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One huge inevitable part of addiction recovery is encountering addiction triggers. This statement is even accurate for those who have maintained sobriety long-term after addiction treatment. Even though there are numerous ways to handle addiction triggers, healthy coping skills will be essential for overall growth.
The reality is that learning how to navigate triggers and do it effectively requires continual commitment. There is dedication towards the sober life you desire and the psychological and emotional wellbeing that keeps it together. By creating a plan that works best for you and sticking by it, beneficial and futuristic goals will be set.
Even though every addiction trigger isn’t universal, some are still inevitable. Therapists and rehab counselors offer valuable coping skills for tackling addiction triggers. In today’s article, the most common substance use temptations will be discussed, along with how to deal with addiction triggers that jeopardize sobriety.
What Are Addiction Triggers?
An addiction trigger refers to anything that can bring up the sensation, temptation, idea, or thought that gives into addiction. It is anything that initiates a severe craving that sparks a repeated pattern of behavior that leads to relapse. Triggers can be scents, harmful substances, places, people, or anything else that serves as reminders of distracting and intense emotions.
When a person is triggered, he or she is experiencing an emotional reaction to something based on a negative previous experience. Sometimes, triggers don’t have to exist physically but transpire out of emotion, word, or even behavior of another person. Triggers are often reminders that put people in places of pain, anger, distress, frustration, and other strong emotions.
Furthermore, in the specific case of addiction and recovery, triggers are often a sort of external or internal stimulus. This stimulus causes the former individual addicted to a substance to have the desire to use it again. Addiction triggers are recognizable by how a person reacts to something, but they don’t always have to do with the addiction.
For instance, triggers might occur when a person remembers an event, or even when an uncomfortable experience happens. The experience might cause a person to break down, cope in unhealthy ways, or lash out. As a result of that, individuals with unaddressed triggers can cope in detrimental ways, endure much suffering, and foster unhealthy relationships.
Triggers Faced in Recovery
It’s important to note that what triggers a craving for an individual might not be the same trigger that will affect another person. However, the part that individuals in recovery have in common is facing them. What makes this vital is the factor that encountering a trigger invokes and that is stress.
During addiction treatment programs and addiction therapy, individuals can feel free to open up and share all of their experiences. These experiences have various stressors that can trigger cravings. For some individuals, these might be emotional triggers faced in recovery.
Other individuals face their addiction triggers physically when they are encountering places, things, or people that remind them of their substance abuse. Regardless of the circumstance, the intense desire to turn back to addiction is a universal understanding among addicted individuals. Even though this doesn’t make it easier, it does mean that you are not alone.
Physical and Emotional Triggers
When you understand that you’re not alone in facing adversity in your addiction, you understand coping mechanisms. Some of the physical triggers that individuals face that are known as external triggers are normally encountered physically. However, this doesn’t always mean that it involves specifically using substances.
For example, if an individual sees a syringe that could act as a very physical trigger. Physical triggers can be a part of a person’s routine such as something that preceded before the addiction or after. Furthermore, a physical trigger can be a car or a type of car that sets off a craving in someone.
Regardless, it’s going to be a challenge to move past former associations, such as doing things or going to certain places. Substance abuse has infiltrated many corners of an individual’s lifestyle. The therapy method, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is extremely helpful in refining the associations that are made with substance abuse triggers.
With the assistance of a CBT therapist, it is possible to break the strong bond of addiction triggers. After the bond is broken, it is replaced with a healthy and sober bond instead. The other addiction triggers that occur are emotional. Emotional triggers in recovery are considered especially challenging to navigate through and even more difficult to identify.
One of the biggest benefits of outpatient treatment is the ability to experience freedom and structure simultaneously. It’s natural to feel fearful of spending time away from your treatment center after detoxification. However, outpatient treatment will allow the opportunity to gather information on areas that are particularly consumed with emotional addiction triggers.
When there are emotional addiction triggers in recovery that haven’t been considered carefully, sobriety can be quickly derailed. It is suggested to use this opportunity to your advantage by discussing addiction triggers that are feelings linked.
Underlying Psychological Triggers That Lead to Substance Abuse
Another essential aspect to consider when coping with addiction triggers is the impact that they have on a person’s mental health. Not only is addiction a psychological illness, but it often goes closely with others that are masked by withdrawal symptoms. In rehab terminology, this is defined as co-occurring disorders.
When an individual is undiagnosed or mismanages psychological illness such as depression or a substance abuse disorder, trigger one another. For example, feelings of hopelessness and sadness are often seen in those struggling with depression, which can lead to self-medicating. By abusing substances as an attempt to cope, instead of getting help, every illness triggers the other.
