Once you’ve finished addiction treatment and you’re sober, you might think you’re in the clear. However, the work of recovery has only just begun. As your counselors and treatment center staff have told you, there is a chance of relapse, which is a return to drug and alcohol use. Fortunately, using healthy coping skills can help you on your journey to recovery. We’ll discover triggers and how you can handle them using said healthy coping skills.
What Are Relapse Triggers?
Relapse triggers are people, places, things, and feelings that remind you of your previous substance abuse. These can bring about urges and cravings that can result in relapse. People who have used drugs for a long time associate substance use with feeling good. Even after you get sober, these associations will still be there, and when you encounter triggers, you’re bound to crave drugs and alcohol.
Whether you’ve abstained from substances for two months or two years, you must be aware of triggers that set off your cravings.
External triggers are physical things that remind you of past drug use. Some examples of external triggers include:
- People: Those closest to you (friends, family, coworkers, former drug dealers) can be triggers that cause you to relapse. You shouldn’t be around loved ones who have substance use disorder.
- Places: Walking or driving by a location where you used to drink or use drugs can set off cravings. These can include bars, restaurants, neighborhoods, bathrooms, and hotels. Try to avoid these places by using an alternative route to get to your destination.
- Objects: Even material things can spark cravings. Drug paraphernalia, spoons (for heroin users), movies, and empty pill bottles are all things that can influence a recovering addict’s behavior.
- Activities/Situations: Stressful situations can push those in recovery over the edge. These don’t just include losing a job or a loved one. Joyous occasions like weddings, birthdays, and other parties where alcohol is flowing can also induce cravings. Other situational triggers include”
- Calls from creditors
- Before, during, and after sex
- Being home alone
- Eating lunch or dinner
- Talking on the phone
Internal triggers are emotions, feelings, and thoughts that you associate with drug use. These are harder to manage than external triggers because you can’t always avoid them. Internal triggers can lead to negative behavior that eventually leads to relapse.
Examples of internal triggers include:
- Negative feelings: If you ever feel irritated, angry, jealous, or anxious, you may think about turning to drugs and alcohol for comfort.
- Normal feelings: You might not think it, but even normal feelings can be triggers. Relaxation, boredom, embarrassment, and neglect can make you think about using.
- Positive feelings: Feeling excited, happy, confident, and strong can also lead to relapse. Celebrating something could make you want to reach for a bottle and join in on the fun.
To recognize which feelings could potentially set off a relapse, ask yourself the following questions:
- How do I feel before using substances?
- How do I want to feel before using drugs and alcohol?
- In the last week, how did I feel when I used or wanted to use drugs and alcohol?
Unhealthy Coping Skills in Recovery
Bottling Up Your Feelings
Some people tend to bottle up their emotions because they’re afraid to show vulnerability. However, doing this can cause you to act out in other ways, including using drugs or drinking to cope with your feelings.
By taking the following steps, you can learn how to better manage your emotions:
- Communicate your feelings consistently
- Figure out why you keep your feelings inside
- Accept and own your feelings
- Write in a journal
- Talk when you need to
- Release your bottled feelings
Hanging Out With Friends Who Use
If you’re feeling lonely, you might feel tempted to fall back into old habits. This can include getting together with friends, family members, or coworkers who abuse substances. When you’re early in your recovery, you must avoid these loved ones. Find friends who will support you in your transition to sobriety.
If you’re invited to an event with some of your old friends, explain your situation to them. Real friends will understand that you need time away, and this honesty will strengthen your friendship. If these friends don’t understand and even tempt you to drink or use drugs, you need to set boundaries. Try going to a coffee shop or juice bar instead of a bar or other establishment that serves alcohol.
10 Healthy Coping Skills to Practice in Recovery
There are plenty of unhealthy coping skills you can practice while recovering from addiction, but these won’t get you anywhere. Below are 10 ways you can practice healthy coping skills in recovery.
Be Honest with Yourself
The most important thing you can do is be honest with yourself and others. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, be open about it, accept it, and own it. When you try to avoid your feelings, you can end up feeling worse. When you’re honest with yourself, though, you can give yourself a break and realize that you’re only human.
