How Do I Handle Triggers?

Completing treatment for substance abuse and addiction is a major milestone. While many people might assume that they’ve done the heavy lifting while in treatment, the reality is that you are on a lifelong journey of abstinence from both substances and the triggers that created your addiction in the first place.

Addiction is a chronic disease, and relapse back into addiction is a very real possibility as you leave treatment. Temporary relapse does not necessarily mean that you have failed at trying to stay sober; it is a detour on a long road to a better life. Don’t use relapse or difficult emotions as an excuse to fall off the wagon; it’s time to start creating a better life for yourself through establishing a sober lifestyle.


During your process of addiction recovery, you likely uncovered several situations where you felt tempted to drink or get high once more. This could have come in the form of a craving, and uncomfortable emotional situation in therapy, or a physical withdrawal that made you want to relapse to subdue these uncomfortable emotions once more. These triggers are quite easily managed in in-house therapy, as there is limited access to the substances that you once abused to create your addiction. Have you given any thought to what you will do when you are again on your own, and trying to navigate life soberly to create a better life for yourself?

Whether you want to admit it or not right now, you will experience cravings and longings for old ways of thinking and doing; some will be subtle, while others will be overwhelming, making you second guess your decision to stay sober. These triggers will come in the form of people, places, experiences, and emotions that will make you want to drink or get high again. How do you manage these unexpected and unpleasant situations and continue on the path of sobriety and success?

Here are some strategies for managing your sober pathway–you’ve worked hard to get here, and you need to stay here to see what beautiful things life has in store for you:


Everyone’s addiction journey is different, and the reasons you became addicted are quite different from others around you. Uncovering what got you here in the first place is the key to avoiding these situations and emotions in the future. Processing difficult emotions as they arise will help you to stay on your sober pathway, uncovering gifts that life brings you as you go.


Triggers and cravings are likely to always be a part of your recovery. Recovery is a journey, not a destination. You are fooling yourself if you think these moments will never again happen to you; knowing what to do with them and having some strategies in place for management will help you to overcome temporary moments of weakness. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends, find activities to do that nourish your soul, and don’t be afraid to dive into heavy emotions as a means of healing and release.


Having strategies in place for trigger management is one thing; practicing them until they become second nature is the key to success in any moment of weakness. Call that friend up and have a “mock” conversation about your feelings, put together a therapeutic supply box so that you can go to it in times of need, or even practicing getting out of a situation by physically removing yourself will often be the difference between failure and success. The more you can practice these management methods and ingrain them into your consciousness, the more likely you will be able to stave off those cravings.


You will be able to manage situations that trigger you more efficiently if you are healthy. Eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, and feeding yourself emotionally and spiritually will all aid in trigger management when those moments do arise. If you are hungry, angry, lonely, and tired, you are more likely to succumb to those moments of weakness. Do your best to create healthier habits after treatment, and you’ll feel strong enough to resist temptations that come your way.

If you do find yourself deficient in one of these areas, take action. Give yourself what you need at that moment to be successful. If you are hungry, eat! Lonely? Call up a friend or family member to talk about your feelings. Angry? Do what you can to validate this emotion and release it in the healthiest way possible. Taking action in those moments, and learning to identify what you truly need will keep you from running back to something you do not need in your life.


If you know that walking in your familiar neighborhood of bars and watering holes is not suitable for you, stop doing it! If there are friends or relationships in your life that were dragging you down into the pits of addiction, you may have to cut those people out of your life while you find healthy relationships and people that support you on your new journey. There is no need to test yourself; testing is a slippery slope, and it can lead you back to former habits that no longer suit you and your new goals in recovery. If you know that a situation, person, or place no longer serves your highest good, it’s time to move on. This might be the hardest part of your journey, but it could also be the most rewarding, as your new habits will lead you in the direction of joy, happiness, and peace.

You deserve the best life that you can create for yourself–love, peace, and healthy relationships can again be yours; you have to learn how to create these things one day at a time. Through learning more about yourself, committing to self-love and compassion, and seeing the gifts that life gives you every day, you’ll be able to create a life that is fulfilling. Keep moving forward!

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