Psychotherapist working with drug addicted young man indoorsMuch of the discourse on addiction and recovery focuses on what causes addiction and why it’s so difficult to quit. However, the challenges of staying clean and resisting the chronic urge to relapse are perhaps even more important. While it’s certainly possible to recover from addiction, it’s not rare for a person to relapse multiple times before achieving lasting sobriety. Part of the reason for this is that at first, people can struggle to identify their triggers or can’t see the ways that they’re slipping until it’s too late.

Why Does Relapse Occur?

Relapse is a complex event with varied causes, contrary to the outdated notion that it’s essentially a failure of character and discipline. It’s rare that relapse occurs because a person who had previously done the work to recover simply gives up or decides they feel like doing drugs. Rather, relapse occurs as a gradual process wherein a person’s newfound control of their life slips, at which point a trigger can become the final straw. This is why healthy coping mechanisms are so important to anyone trying to stay clean.

How to Identify Your Triggers

Virtually anything can be a trigger for the right person. If you frequently listened to a certain artist or went to a specific place to use drugs, these things could become triggers. Having bad memories of past celebrations during your struggle with addiction could make it hard for you to stay clean during the holidays. Common triggers include:

  • Shame/guilt/anger/regret
  • Mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and things associated with past trauma
  • A loss of routine and reliability in your life
  • Family tragedy and other sources of pronounced grief
  • Situations and places that call back to a person’s past drug abuse
  • Stress, shame, regret, etc.
  • Facing judgment, mistrust, and rejection from loved ones

Experiencing a trigger is usually not going to make a person relapse on the spot. Indeed, anyone who’s stayed clean for an appreciable amount of time will have resisted many trigger moments. However, the accrued stress from many small triggers or a major trigger event can both sabotage your recovery if you don’t have a healthy outlet to cope. Likewise, using unhealthy coping mechanisms can undermine your quality of life and mindset in such a way that degrades your ability to resist triggering experiences.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

A healthy coping mechanism can be any sort of method of dealing with triggers that is either positive or neutral to your overall well-being. They can be a routine that helps you consistently feel good and confident, such as exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep. But you can also have on-the-spot coping mechanisms such as chewing gum, using a fidget device, indulging a hobby or reaching out to a friend and talking about what you’re going through. Having a rich variety of healthy coping mechanisms that work for you is key to staying clean.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Unfortunately, unhealthy coping mechanisms are often those that we turn to first. Some unhealthy coping mechanisms are obvious, such as using substances besides the one you’re addicted to. However, others are subtler. For instance, watching a show you enjoy can be a great way to unwind, but doing these things to excess or simply using them to distract yourself and dissociate from your situation will set you up to fail. There’s a time and place for light, easy fun as well as confronting your issues head-on.

Find Out More About Addiction Recovery

At America’s Rehab Campuses, we take a truly comprehensive approach to our role in the fight against addiction. While we provide excellent, evidence-based treatment for addiction itself, this is only the beginning. We take the next step to provide all addiction treatment services people usually need, from detox and rehab to outpatient care and work to educate the public. Our blog is filled with valuable resources for those struggling with addiction, their loved ones, and anyone with frequently asked questions about rehab and addiction. Explore our website to learn more about addiction, recovery, and modern treatment options.