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3 Relapse Triggers You Haven’t Heard Of

Are You Prepared for These Lesser-Known Relapse Triggers?

Everyone who’s tried to overcome addiction knows it isn’t easy. It requires a lot of discipline and planning to restructure your life in such a massive way. What makes it more difficult are triggers—those things which cause sudden cravings that make you more likely to relapse. Do you know your relapse triggers?

For some people, their triggers are obvious and they know them well. Those triggers include everything from seasonal changes to music festivals. However, many common triggers are subtler. You might have some of these triggers and not even be aware of it.

Familiarizing yourself with your triggers and planning for them is a vital part of your recovery. Here are a few of those triggers which you may not have heard of, but which could play a big role in your life when you’re not expecting it.

Positive Changes and Celebrations

People recovering from addiction know how negative events in our lives can be triggering. Many of us started our addictions as coping mechanisms to deal with unhappiness. Therefore, difficult situations and rough patches can make us want to go back to our addictions out of habit. However, have you considered how positive events and changes in your life can trigger a relapse?

Photo of a woman looking troubled while her friends watch a sports game holding beers.

Watching the game with friends? Make a plan and resist the feeling that you’ve “earned” an exception.

All changes, whether positive or negative, are stressful and take up a lot of energy. Getting married, or buying a home, or being promoted at work—all of these changes put a lot of pressure on you and disrupt the routine of your life. This can cause anxiety and burnout. These are exactly the kinds of moments which require extra self-care and planning to make sure you navigate them in healthy ways.

Celebrations themselves can also be triggering. Many celebrations are full of temptations like food and alcohol. However, that’s only part of it. Think of yourself when you’re celebrating a major accomplishment: you feel like you’re invincible. It’s easy to get swept up in the celebration and feel like you can make an exception because you’ve “earned it”. That negotiation you make with yourself can compromise your recovery and help addiction creep back into your life.

This isn’t unique to any particular celebration. For specific recommendations, feel free to check out our posts about navigating the holiday season, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. However, regardless of the occasion, the general recommendation is the same. If you’re going to celebrate, you must mentally prepare yourself with a plan so that you don’t get carried away.

Trying to Go “Back to Normal”

It’s all too common for people in recovery to think of their lives before addiction as the “normal” that they’re trying to get back to. People often want to get back on track so that they can act as if the addiction never happened in the first place. Unfortunately, the very desire to go back to your old life could trigger a relapse.

Everyone starts an addiction for a reason. A lot of times, people don’t think through how their old lives contributed to them becoming addicted. They don’t see that their old habits set up the conditions that led to unhealthy coping mechanisms and addiction.

Trying to get back to that life is trying to get back into the very mindset you were in before you first started your addiction. Does that seem like a safe headspace to try to return to?

Don’t romanticize the past or try to go “back to normal.” Instead, appreciate that you’re changing and growing. The point of recovery is to build a new life and learn new strategies for overcoming challenges. Don’t look back with rose-tinted glasses—there’s nowhere to go but forward.

Family Relationships

Photo of friends and family gathered at a dinner table.

Even time with loved ones can create high-stress situations that might trigger a relapse.

Many people in recovery are thankful to be able to count on their close family members as their strongest allies in their fight against addiction. However, this is far from always the case. In fact, for many people, their own family members could trigger a relapse.

Many people who struggle with addiction come from complicated backgrounds with unhealthy family dynamics. They may have started their addiction as a response to unaddressed emotional traumas, feelings of being neglected or misunderstood, or toxic home environments. For them, the addiction was an escape or a way to feel some control.

For those people, it’s important to realize that stressful relationships put a very real burden on your capacity to resist relapse. You should prepare for your interactions with family members in case of a trigger.

However, even family members who love you can pose more subtle triggers. Simply put, they can be enabling. If you’re recovering from a food addiction, you should watch out for Mom and Grandma always cooking and pushing food your way. If you’re a recovering alcoholic, you should be careful about hanging out with Dad at home if he always keeps beer in the fridge.

These are just some of the many different types of triggers which people in recovery struggle with. Figuring out what your triggers are is key to learning how to plan around them and ensuring a stronger foundation for your recovery.

If you want to learn more about any aspect of recovery, consider attending The Other Side’s Recovery Group on Tuesdays at 7pm. We maintain a safe and sober space where you’re able to talk freely and connect with others who have gone through similar experiences. Stop on by—we always welcome a new face.

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