Keys to a successful recovery include knowing what triggers you, how to cope with cravings, and how to avoid each. A lot of things, including people, events, and situations, can be harmful triggers to those in recovery. These triggers can lead to lapses and relapses, which can cause some to feel shame and guilt about their slipup.
It is important, though, to remember that a lapse or relapse does not mean failure. The steps taken next are essential to whether or not your recovery remains intact. Learn to understand what triggered you, what you can do to avoid that trigger, and more importantly, how to effectively cope with a trigger that may be either unavoidable or reoccurring.
Emotional Distress Triggers
Both physical and emotional stress can lead to a lapse or relapse. Symptoms of distress can be temporary or long-lasting, affecting a person’s relationships and recovery. Some of the common warning signs of emotional distress, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), are:
- Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
- Avoiding people and things you use to enjoy
- Drowsiness and lack of energy
- Physical effects such as persistent stomachaches or headaches
- Feeling restless, helpless, or hopeless
- Feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and worry
- Thoughts of harming yourself or someone else
- Beginning to use drugs or alcohol excessively or relapsing
Especially in terms of natural or human-caused distress and disasters, anniversaries can often serve as an intense trigger. For example, the death of a close loved one or the anniversary of that death can cause a state of emotional uneasiness, increasing the possibilities of a lapse and relapse.
Though it can feel discouraging, experiencing triggers and cravings is a normal part of recovery. When someone is addicted to alcohol, drugs, or other agents, their brain becomes chemically altered, directly affecting their mental state. People’s pathways and neurons can be so accustomed and dependent on the substance that the body frequently needs to detox and allow time to get reacquainted to its natural state.
Cravings can be powerful during the detox and withdrawal period. You might be most vulnerable to cravings during detox, especially if your withdrawal symptoms are challenging. Once in recovery, those cravings may begin to weaken, but there is always the chance for triggers to rear their ugly heads, often when least expected.
The most dangerous thing about a trigger is that it can be a minor thing that sets off a lapse. Triggers can be tailored to an individual’s personal struggles and experiences, but many triggers can be quite common. Some of these common triggers that people may experience include:
- Connections and relationships from a person’s life while in active addiction
- Stressful life situations including work stress, family stress, or stressed relationships
- Social situations where drugs, alcohol, or addictive agents may be present
- Episodes of distress caused by co-occurring mental illnesses
Coping with Triggers
While a lapse or relapse due to a trigger or craving can be devastating, dealing with it appropriately and moving forward in your recovery is what is important. Relapse is common and often simply deemed “part of the process,” but it is not a failure. It’s a bump in the road.
At Lakehouse Recovery, we emphasize the importance of relapse prevention, educating patients on preventing relapse, moving on from a lapse, and continuing to embark on their recovery successfully.
Some common ways individuals can learn to cope with triggers, whether common or personal, include:
- Practicing mindfulness through yoga or meditation
- Reaffirming past goals that helped you focus on your recovery during treatment
- Coming up with new goals that are tailored to the point you are at in your life now
- Discussing your triggers, cravings, and lapses with those in your sober community
- Letting the people in your life know how they may be able to help you on your path to recovery
- As new triggers and cravings present themselves, compile a list of each, how it affected you, how you were able to recover, and what you think might help you avoid it in the future.
Some of these methods may help you with any triggers you experience, and some may not. Just as treatment is specific to your personal journey, maintaining recovery is specific too. Sometimes recovery is about accepting what is and figuring it out as you go, but it’s always important to have strong support behind you as you go through that journey. Let Lakehouse be that support for you today.
Triggers, cravings, lapses, and relapses are all normal while in recovery. The process of detoxing your body of any substances and reconnecting it with your mind and your soul can be a slow, delicate process, and sometimes the smallest things can threaten it. It’s perfectly normal for individuals to feel cravings for addictive agents and substances, especially early on in the treatment process. However, what makes triggers so dangerous is that they sometimes present themselves without warning. You might be able to predict things that could trigger you, such as past acquaintances from your life before sobriety. You shouldn’t feel shame or guilt about experiencing triggers or a lapse. It’s how you deal with and learn to further prevent those triggers and lapses from presenting themselves again. At Lakehouse Recovery, our curriculum can help you learn mindfulness, relapse prevention, and we can provide a strong support system. To learn more, call us at (877) 762-3707 today.