5 Tips for Managing Triggers in Addiction Recovery

Getting clean off drugs and alcohol, or giving up any compulsive behavior for that matter, is a brave thing to do. It’s also one of the most challenging things that anyone in recovery faces in his or her lifetime, and it requires daily maintenance for most of us.

Sounds like a drag, doesn’t it? Au contraire. This is actually awesome news because the life changes most of us undergo to maintain our clean time over the long term include some of the best mind-body-spirit boosters of all time. Not to get all woo-woo about recovery on you guys, but ask almost anyone who’s been clean for a while, and you’ll likely find that their lives have improved tenfold.

All of this being said, there are certain things we want to really be mindful of when we ditch our old ways, and triggers are one–or rather some–of these things. We’re talking about psychological triggers. For the average person, these refer to any stimulus that triggers feelings of trauma. For those with substance abuse issues, on the other hand, triggers can mean any person, place or thing that causes us to want to pick up a drink or a drug, even if it’s a happy event like a wedding or a concert.

Just about every human on planet earth gets triggered from time to time, but for those of us in recovery, a serious trigger can also put us at serious risk of a relapse. So, how do we manage our triggers when they arise?

Here are 5 tips for managing triggers during addiction recovery:

  1. Identify your triggers. This one may sound obvious, but a surprising number of people in recovery have no idea what it means to be triggered, and how dangerous triggers can be for an addict. Just because we’ve given up an addictive behavior doesn’t mean that we automatically wake up enlightened beings, unaffected by the trials and tribulations of life. We all have different triggers and while these may begin to fade once we’ve put together some clean time, they’re likely going to have an affect on us if we come face to face with them in early recovery. Common triggers are walking by bars, being around former drinking and using buddies, relationship challenges, among other things. For folks with process addictions like gambling or sex addiction, common triggers might be watching a poker tournament on TV or porn, respectively.
  2. Avoid situations where you know you risk facing triggers. Once you’ve identified your triggers, keep a list of them in your back pocket at all times (literally and/or figuratively). In other words, maintain an awareness of your triggers once you’ve identified them. If that means keeping an actual handwritten list on hand, do it. Otherwise, just remember what they are, and do everything in your power to avoid situations where you know you might be triggered. Of course, some situations are simply unavoidable. But you can do things like avoid walking by your favorite neighborhood watering hole, or spending too much time with pals that you’re accustomed to partying with. No one is telling you to ditch your friends, by the way, but cutting down on time spent with friends that you only partied with before you got clean should minimize triggering situations. As for your ride-or-die pals, you might try asking them if they mind keeping the partying to a minimum when they’re around you. If they’re true friends, they should be supportive of your recovery journey. And you can always suggest activities that don’t involve heavy partying, like hiking or going to the movies (trust us, these things are actually fun in recovery).
  3. Join a Twelve-step recovery group. While we’re not formally affiliated with any twelve-step recovery program, we do recognize the profound benefits of the twelve steps. Twelve-step programs like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), SLAA (Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous), and OA (Overeaters Anonymous) have so many benefits, it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, by joining a twelve-step recovery group, you’ll have an instant network of comrades just about anywhere you choose to go on this big, blue planet. It’s been said that programs are like AA are kind of like the mafia, but without the violence and the crime. Tony Soprano would approve. Furthermore, you’ll gain access to all sorts of tools that are designed to not only help keep you clean, but can (and will) greatly enhance your life if you apply them. We’re talking about the steps, and one of the best slogans coined by twelve steppers is, “it works if you work it!” In other words, the steps work if you work them. The best part? Meetings are free and they’re everywhere.
  4. Adopt a meditation practice. If you don’t already have a meditation practice, this is another great tool when it comes to managing triggers and, in general, just feeling good. Meditation is an ancient practice that to this day, scientists are still discovering the benefits of. Studies show that meditation can allow you to change the structure of your brain in ways that help you to decrease stress, enhance your concentration, and become more balanced. This can, in turn, have a profoundly beneficial impact on your relationships, productivity levels, and your overall health and well-being. And, of course, it can really help when it comes to managing your responses to triggers. There are many different meditation techniques out there. Find one or several that work for you, and get ready to feel good. And literally change your freaking brain. How cool is that? Om shanti, recovery junkies.  
  5. Move that body of yours. Yes, we’re talking about exercise. Whether that means jogging outside, hitting the elliptical machine, signing up for a yoga class, or simply walking the dog, getting our body moving is a surefire way to boost our dopamine levels. Exercise is basically providing us with a natural high and the best part is that there’s no comedown. Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can really help you to feel good on the regular, and much like meditation, it can really help you to manage your responses to triggers. It’s much harder to let triggering situations to get the better of you when you’re feeling good, and a side benefit is that exercise helps your physique which is just the cherry on top. Mind your limitations, though, and make sure that you’re not overdoing if and when you begin a new workout routine. Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

So there you have it – five tips for managing triggers in addiction recovery. Do you have any tips you’d like to share with us? Perhaps you’ve been doing the recovery deal for a while and you have a few tricks up your sleeve for managing those sneaky (and sometimes very dangerous) triggers that crop up. If so, please comment below – we’d love to hear from you!

Kembali – Asia’s Premiere Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center:

If you or someone you know or love is struggling to get or stay clean, Kembali Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to learn more about our 28-day program. You don’t have to do this alone.

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