Relapse triggers can affect any individual in recovery that encounters people, situations, or settings they associate with past drug abuse. Often times, they experience strong urges to use drugs or alcohol and slip back into addictive use. Such cue-induced relapse, can occur long after the individual has stopped using drugs or alcohol. Certain triggers set off our desire for food, substances, and behaviors. All advertising is designed to trigger our impulses. Situations, people, and times of day can all be triggers. They can be overwhelming or subtle.
When drug abusers stop using, they make important progress toward recovering from their addiction. But the danger of relapse (beginning to use alcohol or drugs again), threatens the chances of full recovery. Identifying what triggers relapse, can prevent it.
Below are known relapse triggers:
· Exhaustion: Allowing yourself to become overly tired. Not following through on self-care behaviors of adequate rest, good nutrition, and regular exercise. Good physical health is a component of emotional health. How you feel will be reflected in your thinking and judgment.
· Dishonesty: It begins with a pattern of small and unnecessary lies with those you interact with in family, social, and work settings. This is soon followed by lying to yourself or rationalizing and making excuses to avoid working your program.
· Impatience: Things are not happening fast enough for you. Others are not doing what you want them to do, or what you think they should do.
· Depression: Overwhelming and unaccountable despair may occur in cycle. If it does, talk about it and deal with it. You are responsible for taking care of yourself.
· Frustration: With people and because things may not be going your way. Remind yourself intermittently, that things are not always going to be the way that you want them.
· Self-Pity: Feeling like a victim, refusing to acknowledge that you have choices, and that you are responsible for your own life and the quality of it.
· Cockiness: "Got it Made," compulsive behavior is no longer a problem. Start putting self in situations where there are temptations to prove to others that you don't have a problem.
· Complacency: Not working your program with the commitment that you started with. Having a little fear is a good thing. More relapses occur when things are going well than when not.
· Expecting Too Much From Others: "I've changed, why hasn't everyone else changed too?" You can only control yourself. It would be great if other people changed their self-destructive behaviors, but that is their problem. You have your own problems to monitor and deal with. You cannot expect others to change their lifestyle just because you have.
· The Use of Mood-Altering Chemicals: You may feel the need or desire to get away from things by drinking, popping a few pills, etc., and your physician may participate in the thinking that you will be responsible and not abuse the medication. This is the most subtle way to enter relapse. Take responsibility for your life and the choices that you make.
The 10 most common relapse triggers:
1. Being in the presence of drugs or alcohol, drug or alcohol users, or places where you used or bought chemicals.
2. Feelings we perceive as negative. Particularly anger, sadness, loneliness, guilt, fear, and anxiety.
3. Positive feelings that make you want to celebrate.
5. Getting high on any drug.
6. Physical pain.
7. Listening to war stories and just dwelling on getting high.
8. Suddenly having a lot of cash.
9. Using prescription drugs that can get you high even if you use them properly.
10. Believing that you no longer have to worry (complacent). That is, that you are no longer stimulated to crave drugs/alcohol by any of the above situations, or by anything else. Therefore believeing it’s safe for you to use occasionally.
Relapse Signs and Symptoms
Experiencing Post Acute Withdrawal: I start having problems with one or more of the following; thinking difficulties, emotional overreaction problems, sleep disturbances, memory difficulties, becoming accident prone, and/or starting to experience a serious sensitivity to stress.
Return To Denial: I stop telling others what I’m thinking/feeling and start trying to convince myself or others that everything is all right, when in fact it is not.
Avoidance And Defensive Behavior: I start avoiding people who will give me honest feedback and/or I start becoming irritable and angry with them.
Starting To Crisis Build: I start to notice that ordinary everyday problems become overwhelming and no matter how hard I try, I can’t solve my problems.
Feeling Immobilized (Stuck): I start believing that there is nowhere to turn and no way to solve my problems. I feel trapped and start to use magical thinking.
Becoming Depressed: I start feeling down-in-the dumps and have very low energy. I may even become so depressed that I start thinking of suicide.
Compulsive And/Or Impulsive Behaviors (Loss Of Control): I start using one or more of the following- food, sex, caffeine, nicotine, work, gambling, etc. often in an out of control fashion. And/or I may react without thinking of the consequences of my behavior on myself and others.
Urges And Cravings (Thinking About Drinking/Using): I begin to think that alcohol/drug use is the only way to feel better. I start thinking about justifications to drink/use and convince myself that using is the logical thing to do.
Chemical Loss Of Control (Drinking/Using): I find myself drinking/using again to solve my problems. I start to believe that “it’s all over ‘till I hit bottom, so I may as well enjoy this relapse while it’s good.” My problems continue to get worse.
~Adapted from Terence T. Gorski's Warning Sign Identification Process