a plan for what you will do. With a little planning and support, you can stay sober despite triggers. You might, for instance, call a sober friend, go for a walk, or read a motivational book.

What Is a Trigger?

A trigger can be either internal or external. You can experience internal triggers like stress, boredom, or fatigue. These are things you feel inside yourself that make you want to use. External triggers can include seeing drug paraphernalia and being around people who use drugs. We all have triggers–things that set us off emotionally.

Some triggers are internal, such as feeling angry or sad. Others are external, like seeing someone we don’t get along with or hearing a particular sound. The triggers can be easy to avoid at times, but other times they seem to be everywhere. Some triggers are obvious, while others seem surprising. For instance, you might not realize that your name spoken in a derisive tone can trigger you.

If you are aware of your triggers, you can try to avoid them or at least be prepared for them when they arise. It’s not easy to understand ourselves better, but it is worth trying.

Why Are Triggers Dangerous?

In early recovery, your sobriety is fragile. You’re learning how to live without drugs and alcohol, so it’s essential not to put yourself in situations that make you more likely to relapse.

Some triggers are easy to avoid. Staying away from the bar where you used to drink, for example, is a pretty straightforward way to avoid that trigger. However, you might have to find new coping mechanisms if your trigger is stress. Perhaps you should take up yoga, meditation, or begin therapy.

How Can I Identify My Triggers?

First of all, you should pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors before and after using drugs or alcohol to identify your triggers. Identify any patterns you notice. Which times of day do you feel the urge to use more? What people or places make you crave drugs or alcohol?

Once you’ve identified some potential triggers, you can experiment with avoiding or addressing them differently. For example, if being around people who are using drugs is a trigger for you, try to avoid those situations. If you cannot avoid them completely, see if there is someone you can talk to about how you’re feeling in those moments.

Knowing and understanding your triggers is an integral part of recovery, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many internal or external triggers can lead to drug or alcohol abuse, including:

  • Experiencing a stressful event (such as the loss of a job or problems with a relationship).
  • Feeling strong negative emotions, such as sadness or anger, when things don’t go your way.
  • Associating with people who use drugs or alcohol regularly.
  • Going to places where you have used drugs or alcohol in the past.
  • Touching things that remind you of your use of drugs, such as drug paraphernalia.
  • Experiencing a feeling of loneliness when doing something that’s supposed to be fun, such as hanging out with friends or watching a movie.

How to Deal With Triggers

It’s not always possible or realistic to avoid your triggers altogether, but you can manage them so that they don’t lead to relapse.

Here are some examples of ways to manage triggers:

  • If stress triggers you, try exercising or journaling as healthy coping mechanisms.
  • If you feel triggered by drug or alcohol abuse, attend support groups or sober events.
  • If your trigger is an emotional one, speak to a therapist or counselor about healthy ways to deal with it.

Our counselors can help you determine how to manage your triggers to achieve sobriety in recovery. To discuss ways to manage your triggers, call 844-639-8371.

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