Completing treatment for substance abuse or alcohol addiction is a major accomplishment. But the real work starts when you walk out the door. You are now making a commitment to abstinence from drugs and alcohol every single day.
You will encounter cravings for your drug of choice, and for any escape, an opportunity to numb out, and perhaps, sometimes, an overall desire to not feel what you are feeling.
You will encounter triggers in the form of events, people, and subsequent emotions that will make you want to drink or get high again. What can you do in these situations?
Here are 5 tips for managing triggers during recovery from addiction:
- Identify your personal triggers.
Everyone is different, so every recovering addict’s set of triggers will be different as well. Some common triggers are walking by a bar, seeing someone who is drunk or high, getting paid, the end of a grueling workday or -week, getting into an argument with someone, and being bored.
- Know what you are working with.
Triggers and cravings are a very real part of recovery. Do not try to fool yourself into thinking that they will not happen to you. Instead, know your triggers, stay open to anything that may surprise you, and have a plan for when you feel yourself being triggered.
- Practice your trigger plan.
Role play, even just with yourself in the mirror, what you will do when you feel like using again. You may save yourself from a rough day, a temporary lapse, or a full relapse back to substance abuse.
- Take care of yourself.
You can handle triggers more easily when you are eating and sleeping well, exercising, and remaining aware of your emotions. You are probably familiar with H.A.L.T.: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. These four things are said to cause more lapses and relapses.
When you are taking care of yourself you can identify when you feel any of the four, and that is when you can take action. Taking action, but not reacting, puts you back into the driver’s seat. The trigger may be emotionally affecting you, but you will not act on it. If you are hungry, you will eat. Tired? Take a nap or at least rest your eyes or meditate. Lonely and angry can be a little harder to manage, but phone a friend (or your sponsor) and talk it out.
- Do not test yourself.
If you know that walking by a bar is a definite trigger for you, for example, then do not knowingly walk by a bar to see if your recovery is as strong as you believe it to be. Maybe that time you are able to avoid going into the bar. But the seed of a trigger is planted. Something else you have not identified yet as a trigger can occur, and the combination can lead you right to a drink.
There is no need to test yourself. When you identify your current triggers, are aware of what you are working with, practice a plan, and employ good self-care, you are managing your triggers during recovery from addiction.