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10 Most Common Relapse Triggers in Addiction Recovery

Posted Thursday, 29 February 2024




the journey to recovery is a brave and transformative undertaking. However, it's crucial to recognize that the path isn't always smooth, and various factors can pose challenges along the way. One significant hurdle in maintaining recovery is the presence of relapse triggers—those situations or emotions that might reignite the pull of addictive behaviors. 


In this article, we’ll help you to understand these triggers and also provide effective strategies on how to manage them for a successful recovery journey.


Relapse triggers can be broken into a few groups: people, places, activities, emotions, relationships and even songs and movies. Here we have listed the 10 most common relapse triggers and what to do to avoid them.



  1. HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired


The acronym HALT, developed by AA is used to describe high-risk situations for those in recovery. These warning signs can be used figuratively and literally. For example, being physically tired from lack of sleep this week, or being emotionally tired from too much unmitigated stress can both be warning triggers.


  1. Emotions

Many people identify undesirable emotions such as anger, sadness, and loneliness as major using triggers. We are conditioned to use in response to these unwanted feelings. However, many people also report desirable emotions such as excitement, satisfaction, and accomplishment can also be a trigger based on the learned behavior of needing to “celebrate” good things by using. 


  1. Stress

Stress could possibly be the biggest addiction relapse trigger because of its wide range of effects on the mind, body, and spirit. Here at Horizon Rehab, we offer comprehensive stress management training for clients extending their primary treatment. 


  1. Over-confidence

Becoming over-confident in recovery puts you at risk for relapse. Having self-confidence is necessary but becoming over-confident often results in a reduction in recovery activities and less attention to warning signs. Many newcomers report that their initial lack of strong urges to use caused them to believe they were “cured” and no longer had to take their disease seriously.

  1.  Mental or physical illness

Depression, anxiety, and other underlying mental illnesses can trigger drug or alcohol relapse. Physical illness and pain can also put you at risk for relapsing, as your body is stressed. Prescription drugs for physical pain or mental health can seem extremely justified (after all, we get it from a doctor), but our disease does not differentiate between therapeutic and recreational drugs, and we must be vigilant. 




  1.  Social isolation

Reluctance to reach out to others or join a sober support system through NA / AA/ GA, SLAA or another recovery group, can lead to social isolation and loneliness. The more you become socially isolated, the more likely it is you will feel unique or different and once again start to feel no one understands how you feel. 


Ironically, the worse we feel about ourselves the more likely we will isolate from others. 

Social anxiety can also be a struggle for many recovering addicts, which is why having a counselor or sponsor can help you avoid social isolation. Make forming a sober support network a priority in your recovery. Clients who extend their stay at Horizons will be involved in social interaction role-modeling exercises.

  1. Sex and relationships

A common, but often ignored suggestion is to avoid dating or becoming romantically active in recovery for at least the first year. There are many reasons for this, one being that new romantic relationships can put you at risk for relapse. A breakup with your new partner could lead you back to using due to emotional stress. A potential crossover from your initial addiction to a sex or love addiction; or using relationships to fill the void left by sobriety also creates an increased risk for relapse. In addition, virtually all newly recovering people admit 

that being in a relationship reduces the time and energy they would normally invest into their recovery. Even if a person doesn’t relapse, being in a new relationship can reduce the recovery process (time and quality) by up to 80%.

  1. Getting a promotion or new job, car, house, etc.

Positive life events are often overlooked as relapse triggers. Getting a promotion or new job can lead to an urge to celebrate. You may fall into the false idea that is celebrating with a drink or drug ‘just this once’ will be ok. Increased income can also trigger thoughts of being able to afford your drug of choice. We sometimes fall into the trap of think social acceptability or success equals advanced recovery. While a promotion or other positive event is exciting and can boost your confidence, it may also come with added responsibility, pressure, and stress. That’s why it is important to make a plan for how you will celebrate without drugs or alcohol in advance of actually being in this situation


  1. Reminiscing about or glamorizing past drug use


Relapse is a process. If you find yourself reminiscing about times when you used to drink or use in a way that overlooks the pain and suffering your addiction caused, this is a major red flag. We call this euphoric recall or selective memory. You can avoid this trap by actively working on your recovery program and reminding yourself how active addiction was painful and bleak at the end. 

If you find yourself in this pattern of reminiscing, do not ignore it! Talk to a sponsor, counselor, or supportive friend about it - they will help remind you why you chose a life in recovery.

  1. Social situations or places where drugs are available 


Another one of the most common relapse triggers is putting yourself in situations where drugs and alcohol are available. It is not always so straightforward though — simply driving through an old neighborhood or catching the smell of a pub as you walk by can be enough to trigger intense urges to use. 


Understanding and managing common relapse triggers is not about living in fear but about adopting a proactive stance toward a fulfilling recovery. It involves self-awareness, the development of healthy coping mechanisms, and a commitment to building a support network that understands and uplifts you. By going through these triggers with resilience and a clear understanding of your personal strengths and vulnerabilities, you can pave the way for a sustained and meaningful recovery journey. Remember, recovery is a process, and with the right tools, each step forward becomes a victory.


Do you think you or your loved one have an addiction and want to seek help?


If you or a loved one are seeking guidance and support on your journey to recovery, don't hesitate to contact us. Our team of dedicated professionals is here to help you explore additional recovery methods and treatment options tailored to your unique needs. Take the first step towards lasting recovery by reaching out to us today.


You don't have to face addiction alone—we're here to walk this path with you.

 

Contact us now 

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