Drug relapse triggers
One of the primary foci in addiction treatment is to identify potential “triggers” for relapse: events or issues that can make you want to drink or get high. These triggers can squash all the progress you’ve made in treatment if you’re not careful, and worse, cause you (especially if you’re in early recovery) to attempt to justify certain behaviors despite the fact that they keep you in constant contact with a potentially relapse-triggering person or emotion.
Top 5 common relapse triggers
What are the most common and dangerous relapse prevention triggers to watch out for? The top five include:
1. Old haunts and old friends
If you routinely spent time getting high or drinking in a certain place or with certain people, it’s a good idea to give yourself some space when you come home from rehab. Though returning home is already difficult and old friends will probably want to check in with you, keep your focus on your recovery. If your old friends are still actively drinking and getting high, spend your free time with new friends in recovery, or old friends who are sober. It is wise to avoid relapse temptation when you can.
2. Justification of “just once”
A toast at a reception, a glass of wine with dinner, or a puff of a joint that’s being passed around at a party, it seems like a small thing, easily justified as a one-off occurrence. But it’s important to remember alcoholism is a progressive disease, which means just one drink can lead to a whole lot more if you’re not careful. Simply having the drug or alcohol in hand can trigger the urge to get loaded, and the effects of the drug or alcohol will only encourage those thoughts. “Just one” sip can quickly turn into a shot or a drink that can rapidly turn into a binge drinking session, and if it happens once, it can happen again and again and again, until you’re back where you were before you went to treatment. Or worse.
3. Toxic relationships
A high-maintenance, overly dramatic romantic relationship, friendship, or roommate relationship can serve to make you feel angry, jealous, insecure, depressed, or irritable- emotions that very often precede a relapse especially when it’s an ongoing issue. You may feel like you want to drink or get high before you have to deal with this person, or you may feel like the only way to calm down after an argument is to use alcohol or drugs. Instead, surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people who don’t thrive on drama can go a long way toward helping you to maintain balance and stability in your recovery.
4. Unhealthy choices
Surviving on junk food, camping out in front of the TV, and pounding coffee drinks all day so you don’t go to sleep until the early morning are not helping you to stay clean and sober. These activities don’t provide you with positive structure in your life nor do they help you maintain good physical health, mood balance, or a bolstered immune system. Making good choices via eating habits, sleeping patterns, and exercise can increase your ability to stay focused on positive goals in recovery and protect you from relapsing out of sheer boredom. If you notice or cannot stop old behaviors, reach out for help for these particular warning signs of relapse. You don’t need to struggle alone.
5. High-pressure situations
Though doing things like enrolling in a college degree or certificate program, working lots of hours to stay busy and get out of debt, or investing time in rebuilding family relationships are all excellent choices in recovery, if you overdo it and end up feeling so much pressure that you can’t breathe, then it can turn into a trigger for relapse as well. This is where the expression “Easy does it” can be helpful, serving as a reminder that a balanced life should be as much of an aspiration as a productive one.
What are your triggers for relapse? Did you come across something in recovery that made you want to drink or use that you didn’t see coming? Leave us a comment and share your experience.