7 Relapse Triggers and How to Avoid Them

7 Relapse Triggers and How to Avoid Them

When you’re in recovery, relapse triggers can be everywhere. Developing your own relapse prevention skills is essential when it comes to maintaining your long-term sobriety. These skills are ones that will be instilled during your medical detox and inpatient addiction treatment. Individuals who are new to a life of sobriety will put these skills to use in real life as soon as they transition to sober living. 

The transition to sober living can also create a higher level of personal freedom. This personal freedom can be very appealing to those who have been in an intensive rehab program for a few months. It can also be difficult for some individuals to maintain sobriety without the structure and built-in accountability provided by residential treatment.

7 Common Relapse Triggers

It is best for you to be prepared when it comes to avoiding relapse, and below is a list of common relapse triggers. Your personal relapse triggers will vary significantly based on your history and past experiences. You may discover that you are liable to experience these triggers multiple times.

It is best to avoid the following situations entirely. If you aren’t able to avoid the situation, then it’s wise to have a set of healthy coping mechanisms in place. These coping mechanisms can help you through even the most emotionally uncomfortable experiences.

1. Hanging Out With Old Friends

Making the choice to hang around friends who drink and/or use drugs will not help you maintain your goal of staying sober. When you get sober, you will develop an entirely new circle of friends – even if you were not planning on doing so. These new friends will support you through the tough times and be by your side to celebrate your recovery triumphs as well. 

If you start gravitating toward your old friends, there is a good chance that you’ll eventually return to using drugs. This may happen even if they say they’re supportive of your sobriety. It can be difficult to stay sober when everyone around you is actively using.

2. Spending Time In Places That Are Not Conducive to Recovery

The number of places or events at which you’re tempted to drink or use drugs may be overwhelming. The list may include nightclubs, bars, or holiday celebrations and parties. All of these situations have one thing in common: They all may revolve around excessive drinking. 

The old saying goes, “If you keep showing up to the barbershop, eventually you are going to get a haircut.” It will be difficult for you to change your past behavioral patterns at first. If you’re used to going to the same bar every Friday night, with the same circle of close friends, it will be difficult to repeatedly turn down the invitation. Eventually, you will find a new groove and settle into a new – healthier – way of life!

3. Breakups

It is advised that men and women who are new to recovery do not make any major changes in their lives within the first year. This advice includes your entering into a new relationship. This can be tricky, seeing as many individuals who are new to recovery may seek external validation from a relationship. It is also common to use sex and romance as an attempt to fill a void that has been created by the absence of chemical substances. 

Relationships don’t always last, and unfortunately, the process of going through a breakup brings up a wide range of severely uncomfortable emotions. The list includes sadness, rejection, and a lack of self-worth. It’s better to avoid these emotions altogether if at all possible. It’s important to allow time so that you can get to know your “new self” before getting to know anyone else.

4. Stress

If possible, it is best to avoid putting yourself in high-stress situations. This could mean that you may need to refuse to take a promotion at work if you know it will cause significantly more stress in your life. It may also mean that you need to wait to file for divorce until you have been sober for an extended period of time (at least a couple of years). 

Stress cannot always be avoided, but it can always be managed. While in medical detox, inpatient treatment, and aftercare, you will learn to manage your stress in healthy and effective ways. If you’re ever facing a situation that you’re unsure how to handle, you will have extensive resources available to you to help you through the tough times.

5. Loneliness

If you spent time in a rehabilitation facility, your daily schedule was probably full most of the time. You had therapy sessions to attend, activities to keep you busy, and various other things that were planned for you. Now that you’re no longer living in that scenario, you may find that you have too much time on your hands. This “quiet time” can often lead to feelings of loneliness.

If you keep a positive attitude, time spent alone can be used wisely. You will find that there is plenty of time for reflection or time to start or pick up a hobby. What you don’t want to happen during your time spent alone is to have it turn into a time for self-pity. Being alone and feeling lonely can quickly become your reason (or excuse) to turn to drugs or alcohol.

