One of the most important aspects of recovery is knowing your triggers. Knowing what triggers your cravings gives you much more control over them. Often, you will be able to avoid triggers entirely, relying on foresight more than willpower. If you are exposed to a trigger, you can take steps to stop a craving from wrecking your recovery. The problem is that brains are tricky and we don’t always know what our triggers are or understand how triggers work. Here are some tips for figuring out what your triggers are.
Start with the obvious.
This are the people, places, and things that are most closely connected to your addiction. People you frequently drank with or used drugs with, the familiar places you saw those people, and the things you used, such as paraphernalia, and, of course, the drugs or alcohol itself. Don’t stop there, though. The event horizon of addiction is constantly expanding. Many people don’t realize the dopamine associated with substance use actually comes in anticipation of use. That’s so your brain better remembers the circumstances leading to the pleasurable experience. Anything you’re exposed to during that window might become a trigger. Think about TV shows you might have watched or music you might have listened to. It’s better to identify a false trigger than to get blindsided.
Remember to HALT.
You may have heard the acronym HALT, which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Any of these can put you in a bad frame of mind and get you thinking about relapse. Fortunately, they are superficial and relatively easy to fix.
Pay attention to how you react to things. Chances are, you are very familiar with the feelings that precede a craving. Maybe you get a feeling of anticipation or excitement. Maybe you can feel it somewhere specific in your body. If that feeling occurs outside of a context in which you would expect it, you may have discovered a trigger. Make a note of it.
Watch out for anniversaries.
The anniversary effect often trips people up. It could be the anniversary of something bad, like the death of a loved one, or something positive that makes you want to celebrate. Both are dangerous. Sometimes people hit a year of sobriety and suddenly start feeling pressure. Firsts are sometimes a problem too. First Christmas without an ex, first office party sober, and so on.
Pay attention to difficult emotions.
Stress, depression, anger, feelings of loss, or feeling overwhelmed are all major triggers. Unfortunately, we all experience these differently and in different contexts. Some people may be super vulnerable to stress at work, but not in their family lives. Some people are confident in one situation and anxious in another. It depends a lot on your values and insecurities. Any situation that makes you feel helpless or overwhelmed is likely to be a trigger. Think back and try to identify when you’ve felt that way, and try to figure out what was behind it. What was the situation? What specifically were you afraid of in that moment? Keeping track of these will allow you to have some distance the next time it happens.
If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, we can help. Recovery Ways is a leading addiction treatment provider with an excellent recovery rate. Our expert staff includes masters and PhD level therapists and board certified addiction psychiatrists. Our comfortable facilities will help to make your treatment as enjoyable as possible and our therapists use proven techniques like sensory integration and recreation therapy to help to engage the world without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. Call us today at 1-888-986-7848 or email us through our contact page to learn more.