National Recovery Month: 5 Things that Trigger Relapse and How to Avoid Them
One of the most common misconceptions about recovering from addiction is that once withdrawal ends, the person in recovery doesn’t experience further cravings. It leads to the stigma and shameful idea that those who do experience cravings are somehow failing and weak. The reality is that cravings for a substance to which one has been addicted can manifest from nowhere years after a person has committed to sobriety. Sobriety after substance abuse is battle that millions of Americans struggle with on a daily basis. However, knowledge of a few triggers that lead to relapse can help you avoid falling back into old habits and remain healthy and sober. Below is a list of 5 things that trigger relapse and how to avoid them.
There’s no way to avoid stress- it’s a natural reaction to the events in one’s life, either from work, relationships, or changes in the status quo. However learning to properly handle and relieve stress can help people in recovery avoid relapse. Physical exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress levels and promote physical health. Establishing new hobbies such as painting or writing, learning a new language or skill, or becoming active in your community provides a new outlet of pent up stress.
People or Places Associated with Past Abuse
One of the first things people learn in rehabilitation therapy is that in order to move forward into sobriety, you need to release the people and things that bind you to the toxic substance in your life. Sometimes lifelong friendships end and people you love have to be cut off in order to preserve your own sobriety. As someone in recovery, you may want to help a friend or loved one still in the throes of addiction. The best way to do so is to help them enter a rehabilitation program- making yourself personally involved in their struggle can be a slippery slope back into your own addictive lifestyle. Prioritizing your own recovery is not selfish or wrong. What is selfish is asking you to continue exposing yourself to the possibility relapse.
Addiction is closely tied to the emotional experiences of the suffer. A recovering addict is more likely to relapse following an emotionally jarring experience such a tragic death, the end of a relationship, or emotionally charged events. Seeking counseling or other support during such times can stave off the temptation to escape into substance abuse. Sometimes simply being open and honest about your feelings and being surrounded by the right people is enough to taper off the urge to relapse.
Exposure to Addictive Substances
Some believe that once withdrawal is over and a rehabilitation program has been completed, they are strong enough and stable enough to handle exposure to the addictive substance. This is an unwise train of thought because, though all recovering addicts do not relapse, 40 to 60 percent of them do. Less than one second of exposure to the addictive substance can cause a relapse, so avoidance is the best policy.
Similar to relapse being triggered by emotional turmoil, celebratory events can also trigger descent back into abuse. With drugs such as opiates and other stimulants that are closely associated with feelings of elation and excitement, experiencing these feelings can inadvertently trigger cravings. This is often true due to a desire to extend or elevate the positive feelings one is experiencing during times of celebration. Sober parties or other activities that do not involve drinking or the presence of drugs (like bowling, skating, or attending a movie) are great alternatives for celebrating the milestones without risking relapse.
What are some ways you’ve beat the urge and remained sober on your recovery journey? List your helpful tips below!
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.