It’s important for you to reach out and get in touch with others in order to avoid feeling that you are alone on your journey to remain sober. There are many ways to feel more connected with your family, friends, and community. A few examples include:

  • Attending a support group
  • Volunteering and give back to your community
  • Going back to school
  • Finding support through your therapist
  • Reconnecting with your family

6. Mental Illness That Has Not Been Treated or Diagnosed

A strong mind is as important as is a strong body while building and re-establishing your new, healthy lifestyle. If you have an underlying mental health condition, you must address the problem with a medical professional. Ignoring the problem will only increase the chance of a relapse.

Undiagnosed mental health issues that can cause relapse may include

When you’re feeling depressed or anxious, you may gravitate to consuming alcohol or drugs. Your hope is that they’re the answers to feeling better. This is the same reasoning for self-medicating when your emotions are fluctuating from severe highs to lows. 

If these medical problems are not addressed and treated, they will create an unsettled environment with no hope for long-term recovery from your addiction. Treating your medical condition with the correct form of medication and/or therapy will make a huge difference in your ability to prevent a relapse.

7. Being Overconfident In Your Recovery

Believe it or not, confidence is not always a good thing. If you start to get overconfident in your ability to stay sober, you might end up tripping over your own feet and relapsing in the long run. It’s important to note that there is a major distinction between self-confidence and overconfidence.

When you are self-confident, it is likely because you’re proud of yourself and the progress you have made in your recovery thus far. You will feel good about where things stand and confident that if you stay on the right track you will continue to make significant strides. These are all good things. The goal is to make you want to feel proud and capable! However, moving into overconfidence means you may think things like, “I’ve got this,” or, “I can skip a meeting or two here or there because my recovery is so strong and I’m not at risk of relapse.”

It’s important to stay humble while working through a program of recovery. You need to understand and remember that addiction is far more cunning, baffling and powerful than you are. A life of addiction can grab hold of you again, at any point in time, if your guard and defenses are down. Be sure you stay on top of your personal recovery program, and stay as humble as possible!

Healthy Coping Skills for Encountering Relapse Triggers

Relapse prevention skills will provide you with a set of healthy coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms will allow you to successfully work through any uncomfortable emotions that could arise and trigger a situation in which a relapse might occur. Some examples of healthy coping mechanisms include:

Maintaining Contact with Your Sponsor or Other Trusted Sober Support

When an issue arises, simply talking through the problem with someone can be enough to bring some reason and rationality to the situation. As a recovering addict or alcoholic, you tend to think that you can do things on your own. You may feel that you should be strong enough to take on and overcome all of your own issues. The truth is that interpersonal relationships are crucial to success in recovery. It is very important that you surround yourself with a group of like-minded men and women who are available to support you whenever you need them.

Setting and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries

If you are constantly bending over backward to please other people, there is a good chance that you are not paying adequate attention to yourself and your own needs. Neglecting your self-care can be a major relapse trigger. Part of self-care is knowing your own limits. Set boundaries and do everything in your power to maintain these boundaries. Doing so does not make you selfish or self-absorbed; it simply means that you are prioritizing your own recovery.

Finding and Discovering New Ways in Which You Can Practice Self-Soothing

It is important to be able to find ways to decrease your anxiety and/or stress level. For example, if you are feeling stressed out about something work-related, you may find it best to clear your mind by taking a long drive by the coast and listening to your favorite music. This would be the preferred way to destress rather than reaching for a cocktail as soon as you get home. Over time, you will start to recognize what works for you and what doesn’t. Early recovery is a fulfilling journey of self-discovery. The more you learn about yourself, the more stress-free your life will become, and the easier it will be to practice self-soothing in stressful situations!

Relapse Prevention is Available to You

At Chapel Hill Detox, we begin relapse prevention training during the very first stage of the recovery process. We believe that medical detox should incorporate therapeutic care as well as pain-free withdrawal. To learn more about our comprehensive program of recovery, give us a call today.



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