You’re bound to come across things throughout the day that can make you upset. When this happens, recognize your feelings and move on with the rest of the day.
Practice Gratitude and Keep a Daily Journal
When you’re in recovery, it’s important to remember what you’re grateful for. Keep a list each day of your thoughts and reflect on what you’re thankful for. This could include family, friends, a great job, and a roof over your head. Recalling moments throughout your day that bring you joy can make you generally happier and will make your recovery easier.
Mindfulness meditation helps us become more self-aware. It will help you make better choices each day and react appropriately to substance cravings. Your anxiety and stress will decrease, and this will lower your potential for relapse. When you do feel stressed or anxious, meditating can also help you take back control of your feelings and realign yourself.
Attend Therapy Sessions
Many recovering addicts can attest that therapy has saved their lives. Individual, group, and family therapy while in treatment help you overcome the worst of your addiction. However, therapy after treatment is also important. Discussing your struggles in recovery with a mental health professional will take some of your burdens away. This third-party observer can help you make sense of your feelings.
Surround Yourself with a Support System
We mentioned earlier that having friends and family who support your recovery is essential. Joining 12-step support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous can also help since they expose you to fellow recovering addicts. These people know what you’re going through and can offer support and insight.
These support groups will provide you with a sponsor who has been in recovery for years and can offer you a helping hand. This is especially helpful when cravings come along.
Learn to Relax
We encounter many high-stress situations, whether we’re at work, school, or home. One of the best ways to decompress is to learn how to relax in any situation. Take a long bath or listen to soothing music after a long day. Yoga can also help you relax your mind while strengthening your body.
Meditation is a wonderful relaxation technique as well. Take a walk, watch your favorite TV show, or sit on the beach and listen to the sounds of the ocean. When you practice guided imagery, you can imagine yourself in a relaxing place, too.
Eat Right and Exercise Regularly
When you take care of your body, it will thank you. What you consume has an incredible effect on your mental health, which is why you should eat healthy, nutrient-rich foods. Part of addiction comes from malnourishment and not giving your body what it really needs. Make sure to stay hydrated each day.
Exercising can also release endorphins in your brain, and this makes you feel good. It also adds structure to your day, and having a routine is key to staying sober. Taking care of your body by exercising and eating right will
Do Activities You Enjoy
Do you like kayaking? Volunteering? Making short films? Then do it! Throwing yourself in an activity that brings you joy and helps others can give you a sense of accomplishment. When you’re fully engaged in something, you’re not thinking about drugs and alcohol. Keeping yourself busy in recovery can help you see what’s most important in life.
Recognize the H.A.L.T. Symptoms
One technique that can prevent relapse is HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). When a drug or alcohol craving comes on, ask yourself if you feel any of these symptoms.
Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan
When you’re at Harmony Ridge, we can help you create a plan to put in place when you come across triggers. Our counselors will use the tools and skills you’ve learned to help you prevent relapse.
A good relapse prevention plan might include some elements of the following:
- Daily exercise
- Daily meditation
- Praying or other forms of spirituality
- Daily journaling
- Practicing a hobby like crocheting or learning a new instrument
- Finishing everything on your to-do list every day
- Reaching out to a sponsor if you come across a trigger or just need to talk
What If I Relapse?
If you relapse, don’t consider it a failure. Although you’ve suffered a setback, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope left for you. Everyone encounters obstacles on their road to success. Relapse is more common than you think; most people in recovery return to drug and alcohol use within one year of completing treatment.
You might have to enter treatment again if your situation is dire. However, by attending support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous and participating in aftercare programs, you should get back on the right track soon enough.
Harmony Ridge Recovery Center is Here to Help
Our West Virginia rehab facility is an ideal place to reflect on and recover from negative behavior. With a recreation center, indoor pool, and gym, you’ll never be bored and will always have something exciting to look forward to. We can also teach you more about healthy coping skills in recovery.
If you need help with addiction, contact us today. You’ll be glad you did, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.