Recovering from addiction is a lifelong process that comes with many difficulties. One of the most difficult parts of recovery is avoiding relapse. After you have left an , you are challenged with abstaining from your addiction while dealing with unexpected triggers in your day-to-day life.
It’s not uncommon for those recovering from addictions to relapse at least once, occasionally more. An effective way to prevent relapse is to identify triggers and make a plan for how to overcome them. That’s why we have compiled a list of 5 common triggers and how to avoid them.
Experiencing stress or negative emotions can easily make someone in recovery want to relapse. (opens in a new tab) actually shows that the desire for the substance increases when they are put in a stressful situation. Substance abuse often becomes a coping mechanism for stress and trauma, which then can lead to addiction. Replacing this coping mechanism is challenging mentally, emotionally, and biologically.
One way to prepare for this trigger is to observe and decide what situations, people, etc cause you extreme stress. While stress is a part of life that you can’t avoid, you can make lifestyle changes that will put you in less stressful situations. For instance: leaving a toxic relationship, surrounding yourself with positive people, and making good financial decisions.
By making lifestyle changes that will limit the amount of stress you experience, you can lower your risk for relapse.
While it may sound surprising, boredom is one of the biggest causes of relapse. When someone struggling with their recovery is bored, they could look to substance abuse as an activity to bring back some fun or excitement.
Drugs and alcohol release such high levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that create feelings of happiness, pleasure, and satisfaction. Typical activities do not feel as rewarding or pleasurable when use ends, due to lower dopamine levels, causing them to feel bored.
Even if the boredom doesn’t lead straight to a relapse, it can lead to destructive decisions that could put their recovery at risk. Those in recovery looking to cure boredom often may overspend money, engage in illegal activity like theft or gambling, or isolate themselves.
Here are some productive ways to fight off boredom while in recovery:
Take up a new hobby - While it may be a struggle to find enjoyment in the beginning stages of recovery, there are still many sober activities you can explore. Trying something new can help you find a new form of fun and even a sense of purpose. Some things you could try are: joining a gym, learning a new skill or language, creating art or music, or writing in a journal.
Trying out new hobbies that sound appealing to you can open up opportunities for excitement in your life while staying on your recovery path. At , we work to provide holistic treatment and teach relapse prevention by including exercise, yoga, art, and other hobbies many patients have never tried before. Learning to enjoy these activities can help them succeed in long-term recovery.
Join a support group or get counseling - Joining an addiction support group or engaging in group therapy can be incredibly rewarding for those in recovery. You can attend a meeting to cure the boredom then, and make connections with other people to help cure boredom in the future. Having a support system is essential to the recovery process, and you can always reach out to them when you feel at risk of using again.
is also a beneficial option, as you will have guided professional help to keep you from relapsing, as well as someone to talk to. If you can’t make it in person, you can also do counseling to stay on track in the comfort of your own home.
Practice mindfulness - Mindfulness is being present and aware of yourself and your surroundings, while not being overwhelmed or highly reactive to those surroundings. A great way to practice mindfulness is through meditation. Meditation has been recommended for recovery because of the way it creates new neural pathways in the brain. Zentangle and Yoga are two activities that are part of our regular programming at Neil Kennedy that teach mindfulness.
When you become more mindful, boredom has less power over you. One of the big risks to boredom is that it creates space for ruminating thoughts and self-doubt, which can lead to relapse. With meditation, you are challenged to only focus on what is happening at the present moment. A good practice to start with is to identify what you are seeing, smelling, hearing, etc, and focus on those things.
Try practicing meditation a few times a week and get into a habit of it, and you may find it has even more benefits than curing boredom.
Go outside - This may sound simple, but staying in the same environment too long can dull your mind and allow boredom to take over. A change of scenery will be beneficial for your mind and body. Taking a simple nature walk will offer stimulating sights of the world outside while getting your blood flowing and boosting endorphins.
If you are proactive about stopping boredom when it hits, you should be able to find other things to direct your attention to while staying on track with your recovery.
People / Places From Time of Addiction
Seeing people or visiting places from the time your past can be triggering if you are in recovery. Even if those people are not using anymore, it is still difficult as your mind will begin to reminisce. It could also be people who never used with you, but they had an impact on you that made you want to use. For instance, someone that made you feel belittled or vulnerable could be a trigger.
When reminded of your addiction, it’s beneficial to have strategies in place to handle the feelings that arise. For example, if people are going out to drink, or you run into someone from before your recovery, it would help to have responses ready for when they invite you to engage in behavior that you no longer wish to participate in. Having a few interchangeable rejections that you feel comfortable saying can help you to swiftly move on from the temptation.
It could also help to have productive activities that you can do instead, like exercising or engaging in one of your newfound hobbies. If you are unprepared for situations like these, you could risk relapsing. If you are proactive and have a plan to react, you can continue to focus on your recovery and growth.
Sex and Relationships
It’s a common, though often ignored suggestion not to date when you’re beginning recovery. New romantic relationships can put you at high risk for relapse. Whether you are feeling the highs and excitement of exploring a new relationship or feeling the lows of a breakup -- both can lead to relapse. Furthermore, the addiction could instead cross over to a sex or love addiction, or the use of relationships to fill a void left by sobriety, which in turn could still lead to relapse.
Remind yourself that it is in your best interest to avoid relationships while you are still early in your recovery. Find solace in your platonic friendships and your support system. Right now is a time to focus on yourself more than anything, so let that be your main goal. When you’ve reached a solid place in your recovery, you can think about dating again with the guidance of your .
Mental or Physical Illness
Mental or physical illness can put you at risk because not only is your body and mind stressed, but you will likely be given medication. Prescription medication for physical pain and mental illnesses like anxiety and depression can be mind-altering and trigger addiction relapse.
Be sure to share with your doctor that you are in recovery and be persistent about receiving non-addictive treatment alternatives. If you are open with your doctor, they can work with you to get the treatment you need while staying on track with your sobriety.
As you go through recovery, you will experience many triggers and challenges. It’s normal to want to slip back into addiction when you are faced with these difficulties, but as long as you prepare yourself, you should be able to overcome them. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction relapse, offers compassionate, expert care for those in need of recovery treatment.
At , we are dedicated to helping provide our patients with the resources and support they need to achieve a sustainable recovery. If you or a loved one are currently struggling with addiction, our high-quality, trained specialists can help you achieve your recovery goals. your first appointment with one of our today or call (330) 744- 1181 for more information.