Coping Skills for Addiction and Relapse Triggers
For all who face recovery from abusing drugs or alcohol, detox is only the first step. Once your body is free of those dangerous substances, you can start a new life of abstinence and wellness. Sometimes, it’s challenging to keep on track. Dangerous thought patterns emerge and can act as relapse triggers, or things that lead you down a path back into addiction.
Being aware is as an essential a part of recovery as detox. Once you are able to recognize dangerous thoughts, you are able to identify them right away. That awareness is a key to being able to avoid hazards along your journey to recovery.
Each person who relapses does so for a different reason. But one thing is clear. Those who relapse share some common trains of thought. These misconceptions can become serious pitfalls for you.
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“I Need to Spend Time Alone”
You may have spent hours alone with your drugs or alcohol, isolating yourself to hide the depths of your addiction. However, recovery is the time when you most need a supportive network who cares about your sobriety and how well you are feeling. If you don’t have ongoing support, you will begin to doubt your self-worth and begin listening once again to the voice of the addiction.
Yes, regaining your self-respect does require some time for meditation or introspection. However, the deliberate avoidance of your friends and family leaves you in jeopardy of completely withdrawing from your support network.
Remember that the same people—family, friends, colleagues, or neighbors—who encouraged you to get help are also your cheerleaders as you enter into sobriety. Stay in contact with those people. They should be made aware of what your relapse triggers are, so they can help you when you start to falter.
Find a local support group. This is where you can interact with others who know your struggles firsthand. Spend time with friends who will keep you on track. In the past, we’ve shared information about choosing the right support network during your recovery journey. We also encourage you to engage with more people and add to that trusted circle. Humans are social beings. We need those around us. Those relationships could the only thing to save you from succumbing to relapse triggers.
“I Wasn’t Really That Bad”
It’s frightening how easy you can become nostalgic and then forget about the worst parts of your life during addiction. It happens to many who are in recovery. In fact, some even begin to questions whether they even have an actual addiction. It’s difficult to continue to admit that you had an addiction. That was why you went through detox.
However, when your body and brain begin to recover after detox, it’s easy to put on rose-colored glasses and revive fond memories of partying. You conveniently forget the days when you spiraled out of control.
This thought process is fraught with danger because it justifies picking up the bottle, pipe, or needle again. You begin to believe that you really weren’t that bad, so you question why you need to resist the temptation.
When this happens, jot down a list of five negative things that happened to you while you were using.
Your list of negative events might look like this:
- Best friend abandoned me
- Went to jail
- Kids in foster care
- Lost a great job
- Spouse left
Naturally, you will list your own experiences, but those represent common examples. This exercise helps you to remember how out of control your life really was. In turn, it helps you to resist relapse triggers.
Another exercise you can do is to step into your own shoes just before you got help by writing a letter to your own addiction. Finally, make it a habit to read recovery stories when you are in danger from this dangerous thought pattern.
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“Just Once Won’t Hurt”
Just once won’t hurt. That familiar refrain causes poor decision making. You swear to yourself that you can control your impulses and stop with just one. It can prompt a quick trip to your dealer or a favorite bottle store. This way of thinking will lead to an inevitable consequence—relapse.
Remember that hospital beds and morgues are filled with people struggling with addiction who said, “Just once won’t hurt.” A relapse trigger starts off with a set of thought patterns, and that is all that is needed to set it in motion.
There’s a common saying in recovery, “One is never enough and two is too much.”
People stricken with addictions from those who shoot heroin to those who pick up the bottle struggle with compulsive behaviors. Starting off an evening out with the “just once” thought pattern can place you in peril. “Just once” is a trigger to relapse.
“It Helps Me Manage my Stress”
Let’s face it. We live in a fast-paced world where everyone is stressed out. The after-work ritual of drinking shots with friends or tying off seems like a great chance for some R&R. This is another dangerous trap that many fall into.
A report done by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, states that “Stress is one of the most powerful relapse triggers for relapse in addicted individuals.”
Sounds accurate, right? In fact, many of us started drinking or taking drugs to manage our high levels of stress to begin with! Remember, though, that drugs and alcohol only offer short-term stress relief. You need to learn new ways to cope.
This is why it’s so critical that you find practice new stress-management techniques not only after detox, but during your entire recovery. Learn what your relapse triggers are, and then learn how to resolve the feelings of anxiety and nostalgia you associate with those relapse triggers.
Try reducing your stress with a yoga session, a walk in the park, a binge-watch of Netflix, or even by playing a new game on your iPad. Anything you can do to unwind but remain substance-free is fair game. At the end of the day, all that truly matters is if it makes you feel relaxed while keeping you clear-headed. This will help you stop your dangerous thinking and allow you to continue to focus on your sobriety.
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