Recovery brings plenty of reward – especially if you’re staying sober and achieving your goals. At the same time, recovery can bring challenges. In fact, most people (up to 80%) relapse at least once after attempting sobriety for the first time.
Yet, the best way to look at relapse is to see that it’s a learning opportunity. It’s a chance to investigate yourself – the thoughts, circumstances, and choices that led to the relapse. It’s an opportunity to make your commitment to sobriety even stronger. And it’s also an opportunity to learn more about addiction, recovery, and what you can do to prevent relapse in the future.
One way to understand yourself better is to understand relapse. Why does it happen? What contributed to it. When you know the circumstances that are going to lead to relapse, you can avoid them. When you know what’s going to cause a relapse, you can do your best to stay away from those triggers.
Triggers that Risk Relapse
In general, there are various triggers that can put people at risk for relapsing. Of course, they can be different for each person, but here are some common ones:
- negative emotional states (anger, sadness, trauma or stress)
- physical discomfort (withdrawal symptoms or physical pain)
- positive emotional states (wanting to feel even better)
- testing personal control (“I can have just one drink.”)
- strong temptations or urges (cravings to use)
- conflict with others (such as an argument with a spouse or partner)
- social pressures to use (situations where it seems as though everyone else is drinking or using other drugs)
- good times with others (such as having fun with friends or family)
- isolation and loneliness (not having a strong support network)
This is a quick list to give you a clear picture of the potential obstacles on the road to recovery. When faced with these challenges, with enough support, you can work through them versus letting them take over your life. For instance, here are some ways to prevent a relapse when you feel it’s approaching:
Coping Tools to Address Triggers
- see a mental health professional and begin to heal any unresolved issues that lead to the negative emotional states
- rely upon your circle of support or work on creating a stronger support network
- make a commitment to yourself or recommit with more gusto
- recognize when you’re attempting to test your personal control
- learning to recognize your unique triggers
- create an emergency plan – who are you going to call when you have a strong craving or what are you going to do?
Over time, you can learn to resist triggers that would have caused relapse in the past. It’s like building the muscle of sober living. Even though there are temptations, urges, cravings, and triggers, your sober living muscle can get stronger and stronger. Your inner strength to avoid temptation’s call only continues to get stronger with each “No!”
Having a good understanding of what can get in your way of sobriety will help you avoid those obstacles as you continue on the road to recovery.