Triggers are stimuli – a sound, sight, place, person, date, or even a smell – that remind us of memories of a traumatic event or period in our lives. Triggers are deeply personal for this reason, and what triggers one person will probably have no effect on someone else. Triggers are most often discussed in the context of post-traumatic stress disorder, but individuals struggling with substance addiction can certainly attest to the existence of substance use triggers and addiction triggers.
If you are new to your recovery, familiarize yourself with common substance use and addiction triggers and learn how to avoid them:
Smelling or tasting something that reminds you of substance use
Your memory is a powerful thing. Even if it has been years since you last drank or used drugs, your brain is not likely to forget the smell or taste of your substance of choice. Something as innocuous as walking by a house where marijuana is being used or something as overt as drinking a non-alcoholic beer can be enough to trigger memories of your addiction. You may not be able to avoid some of these environmental triggers, but do be mindful of what you are consuming during your recovery.
Attending events where drugs or alcohol are present
Weddings, birthday parties and happy hours at work usually feature alcohol, and even casual hangouts with friends can be centered around drinking or using drugs. It can feel awkward to explain why you aren’t partaking, and you may even experience peer pressure. These kinds of situations can be overwhelming with triggers and, in the heat of the moment, it’s difficult to know how to respond.
This isn’t to say that you can never attend another social event again, in fact, social engagement is known to be beneficial during recovery. Do be mindful of whether or not you are truly ready to be around substance use triggers at this stage in your recovery and make your decisions accordingly.
Feeling stress, anxiety or depression
Prior to being sober, you may have used drugs or alcohol to take the edge off when your mental health wasn’t at its best. Old habits clearly die hard, and because addiction is a disease of the brain, there are physical and chemical cravings that can make appearances even when you are in recovery. One way to minimize the chances of relapsing during stressful times is to find healthy diversions when you feel the urge to use. These diversions can be anything that takes your mind off of addiction while keeping you engaged in something you truly enjoy. Examples can include exercising, watching films, spending time with loved ones, crafting and even just exploring your city on days when things feel hard.
Socializing with people who still use substances
Examine your friendships and relationships. Did you have friends or family members with whom you used substances when you were together? Did you have your “regular” friends and family, and then those with whom you used but didn’t otherwise spend time together?
Spending time with others who are struggling with addiction can enable and tempt you to continue using, especially if it was something you used to do together. If you think maintaining these relationships will ultimately be detrimental to your recovery, it is okay and healthy to remove yourself from these situations. You should never feel pressured to use any substances, certainly not by your friends and especially when they know you are actively in recovery. So, it may be best for your long-term sobriety to end relationships with those who are not invested in your recovery.
Remember that experiencing setbacks after being triggered is not a sign of failure or inadequacy. Recovery is not a linear journey, and there is no one right way to do it. You can only grow in your recovery if you identify your triggers, learn from your setbacks and commit to your sobriety even more strongly.
Rehab After Work offers addiction treatment and counseling for those struggling with substance addiction. Identifying and understanding your triggers is one of the keys to success in recovery, and we can help you with that every step of the way. Reach out today at 610-644-6464