A trigger is an item, a person, or even an emotion that can cause a recovering addict to experience strong cravings for whichever substance they abused in the past. Triggers are dangerous, most especially for the newly rehabilitated. They can cause old desires and needs to resurface, as well as effectively persuade recovered addicts to relapse and abuse drugs or alcohol again. Some triggers, such as the material ones, can be avoided. Material triggers can be lighters, alcohol, syringes or other items that might remind a recovered addict of their addiction. Emotional triggers are very different and are much harder to avoid.
Emotions that can be triggers could be feelings of stress, anger, sorrow and fear. They are all negative emotions and are largely the emotions that torment an individual to the point of drug use in the first place. Because addicts commonly become addicted to drugs by using them to avoid these feelings, when the emotions resurface during sobriety it can be very difficult to resist reverting to old coping mechanisms.
The first thing to do when learning how to deal with and approach emotional triggers is to identify which emotions will cause the reaction of wanting to use drugs or alcohol. This step can be very specific and changes with each individual. Some addicts may have begun using drugs in order to deal with the loss of a loved one. In this case, feelings of sorrow or abandonment can cause a trigger reaction.
Once you do identify which emotions are likely to trigger a serious episode of cravings, the next step is to form a plan of action when those feelings do arise. It is likely that you won’t get a warning when one of the negative emotional triggers arises. Often times, the events that cause these emotions are abrupt, unseen and undesirable. These triggers are unlike the one, which can pertain to an ex- alcoholic as he prepares to drive home, and must pass a bar he used to drink in very often. In that scenario the ex-alcoholic has time to fortify himself against the trigger and be ready for it. Emotional triggers often have no such time period. Because of this factor, the plan for control over the emotional triggers has to be specialized.
Remaining in control will start with remaining calm. Not panicking and not breaking down emotionally is essential when approaching an emotional trigger. Breathing deeply and evenly can help from feeling that things around you have become hectic or out of control. The next thing to do is acknowledge the way you are feeling. Admit to yourself, your sponsor or to a love one that the way you are feeling is making you want to relapse. Then, find ways to take your mind off of the drugs and alcohol and also the negative emotions. These ways could be finding a solution if the emotions are caused by a problem, doing something to cheer you up or even staying busy with healthy things until the bad time passes. Avoiding emotional triggers is very difficult and is often impossible. In life, it is hard to tell when something is going to take a turn for the worse and most of the time it is unavoidable.
Dealing with emotional triggers in a healthy and successful way is very possible. By having a plan in place early for when this time comes, you will have that much better of a chance to avoid relapse. Keep in mind always, what your own personal goal is and make sure to never lose sight of it. Also remember, that drugs and alcohol were never a way to cope with problems in life. Recovering addicts should remember how well it helped them the first time they turned to drugs or alcohol to deal with stress of negative emotions. Remembering that the option to get high or drunk only caused greater problems can help avoid a relapse due to an emotional trigger tremendously. With these things in mind and a plan for any potential emotional trigger can help anyone remain sober and successful.
Family and Friends of Addicts—please remember—you can’t force an individual deal with an addiction problem. But you can offer support and arrange an intervention for addiction treatment. Reach out to us. Recovery from addiction is just a click or a phone call away. For more information on how to arrange an intervention for your loved one, contact us at:
Florida Center for Recovery – Addiction Treatment Center: 1-800-960-5041
Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Recovery