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Identifying and Overcoming Triggers In Early Recovery

Identifying and Overcoming Triggers In Early Recovery

What Are Triggers?

When we become angry because someone is rude, we can identify a trigger. When we become jealous over a loved one, we can identify a trigger. When we are uncomfortable in or around a situation, we experience a trigger. They specifically work by creating a response from us, whether good, bad, or indifferent. In the case of addicts, this emotional response is often followed by a relapse.

Triggers can come from anywhere without warning. One second, everything seems to be normal. The next, we may find ourselves obsessing about drugs or alcohol. The moment that leads up to a trigger does not always have to be negative. We can be triggered by certain forms of the weather, certain smells, even from being in similar neighborhoods.

Mental associations that are reinforced over time can create triggers too. Every time we use drugs or alcohol, our minds remember it. Where we used, who we used with, and the time we used, contributes to our triggers. If we are sober and in a similar situation like that, we may feel restless, irritable and discontent. Memories and “war stories” bring our triggers to the forefront of our minds. Embellishing our lives in active addiction, reinforces the idea of positivity while we were using. We must not glamourize the idea of drinking and using if we want to stay sober.

Identifying Our Triggers

The main ones that are easiest to identify are environmental, emotional, and physical. Environmental triggers pertain to a certain setting, even sometimes being a certain time of day or of the year. If we used drugs in the summer, the June and July months may be hard for us to stay sober. Perhaps we often drank during snow storms, the winter months could be a problem. Maybe the weekends is when we would party, and that brings our triggers to the surface, If there is a situation that we always engaged in substance abuse, it will be difficult to encounter this situation sober without feeling the urge.

Emotional triggers are usually harder to identify, but can be by going through therapy, or doing step work. They are primarily caused by an emotional disturbance which lead us to use. Was there family problems at home? Did you feel alone at the time?  Perhaps you were beating yourself up over a loss of a job. Maybe your spouse left you, or you can’t seem to get that promotion at work. Whatever the case may be, it has created a pattern of using during times of emotional distress.

Physical triggers are the most obvious out of all the triggers. A beer commercial on the television, a person using drugs on the street that you used with, driving past a liquor store, and finding a pill bottle in a medicine cabinet are all examples of physical triggers. There is no way to avoid these physical triggers, other than to work past them. Sometimes with extensive therapy and support, it can make it easier to avoid these responses to situations you can not control.

Can We Overcome Them?

The primary step to overcoming our triggers is to grow above and beyond them, to the point where we don’t even get phased in those situations. Pennsylvania Recovery Center’s Intensive Outpatient Program, helps to do this while you are integrated back into the world. Once we have looked back into our past and identified what triggers us, we are able to work towards conquering our problem.  If we have truly worked to recognize them, this will be much easier to recover.

Triggers are dangerous, but they are not undefeatable. We must maintain a schedule of calling a sponsor or someone in our support network when things get difficult. When we try to face our triggers alone, we rarely win. Spiritual growth, paired with an outpatient program, is a recipe for success. Learning to identify our triggers is about more than just relapse prevention, it’s a way to find a new life, a sense of freedom, and a newfound peace of mind.


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