External and Internal Triggers
Triggers can be broken down into two categories: external and internal. Both strongly impact the individual feeling the result of the trigger. The internal and external triggers include:
- Feeling attacked, invalidated, or judged
- Specific places such as streets, cities, homes, and countries
- Feeling misunderstood and unsafe
- Heartbreak, grief, or job loss
- Trauma/PTSD and abuse
- Depression and anxiety
- A loss of control
- Fear or stress
The other triggers that individuals might be disrupted by are the following:
- News stories
What Causes Addiction Triggers?
Many different circumstances cause addiction triggers. Triggers can be either negative or positive, even though negative triggers have the most harmful effects. There are common triggers that can lead to broken relationships, depression, frustration, isolation, and in other cases, suicide.
Triggers become a problem when they are frequent, and if a person is having difficulties coping because of them. For example, a child that grew up in an abusive household might experience anxiety when individuals fight or argue. Depending on the involvement, the child might lash out as a defense mechanism, distance themself from the conflict, or feel afraid.
Emotions such as guilt, low self-esteem, irritability, and anger can surface when individuals are triggered, spiraling into compulsions and behaviors. The unfortunate part of this all is the nature of mental and emotional triggers can run deep and be traumatizing. Some addiction triggers can push people to adopt unhealthy ways of coping such as the following:
- Harm to others
- Harm to self
- Substance abuse
Ways to Handle Addiction Triggers
There are several ways to handle addiction triggers to cope with addiction triggers that threaten sobriety. The number one way to reduce the intensity of addiction triggers is to better manage all-around stress levels. To master that, a person needs to discover an outlet through which the energy can transfer into.
Many of the most ideal ways to deal with addiction triggers revolve around distracting the mind from the cravings. For example, a few of the healthiest activities used to incorporate into a daily routine to manage addiction triggers are:
- Regularly attending individual therapy during and after treatment
- Participating in a support group or attending group meetings
- Drinking water or tea for hydration and relaxation
- Prioritizing time to make healthy snacks or meals
- Join a gym or participate in a competitive sport
- Reframing negative perceptions or attitudes
- Quality time with positive family and friends
- Quiet time designated for rest
- Using positive distractions
- Mindful meditation
Committing to an activity doesn’t suggest that every trigger encounter will make you run to the gym. That type of scenario would be considered unrealistic. The main goal is to keep a handle on stress.
Whichever way you decide to reduce stress regularly and safely, utilize it as something to look forward to. When people make time to engage in reducing stress regularly by doing what they enjoy doing, it reinforces sobriety. Therefore, any addiction triggers that arise can appear smaller and easier to move past and overcome.
How to Deal With Unexpected Addiction Triggers
No matter how prepared an individual might feel to deal with addiction triggers, it’s difficult to prepare for the unexpected. The unexpected addiction triggers can be the ones you prepared for but arise very suddenly without any warning. Often these types of addiction triggers are considered emotional, but that isn’t always the case.
For example, bumping into a person that you used to do drugs/drink with at the library/store might happen. An individual will need to have an aftercare plan in place that they can rely on. In the best-case scenario, it’s okay to simply excuse yourself and walk away.
Also for some other individuals, these types of addiction triggers can lead to multiple recurring relapses, especially right out of detox. One of the many options available is medication-assisted therapy (MAT), which is offered at many treatment centers. Even though it’s not available for everyone, it effectively reinforces beneficial lessons on how to deal with addiction triggers.
Overall, this therapeutic approach is used often when the withdrawal symptoms are persistent and interferes with the focus of treatment. Even though MAT is considered to be effective in incorporating treatment, it’s not intended to be utilized forever. Instead, there’s a medication that reduces cravings and causes negative reactions to substances to be used as a teaching experience.
Setting Boundaries to Avoid Addiction Triggers
It’s not only crucial to set boundaries with others while in recovery, but to also set them with yourself, regarding exposure to addiction triggers. Navigating through one or two addiction triggers at a time can be possible for many people. Although at a certain point, it will begin to feel heavy.
It will be essential to ensure that you aren’t handling more than you can manage and have backup plans for overwhelming times. Lastly, you must hold yourself accountable to these guidelines, be kind to yourself, respect yourself, and know your limits. Oftentimes, individuals in recovery set extremely high standards for themselves.
Then when they are unable to maintain their unreasonable standards, they develop a sense of self-defeating internal dialogue. These negative feelings and thoughts can be dangerous emotional triggers that shouldn’t be ignored. There are addiction treatment programs such as rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) designed to help people manage their negative emotions and addiction triggers.
Addiction Triggers Are Tackled at Harmony Ridge Today
Once it’s decided to put distance between yourself and whatever’s prompting your craving for substance abuse, the severity of the immediate threat is diminished. For example, when the beer isn’t in front of you, you won’t be able to reach out and grab it. Therefore, there is more time alluded to recognize it as a trigger and work through the aftermath.
Even though this might seem simple enough, in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But it’s important to remember what is vital and stay aware. Here at Harmony Ridge, our levels of care, therapy, and relapse prevention can help you manage your addiction triggers.