Addiction recovery is not a linear experience. Addicts on the road to recovery have the potential to relapse or return to the addictive object or behavior of their addiction. Relapse is a difficult but common occurrence when dealing with addiction treatment. However, there are a few things you can do to help prevent relapse. Read on to learn more about the common triggers that cause addicts to relapse and see how you can take care of yourself on the road to recovery.
What Are Relapse Triggers?
Relapse triggers are specific scenarios that instill the urge to relapse into drugs, alcohol, or addictive behaviors, such as gambling addiction, shopping addiction, traveling addiction, gaming addiction, social media addiction, porn addiction, or sex addiction. Someone with an Addiction Disorder can experience relapse triggers at any point during recovery. The triggers can revolve around specific people, places, events, or emotions. Furthermore, relapse triggers are hard to predict and can be extremely difficult to avoid.
It is important to know that relapse does not mean failing; it is often another step of the recovery process. However, learning how to recognize and avoid relapse triggers can help you take care of yourself as you navigate the road to recovery.
Internal vs. External Triggers
There are countless types of triggers, and everyone will experience relapse triggers differently. That said, you can categorize relapse triggers into either internal or external causes. External triggers occur because of something or someone outside of you. They include people, places, activities, situations, or even objects.
Internal relapse triggers, on the other hand, revolve around your thoughts, difficult emotions, inability to regulate or modulate your affect, and lack of distress tolerance. Many people associate internal relapse triggers with negative emotions such as fear, shame, guilt, anxiety, hopelessness, or anger. However, internal triggers can also include neutral or even positive emotions such as boredom, inability to regulate emotions, void, emptiness, inability to cultivate meaningful connections with others, or lack of self-esteem.
People Cause Relapse
The people around you can heavily influence your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. That is why people, traveling, casual dating, sex, and inappropriate associations with others tend to be a common relapse trigger. This experience is common among individuals who still hang out with friends or family members that they used to drink or do drugs with. If those people are still partaking in substance abuse, then you are likely to relapse when you are around them.
Remember that people do not have to be bad or unlikeable to trigger a relapse. That is part of why casual dating, sex, and having people around you while you are going through recovery and treatment for mood disorders is instrumental to avoiding relapse. Similarly, reducing the time you spend with others allows you to minimize the chance for relapse and maintain your own abstinence.
Other examples of people who can become relapse triggers include former romantic partners, coworkers, other addicts, or connections you had during the darkest parts of your addiction. These people can easily bring up feelings and situations that make it much easier to relapse.
Places Cause Relapse
Have you ever visited your hometown or college town and immediately felt like you were back at that age again? Places have a way of bringing back strong memories, but that is not always a good thing. When you are in recovery, those memories can trigger painful thoughts and difficult emotions that you would rather avoid encountering.
Be especially careful around specific sites where you used to participate in your addictive behavior or substance use. Examples include bars you used to drink at or locations where you used to buy drugs. These areas can have strong memories associated with them that are difficult to shake off. Limit your time in areas that trigger relapse or try to avoid them altogether if you can.
Relapse From Easy Access
Access can also influence your addiction recovery. For example, if you are recovering from an Alcohol Addiction, you are increasingly likely to drink if there is already alcohol in your house. Easy access increases the temptation of addictive behaviors, people, or substances. Finding ways to cut off your access can help you avoid that temptation. Avoid keeping alcohol or drugs in the house, and stay away from people or places where you can easily purchase drugs or alcohol. Small habits such as these will help you steer clear of relapse triggers as you recover from your specific Addiction Disorder, including codependency on other people who may enable your addictive behaviors.
Relapse From Change
Major life changes—such as starting a new job, entering a new relationship, or buying a house or car—can all be relapse triggers. These changes can be either positive or negative. Maybe you are starting a new relationship or family. Maybe you have lost a loved one, have gone through a painful breakup or divorce, loss of employment, started a new career, or acquired new investments, such as purchasing a property or acquiring a new business. Either way, these experiences upend your daily routine and can be a major source of stress, trigger, and prevent you from feeling your emotions in order to be able to focus on the necessary treatment protocol for mood disorders, personality disorders, and addiction issues. Stress can trigger feelings of anxiety, guilt, shame, fear, sadness, or depression, which can all lead people to turn toward their addictive behaviors, codependency, numbing through dating, sex, shopping, traveling, gambling, drug, alcohol or other addiction issues as unhealthy ways of coping with difficult emotions, distress, daily stressors, and overwhelming thoughts.
Common Relapse Warning Signs
Now that you know the common triggers that cause addicts to relapse, how can you tell when a relapse has occurred or is about to happen? It is not always possible to predict a relapse, but there are a few warning signs you can look out for.
Abrupt changes in attitude, emotions, mental state, or behavior are often the clearest indicators. If you experience a sudden change in mood, affect, or start losing interest in daily activities, it might be a sign of decreasing mental health—which often precedes relapse.
Positive changes can indicate an upcoming relapse, too, though. Feeling suddenly overconfident about your recovery—especially if you feel you no longer need treatment—can indicate that you are not prioritizing long-term recovery and are at higher risk of relapse and prolonged recovery.
Find Your Path to Recovery
No two recovery journeys look the same. That is why it is important to work with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who is an expert Addiction Psychologist. This will provide you with the necessary skillset and expertise from a trained psychologist, who can understand your unique experiences and provide comprehensive, evidence-based treatment every step of the way.
At Blair Wellness Group, we know how daunting the road to recovery can be. This is why we curate tailored treatment plans and customized programs that are uniquely based on your specific clinical needs, background, family history, coping mechanisms, and the particular challenges you are facing in a concerted effort to provide you with comprehensive treatment necessary to address mood disorders, personality disorders, and specific addiction issues in a holistic manner. With compassionate care from an experienced Licensed Clinical Psychologist and addiction expert, you can achieve your clinical goals, sobriety, mental health, emotional health, physical health, and gain control over your life.