Some people believe that addiction relapse is inevitable – but that is absolutely not true. Being aware of common relapse triggers and relapse warning signs is your first step towards long-term addiction recovery. One of most effective techniques for preventing relapse is to identify your personal relapse triggers and make a detailed plan on how you will manage them. And while some common relapse triggers are obvious — like being around other people who are using — others are less straightforward. Addiction is a sneaky disease, and will try to sneak up on you when you are least expecting it. We have compiled this list of the most common causes of relapse to get you thinking more deeply about how you can avoid triggers and stay solid in your addiction recovery. Common Relapse Triggers and How to Manage Them Relapse triggers can be broken into a few groups: emotional, mental, environmental, and those that are easily overlooked. Here we have listed the five most common relapse triggers and what to do to avoid them.
1.HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired
You may have heard the acronym “HALT.” It’s a term used to describe high-risk situations for those in recovery. When you are aware of this threat, you can be more vigilant in preventing yourself from entering such situations. To be most effective, this requires some discipline insofar as planning your daily itinerary. As silly as it sounds, people in recovery often forget to address their basic human needs because they’re simply so focused on staying sober. When recovery is your priority, then making sure you avoid becoming too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired will also need to become daily priorities. This may mean planning meals, sticking to a strict sleep schedule, and attending support groups. Occupying your mind and addressing your basic human needs will become automatic after some time, but during the early period of recovery, you need to be cognizant of these needs.
2. Emotions & Stress
It’s easy to let negative thoughts into your mind, but it’s these perceived negative emotions that often lead people to use drugs or alcohol in the first place. When these thoughts start to creep in, they can easily lead a person back to their drug of choice. This is why having a sponsor and a strong support structure like that offered in a sober living house can play a big role in keeping you sober. Fortunately, it is impossible to avoid feeling sad, angry, guilty, or lonely all the time. Experiencing and learning how to deal with these emotions is an important aspect of recovery (and life) – but they sure can be worrisome. Learning how to cope with your emotions as they arise without the use of drugs and alcohol will be essential in early recovery. Stress is probably the number-one causes of relapse, but what each person deems to be stressful is unique to them. Some people might find stress from something as seemingly harmless as a broken fingernail. Because of its broad range of effects on the mind and body, all stress must be managed by the individual. Bigger life events like losing a job or a loved one can be a strong trigger for relapse. Other triggers include things like increased responsibility at home or work or health problems. The key here is being proactive about stress prevention and being mindful (and honest) about what causes stress for you. Again, look to your sponsor and support groups for guidance, strength and advice.
Over-confidence can be dangerous. An example might be telling yourself you can handle just one drink. Statistics show that one slip leads to relapse more often than not. Becoming over-confident in recovery in any form puts you at risk for relapse. Having self-confidence is necessary, but becoming over-confident to the point of complacency crosses a line from healthy confidence to over-confidence and relapse risk. After some time in recovery, as your life starts to even out, you may begin to feel like you no longer need to follow your relapse prevention plan. You might think you are strong in your recovery and put yourself in increasingly risky situations – while also no longer working a recovery program. This is a proven recipe for disaster. Stay humble by giving back to others if you can, and always remind yourself that addiction is a chronic disease; no matter how strong you feel you will never be able to have “just one.” [cta id=’269′]
4. Mental or physical illness
Depression, anxiety, and other underlying mental illnesses can trigger drug or alcohol relapse. Physical illness and pain can also put you at risk for relapsing, as your body is stressed. Prescription drugs for mental and physical illnesses can be mind-altering and trigger addiction and addiction relapse. Sharing that you are in recovery with your doctor and being insistent about providing non-addictive prescription drug alternatives is important. Get treatment for any underlying mental illness and monitor your thinking and feeling with a journal to help notice when you are slipping into old patterns.
5. The importance of strong relationships
Reluctance to reach out to others, or form a sober support system through AA or another recovery group, can lead to social isolation and loneliness. The more you become socially isolated, the easier it is to rationalize drug or alcohol use to yourself. Social anxiety can also be a struggle for many recovering addicts, which is why having a counselor or sponsor can help you avoid social isolation. Make forming a sober support network a priority in your recovery. They’ll help you pinpoint and avoid common relapse triggers. A common, but often ignored suggestion is to avoid dating in recovery for the first year. There are many reasons for this, one being that new romantic relationships can put you at risk for relapse. A break up with your new partner could lead you back to using due to emotional stress. A potential cross over from your initial addiction to a sex or love addiction; or using relationships to fill the void left by sobriety also create increased risk for relapse. Remind yourself why it is important to avoid relationships in early recovery if you feel you’re considering starting such a relationships. Recovery is a time to focus on yourself.
Recovery is a time for healing
Relapse is a process. If you find yourself reminiscing about times when you used to drink or use in a way that overlooks the pain and suffering your addiction caused, this is a major red flag. Reminiscing can lead to your addictive brain taking over once again. Talking about past use can lead to thinking about future use, and quickly turn into action. If you find yourself in this pattern of reminiscing, it’s time to talk to a sponsor, counsellor, or supportive friend about it — they will help remind you why you chose a life in recovery. Putting yourself in situations where drugs and alcohol are available. It is not always so straightforward though — simply driving through an old neighborhood or catching the smell of a pub as you walk by can be enough to trigger intense urges to use. One of the first relapse prevention plans you make should be a list of people, places, and things that are strong triggers for you personally. When doing this, think outside the obvious and ask your sponsor or counselor for help so you’re not later caught off guard by an emotion, sight or smell.
What Happens if I Relapse?
Even with the best-laid plans to avoid common relapse triggers and prevent relapse, the risk is always there. If you do get caught off guard and slip-up, it does not mean that you are a failure and doomed to drug addiction forever. Recovery is still possible, but the sooner you act after a relapse the better. Remember that after a relapse you may need to attend additional drug or alcohol rehab to get back on your road to recovery. [cta id=’269′]