Avoiding Relapse: Recognizing Your Triggers Before You Face Them Again

Avoiding Relapse: Recognizing Your Triggers Before You Face Them Again
Addiction July 31, 2018
Author: Ilana Jael

Although addiction recovery is the goal of anyone who has made a commitment to getting sober, relapse is a very common occurrence. In order to be able to avoid relapse, identifying your triggers and sticking to your treatment plan will be instrumental. Let’s explore how relapse happens and how to move through it to a successful recovery.

What Is a Relapse?

Relapse in drug addiction is the return to using the substance after abstaining from the drug for a period of time. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapses are common among 40 to 60% of those who are trying to get sober, with approximately half of individuals returning to the heavy use of their drug of choice.1 Relapse does not mean that an individual’s efforts to get sober have failed or that treatment didn’t work.

A Message That Change Is Needed

When an individual relapses, this is a message that he or she needs to return to his or her doctor and ask to resume or modify an existing treatment. It may also mean that a completely different treatment may be needed or augmented with the addition of other treatment methods.

Common Relapse Triggers

Relapse occurs when certain cues or triggers are activated. While you cannot possibly predict when a trigger will be activated, you can identify your own triggers and formulate a plan for how to deal with them and avoid relapse. There are certain situations that commonly trigger relapse in all addicts, regardless of their drug of choice.

Having a Hard Day

We all have days where nothing seems to go right. For addicts, however, experiencing a bad day that leaves them feeling vulnerable can lead to relapse. This is because a return to using can provide a much-needed escape from the negativity they experienced.

Having a Great Day

It’s just as tempting to want to celebrate by using your drug of choice as it is to use when your day has gone badly. Attending a party or special dinner can place temptation right in front of you, leaving you feeling like there’s no way to avoid it.

Not Getting Along with Your Loved Ones

Perhaps you had a fight with a good friend, a spouse, or other loved one. This kind of difficulty in relationships can also bring up many negative feelings from which you feel you need to escape like you used to do before you began recovery.

sad looking woman with man

Thinking “It Can’t Happen to Me”

You may be lucky enough to earn a large salary. You may even have recently gotten a promotion or started a brand-new job that’s far better than the one you left behind. All of these circumstances may cause you to think you’re not an addict. The truth is that success doesn’t erase addiction, no matter how high up the ladder you climb.

Having a Lot of Time to Kill

When you’re stuck at home or elsewhere for long periods of time with nothing to do, temptation to use can quickly arise. Recognizing that boredom is as dangerous as exciting times in your life is a positive step toward avoiding this trigger.

Self-Medicating for Undiagnosed Illness

Many addicts, in addition to dealing with their addiction, also often have some form of mental illness. For example, people who have been depressed for a long period of time may have turned to drugs or other substances to alleviate their feelings of depression, which may have blossomed into addiction.

Know These Warning Signs

In addition to the circumstances that can trigger relapse, there are also several instances that can be warning signs of relapse in drug addiction. Recognizing these signs early, and then seeking help as soon as possible, will help you avoid relapse.

A Feeling of Apathy

If you find you don’t care as much about going to see your doctor, counselor, or sponsor, or you feel like you don’t need to continue treatment for whatever reason, this is a warning sign of a possible relapse. It’s important to realize that your recovery will be a lifelong process and that you will get there, but you can’t get there alone.

Feeling Overwhelmed by Daily Life

Life is full of ups and downs that non-addicts typically can face and deal with in a healthy way. However, when drug addicts relapse or are close to relapse, their first response to life’s difficulties is typically to run in the opposite direction. If you have this feeling, slow down long enough to see the situation for what it is and try to find the solution. It will become apparent that the choices available to resolve the issue do not have to include relapse.

An Unsteady Grip on Emotions

Feeling as though you’re losing your grip on sobriety can manifest itself in a “short fuse” emotionally. This warning sign of possible relapse can include being easily irritated and quick to anger as the result of too much going on around you at one time. These times can leave you feeling many emotions that can threaten your recovery unless you ask for help.

Reconnecting with Your Pre-Recovery Crowd

Getting in touch with old friends at places where you used to use is a definite red flag. If you find yourself feeling nostalgic about old hangouts and friends and have started to tell yourself or others that you can still hang out with them and not use, it’s time to get help.

A Feeling of Superiority over Your Addiction

If you are starting to think that you will never, ever use again, this is a warning that should not go ignored. Many addicts are absolutely certain they know exactly how to stop their addiction and believe that they are done with it for good. Unfortunately, this lack of humility about the disease of addiction is more often than not a direct path to relapse.

people talking in circle during group meeting

Strategies for Dealing with Triggers and Their Warning Signs

If you or someone you love is struggling with their recovery, there are several strategies that can teach you how to prevent drug addiction relapse.

Addiction Is a Chronic Condition

Addiction is known as a chronic condition because its roots are deep. Just as with other chronic conditions, patients who cease to follow a plan for treatment will be far more likely to relapse than those who stick with their treatment plan. In order to successfully treat addiction, behavioral change must occur. Time and commitment to recovery are the only ways to achieve success, which is why recovery is a lifelong process.

Specialists Who Understand the Complexities of Addiction

A big part of successful treatment is finding a knowledgeable team that can provide you with the help you need as well as the education to help you understand your addiction. RECO Institute’s sober living homes for men and women promote progress and healing through accountability and stability. If you’re ready to begin a new chapter in your life through Florida sober living, call about our homes in Delray Beach today: 1-844-900-RECO.


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
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