By Haley Kennedy, Recovery Coach – 8.12.2022 –
The journey to recovery is full of many ups and downs. It is full of productive, easy sailing days as well as days when you feel you can barely make it through. And you might find that some of those more challenging times are attributed to a sudden influx of triggers: a person, place, or event that may cause your brain to flashback to the days when you were using.
Triggers are the most common obstacles that can deter an individual from their recovery and sometimes lead to a recurrence of use. To maintain a solid foundation for your recovery, it’s important to understand your triggers but, it’s essential to learn how you can cope with them when they arise.
A trigger is any person, place, feeling or event that causes the urge for someone to use. They often vary in severity from intrusive thoughts to an overwhelming anxiety or sudden need to escape, and they can be internal – sparked from within to fill a void, feel whole, accepted, to escape or feel numb – or external – outside of oneself, or physical.
One of the most common are emotions. Because initially, many people first use substances to avoid unwanted emotions. So, the first instinct when uncomfortable feelings arise, is to numb them with substances.
Intrusive negative self-talk, fantasizing or glorifying active use, or angry thoughts again activate uncomfortable emotions and can provoke someone to use.
Memories have thoughts and emotions associated with them, so painful ones can be difficult to cope with. Furthermore, many individuals living with substance use disorder have experienced some form of trauma that may be reignited in recovery, activating the uncomfortable feelings… see where we’re going with this?
(These triggers often activate internal triggers as well.)
- Smell / Sound / Taste
- Seasons / Time of year
- Credit Cards
The most important thing is to remain vigilant in identifying them, prepare a plan to cope with each one, and utilize the tools and resources to overcome them and move forward.
Some ways to cope with them are:
- Replace negative thoughts with gratitude or positive thoughts
- Move your feet, change your thoughts
- Go for a walk
- Pick up the phone and call your sponsor or other supportive person
- Positive affirmations
- Put on music that you know will shift your mindset
- Remember that your trigger is temporary, don’t obsess or act out impulsively
- Remove yourself or the trigger
- Avoid harmful people, places, and things
On the journey to recovery, cravings to use are often part of the healing process. But you can overcome cravings and avoid a recurrence of use by utilizing the tools you’ve gained and practicing coping skills. There is light at the end of the tunnel: you never have to use again.