One of the main goals in recovery-focused therapy is to help the client recognize and overcome those feelings, behaviors, attitudes, and thoughts, and to confront situations, people, places, and things that trigger the craving, desire or decision to use. Regardless of the trigger, it’s important to know how to identify and cope without giving in to the craving or desire.
Certain scents, sights, or sounds can be powerful triggers. Coming in contact with someone, especially a former drinking or using companion, seeing an advertisement or commercial, the smell of cigarette smoke…All have the potential to ignite the urge to use and relapse. In therapy, you will learn to stay mindful of all the negative consequences of past use and the ways in which using or drinking was destructive in your life. Attending AA or NA, calling a sponsor or a support group member and then getting to a meeting are excellent interventions when feeling vulnerable to relapse.
Recovery-focused therapy teaches coping skills for unpleasant feelings such as sadness, anger, frustration, impatience, confusion, anxiety or worry. You will learn that when they occur, these feelings can be managed without leading to relapse. Understanding that unpleasant emotions are a normal part of life, being able to accept them for what they are, and sharing them with a trusted supportive person is a powerful and effective way to cope with them. It is also important to avoid isolating at these times.
Trigger: Putting yourself in places where you have used, or contacting friends with whom you have used, is risky business (because it makes it using too tempting).
It is important to avoid the places, people and situations where you have used in the past. It can be difficult to say goodbye to old friends, but your healthy self-interest must come first.
A major trigger for relapse is the conflict you experience with people you must interact with at home or at work. These interactions can trigger emotions like anger, resentment or sadness. This can stimulate a craving and desire to use or drink. A main goal in recovery-focused therapy is to adopt new skills, such as how to communicate in open, honest and assertive ways to head-off relapse. Learning to set appropriate boundaries with others is an important goal for growth and development and is critical for the protection and reinforcement of sobriety.
Experiencing physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal can be rough. Withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable, even painful, and cause you to want to “self-medicate.”
In recovery-focused therapy, you learn to regularly remind yourself and NOT forget:
That first drink or drug can easily start the vicious cycle of addiction all over again.
That you can’t use in moderation, or just use “less harmful” drugs.
That alcohol or drugs aren’t the solution to the way you feel.
That the consequences of using drugs or drinking are painful and destructive.
That all the work you did to get clean and stay clean up to this point is at risk.
That it is important to face triggers with reality, humility, and the recognition that you are the only one in control and you have the strength to make the right choice.
Recognize danger signals
The chemically dependent person must be able to identify his own danger signals and take action when they appear. Below are some of the more common behaviors, attitudes, moods and thoughts that trigger a relapse.
Increased conflict and irritation with others.
Decrease in recovery-focused activities.
Frequenting people, places and activities that have in the past been triggers for use.
Using compensatory activities like increased smoking or eating.
Reduced care for self or others.
Decreased sense of gratitude, recognition and humility towards self or others.
Feeling or Mood Clues:
Increased depression and irritation.
Projected anger on others.
Feeling bored and frustrated.
Anxiety and phobias.
I can stop any time I want.
I don’t have a problem.
I’m fine—even my friends think so.
I promise not to use anymore.
My life is crazy, but not because of drugs or alcohol.
I’ve done so well that I should be able to test my willpower.
Checklist of Triggers
Know what your “triggers” are so that you can develop a plan of action to cope when confronted.
Being around friends or other people who are drinking who are using drugs or alcohol
Being in places where you once used drugs or alcohol
Remembering things that have hurt you in the past. (This can be anything you find painful, from the death of a loved one to being “dumped” by your boyfriend.)
Feeling angry with someone else
Feeling angry with yourself
Feeling frustrated, or like you or your life is just hopeless
Feeling worried or anxious, whether justifiably or for no good reason
Feeling bored, there’s nothing fun to do, especially without drugs and alcohol.
Feeling guilty and ashamed, either of things you did while using or drinking, or because of other aspects of your life
Feeling sad or depressed
Feeling tired or exhausted
Feeling lonely, whether alone or in a crowd
Feeling overwhelmed either by problems or by day-to-day life
Feeling happy, good about yourself and your life
Feeling you have a reason to celebrate—anything from getting an A on a test to having a birthday.
Smelling something that reminds you of drinking alcohol or using drugs
Hearing a song that reminds you of drinking alcohol or using drugs
Seeing something or someone that reminds you of drinking alcohol or using drugs.
Being somewhere or in some new situation where you feel like no one would ever know if you used drugs or drank alcohol (just once).
Feeling totally stressed out—for reasons big or small, or for no apparent reason at all.
Feeling sorry for yourself (self-pity).
Putting on weight and feeling like using drugs could help you take it off.
Being in totally new situations where you have to meet new people.
Not going to 12-step meetings, treatment or counseling sessions.
Having fights, arguments or conflicts with specific people (such as your parents, your friends or someone you are dating)
Not having any friends who don’t use drugs or alcohol
Feeling out of control in other areas of your life (such as shopping too much, eating too much, dieting too much, overworking yourself or acting impulsively)
Feeling like the best way for you to get attention is to drink alcohol or use drugs