Making it to recovery is one thing. Staying there is another.
Recovery is a condition that must be maintained carefully. For those of us who’ve completed treatment (or reached its outpatient stages), we rely on 12-step groups, accountability to our friends, and the skills we’ve learned in recovery to keep us away from relapses.
It’s a stiff challenge, too. Every day we face multiple addiction triggers. They can be as innocuous as an ad for alcohol or emerge from the complexities of family relationship
Here are 5 common environmental addiction triggers to watch out for – and what to do if you get caught in one:
1. Past Relationships: Losing friends hurts. But when those friends are still engaged in the same behaviors and habits which threatened our lives (and went to drug rehab to avoid), sometimes the painful path is the only option. Even if they don’t intend to, friends who still engage in substance abuse can negatively influence our own behaviors, causing us to undo the hard work and growth we achieved in rehab.
It’s often why moving away from one’s familiar surroundings to an addiction center or sober home is a smart move. By removing ourselves from people who remind us of our former life, we’re able to really focus on recovery and start building a life free from drug and alcohol abuse.
2. Past Surroundings: Old friends aren’t the only potential addiction triggers we run into in recovery. Former hangouts can trigger thoughts of substance use and cause relapses, too. A former bar, a place where we used to score drugs, and places where we engaged in substance abuse can be powerful addiction triggers.
Again, this is another good argument for moving away from one’s surroundings for a new area that lacks reminders of our former substance use.
3. Present relationships: It’s very common to have people in your life who may not understand what you’re intending to do with your life in recovery. Some may judge you harshly for past behavior; others may dismiss your experiences in rehab out of hand, or think you’re being silly or weak by avoiding alcohol or drugs.
This is a stressful, ugly situation to be in, but there’s a way to make things a little easier on yourself. Being transparent about your past, your rehab experience, and your recovery goals is always a great policy. Subscribing to a policy of openness about your new life makes it easier for others to understand, respect, and get where you’re coming from.
Sometimes, though, recovery means cutting ties with people. Again, this is hard to do, but it’s your life and your recovery.
4. Social Media: Social media networks have revolutionized the way we interact with each other, for good and bad. It’s great to be able to reach out to relatives or friends no matter where they are, but the social media landscape can also be dangerous.
Social media can make us feel inadequate. Rehab often leaves us feeling vulnerable, and it takes time to rebuild our senses of worth and self-esteem. News feeds can make us feel angry, hopeless, and paranoid, especially if we get into habits like “doom-scrolling.” It’s also surprisingly easy to let social media influence us back into substance abuse, either as a response to stress or via peer pressure.
Suggesting that we leave social media behind is kind of unrealistic. A better way is being judicious about what and whom we interact with online. Taking a serious look at the feeds and people we follow can help you weed out any potential relapse sources. Better yet, cutting down on social media use will give your self-image time to heal and become more resilient.
5. Emotions: Stress, sadness, and loneliness can all contribute to relapses. How? These feelings may be bad, but they’re also part of ordinary life. Everybody experiences them. For those of us in recovery, drugs and alcohol helped keep those emotions muffled so we didn’t have to deal with them as often. In recovery, those same emotions can become much more challenging.
Let’s be honest – we’re living in troubling times at the moment, and it’s easy to feel depressed because of current events. It’s important to keep perspective, recognize that life goes on, and utilize the healthy coping strategies we learned in recovery.
I’m Feeling Like I Might Relapse. What Can I Do Right Now?
If you feel like you’re going to relapse, reach out to a sober friend, a former (or current) case manager, your 12-step sponsor or anyone else who understands your relationship with drugs and alcohol.
In the meantime, here’s a simple, easy-to-remember strategy you can use: H.A.L.T. It’s an acronym for four states which contribute to relapses:
- H: Hungry. Believe it or not, hunger can trigger relapses through stress and impulsive behavior. If you find yourself hungry, eat a healthy snack.
- A: Anger. Like we said about social media, we live in stressful times and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Mindfulness meditation or finding a quiet place to just take five can help calm you down and keep you centered.
- L: Loneliness. There’s such a thing as having too much time to yourself. Fortunately, if you’ve been through a drug rehab or addiction center you’ve likely got plenty of people to call on if you’re lonely. It’s also surprisingly easy to make friends in a sober living home, too.
- T: Tired. Healthy sleep patterns benefit us in a lot of ways. When we’re tired, we tend to make poor decisions. Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep; even a quick 15-minute nap during the day can help.
How Sober Living Homes Can Help Protect You from Relapse
Sober living homes are places where independent living can be practiced without fear of relapse or temptation. Sober homes are drug-free, so there’s no need to worry about finding booze in the refrigerator or drug paraphernalia under a bed. Your roommates help keep you accountable to your recovery goals as well.
House managers protect you, too. They’re often veterans of addiction treatment themselves and are great sources of support when you’re feeling in danger or a relapse.
As for finding a sober home to live in? That can be a challenge.
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