By: Bethany Winkel
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How to Manage Triggers
People in recovery hear the word all the time, but what does “trigger” really mean, and how can you keep it from causing a relapse? A trigger is defined as a stimulus that is repeatedly associated with the preparation for, anticipation of, or the use of drugs or alcohol. A trigger can be environmental, social, or emotional in nature.
When a person uses drugs or alcohol, they might do so at certain times of the day, in certain places, with certain people, or because of certain events. Over time, they begin to associate their substance use with those things. For example, if a person drinks alcohol every day when they get home from work, they may become so used to drinking at that time that the act of coming home from work will become a trigger. If a person uses drugs after they argue with a spouse, those arguments can become a trigger. Sometimes remembering the anniversary of a traumatic experience will trigger the person to use. Triggers can be smells, people, locations, stress, emotions, and even dates on the calendar.
Learning About Triggers in Rehab
Managing triggers becomes crucial when you are in recovery. You might feel the strong impulse to drink or get high when you see a certain person, smell something associated with drugs, see a picture of drugs, or are reminded of an event. In recovery, you need to learn how to face triggers and develop the tools to withstand them.
During treatment, your therapists and counselors will help you avoid triggers to use at first. They want you to focus on detox and laying the groundwork for sobriety. Over time, though, you will need to start facing your triggers to use. In the controlled atmosphere of your therapy sessions, you will learn what to do when you feel that strong impulse to use.
The first step to managing triggers is identifying them. Every person is different, and every person will be tempted by certain things. Learn what has caused you to use in the past, and determine the times you feel the most weak. These are your triggers. In your therapy sessions, you might practice facing your triggers. This can be done by role playing, narrating situations, or simply discussing your triggers.
Managing Triggers after Treatment
The main test will come when you have finished rehab and are headed back on your own. Some people will need to change jobs or stop associating with certain people in order to maintain their sobriety. Others find it helpful to replace old behaviors with new, healthy ones.
It is important for you to take care of yourself to manage triggers. Get plenty of sleep, eat nutritious meals, and surround yourself with others that will encourage and build you up. Because stress is one of the most common triggers for substance use, practice stress-reduction techniques like yoga, exercise, or meditation.
Above all, don’t try to fool yourself. Don’t think that because you’ve been through therapy you are ready to face the world and get right back into things. Triggers are a very real part of recovery, and you will struggle with them. Avoid triggers whenever possible, and develop a plan to deal with the ones you must face.