Common Triggers You May Run Into In Recovery

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Addiction is a disease that fights to stay alive even when the patient has undergone several treatments. Recovery from this disorder is difficult and comes with a variety of roadblocks and challenges. Experts say that relapsing is common during recovery wherein the patients go back to misusing the substance they did before the treatment began. But, what causes these patients to leave aside their months of hard work done to achieve sobriety? These are called “triggers”.

While in recovery, patients experience a huge shift in their schedule and lifestyle that affects their physical as well as a mental state. Their body, which was once dependent on the substance, is now adjusting in its absence that causes these triggers to imbalance your mind. Additionally, certain life events or places too can bring back bad memories that can end up being a possible cause for relapse.

What is a Trigger?

A trigger is an emotional, social, or environmental situation that brings back past memories of alcohol or drug use. These can develop strong emotions within an individual, encouraging them to use the substance again. Although triggers do not always lead to relapse, it does create a strong urge to do so.

The whirlwind of emotions after seeing an old friend or a loved one can trigger the desire to have a drink or smoke. These urges can manifest into stronger emotions and feelings which are bound to cause a relapse. Triggers are a common part of the recovery cycle and most of the patients often experience these triggers during their recovery. However, the type and intensity of these triggers vary from person to person.

Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the brain in the same way every other chronic disease does. Once you stop taking treatment, you are likely to experience a relapse. However, the triggers that cause relapse decrease in frequency the more you try to keep yourself away from reusing the substance. Any patient who is in recovery must be prepared to experience these emotional blasts during their recovery.

Types of Triggers

Depending on the patient and the situation, triggers may vary. There are different types of triggers that affect a patient mentally, physically, and even socially. Some are affected by a place while others are deeply connected to a person whose memories can trigger the urge to drink or smoke.

Following are the types of triggers which the patients in recovery may experience:

  • Withdrawal Symptoms

Frequent use of alcohol and drugs makes our bodies depend on the substance. When a patient experiences a treatment plan that drifts them away from addiction, their body responds negatively. These are called withdrawal symptoms.

It can be mild to severe depending on the type of drug the patient is addicted to, and the intensity of addiction. From physical pain to anxiety, to discomfort and even depression, these symptoms can trigger even the most determined person in recovery. Staying honest and upfront with your therapist can help prevent this trigger and the possible relapse.

  • Social Isolation

Addiction recovery is not easy without any support system. Your friends, family, and others can help in a lot of ways to pass through the difficult phase that recovery is. If you isolate yourself from these very people who are in your support, it becomes easy to rationalize your substance abuse.

In the absence of anyone noticing, you may fall back to using alcohol or drugs again, increasing your chances of redeveloping the substance dependence. Thus, it is crucial to keep your friends or family involved in your journey to sobriety.

  • Celebration

Happiness can as well trigger the urge to consume again. A promotion, birthday party, or anything that calls for a celebration may induce the use of it “just once”, feeling that may encourage you to misuse the substance again. It is important to remain calm during these times and focus on your ultimate aim – long-term sobriety.

  • Places

Places such as bars, clubs, hotels, or something as personal as your own room can trigger past memories associated with substance abuse. It could be the place where all your friends used to drink, or maybe a place that specifically reminds you of your loved one, any exposure to these places can bring back happy or traumatic experiences. Result? Relapse.

Any place that has a certain negative memory attached to it should be avoided while in recovery. If you feel the emotions and temptations are kicking in, consult your therapist or someone from your support system. Try choosing a different place or an alternate activity.

  • HALT (Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, Tiredness) 

The most common and well-known trigger during recovery is HALT. Sensations resulting from this trigger can be intense and push you to crave the substance you are working so hard to quit. This trigger can be avoided by following a strict schedule that is filled with exercise, a great diet, a hobby for leisure time, and anything that keeps you happy and distracted.

  • People

The very support system that is meant to guide and help you in your journey to being sober, can as well be the reason for your relapse. Sometimes the addiction emerges from/with an old friend or in the traumatic memory of someone close.

Meeting or seeing the same person during recovery can trigger your brain to revisit all the memories associated with them. It can even lead to a relapse. The reason why it is important to choose friends who support your well being and encourage you to become sober.


Relapse is common during recovery. However, if the patient finds a way to stop the triggers, relapses can easily be avoided. The first few weeks of sobriety are crucial and this is where relapse prevention becomes more prominent than ever. It is always a good approach to be in touch with your therapist and to be extremely honest with them. Remember, triggers don’t necessarily mean relapse. If you find a way to deal with them, they are easy to avoid. Don’t let a single mistake put your months of hard work in vain.