Substance Abuse: Identify Triggers

by Chris Clancy

October 19, 2017


The unfortunate statistics in recovery from substance abuse reveal that between 40 and 60 percent will relapse. If you’re in recovery, you know that there are triggers everywhere. The better prepared you are to identify triggers, the more successful you’ll be in managing them or avoiding them altogether.

Struggling? Call Us at 615-907-5928 Today

Triggers can be social, emotional or environmental – a hasty reminder of the habit you’re desperately trying to shake. They are lying and waiting to derail your recovery and all the hard work you put into treatment. It will take some work on your part but it will be well worth the effort.

Identify Triggers

First things first – you can’t manage triggers if you aren’t conscious of what they are. Take the time to identify triggers; a list of internal and external factors that make you think about or crave the substance.  An article on identifies some common external and internal triggers and states “long-term drug use creates an association in the brain between daily routines and drug experiences.” Triggers are different for everyone but it’s important to be aware of external and internal triggers that could lead to relapse.

External Triggers

What people, places, things or situations remind would make you want to use again? Unfortunately, this list is life-changing and can leave you making some tough choices. You may have to disconnect from certain activities or even friends or family members because the risk is too high for relapse. It’s important to ensure you don’t allow yourself to be in a situation that leaves you vulnerable. Think about your daily commute and avoid driving through areas where you used to indulge in risky behavior, change social gatherings to coffee shops or bistros and avoid the bar scene. There are plenty of ways to be proactive and make a plan so you can spend your days focused on the end goal – staying sober.

Internal Triggers

Stressful situations can certainly trigger relapse. Stress is a part of life but it doesn’t have to drive a negative response if you learn to manage it. There are several healthy outlets to relieve stress such as exercise, yoga, and meditation. Feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt depression, and loneliness can make you reach for the comfort that substance used to bring. When these inevitable feelings arise, how will you deal with them in a healthy way? Whether it’s taking a walk, calling your sponsor or a trusted friend or family member recognize when you need these outlets and use them.

Structuring the Day to Avoid Triggers

In the article An Individual Drug Counseling Approach to Treat Cocaine Addiction, the author describes that as part of a patient’s recovery, therapists and counselors will help them structure their day to encourage abstinence. It states “people with drug-use disorders often live in an impulsive and chaotic manner. Order and structure can help to lessen the risk of relapse.” In the height of addiction, a user’s day around obtaining or doing the drug so there is a serious void in their lives. The article states, “when newly recovering addicts have too much free time, they are likely to recall the “good times” they had using their drugs. This experience is called “euphoric memory” and understandably tends to lead to desire for the drug.”

Structuring your day with healthy amounts of sleep, nutrition, exercise, and fulfilling activities will help keep you focused and on track for long-term recovery.

JourneyPure Can Help

If you, a spouse, a friend or loved one are ready to get treatment for substance abuse, contact us today at 844-505-4799. Our therapists will help you identify triggers and build the confidence you need to move forward in recovery. With our JourneyPure Coaching™ app, you will have access to a digital recovery plan tracked and monitored by a recovery coach for one-year following treatment.


Can we give you a call?

Share this article