What Can Trigger a Relapse and When is Relapse Possible?

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What Can Trigger a Relapse and When is Relapse Possible?

If relapse weren’t a problem, drug treatment centers would have a far easier job.  Many years of research into what can trigger a relapse and when is relapse possible has led to some significant improvements in addiction treatment.  But, people need to know that rehab works so they will have faith in the program.  Without trust, many addicts refuse treatment or leave the program too soon.  However, “faith” in a program is not the most vital component.  Essentials are the tangible things: KNOWLEDGE, FACTS, TRUTH.

Avoid Relapse:  Know the Triggers

A dose of faith can’t hurt (and in a spiritual sense may be a key to recovery) but knowing the FACTS about addiction leads to practical solutions. One cannot list every possible trigger for relapse, but this breakdown provides basic categories to intercept, minimize risk, and stay on track.

Understanding what one’s triggers are is essential to the recovery process. Not knowing them is like target practice while blindfolded. It’s difficult or impossible to manage them if one has never observed or thought about them. It takes understanding what a trigger is and its related phenomena, then getting a grasp on one’s individual triggers.  This usually requires some help since one is “inside” the situation, and one must step outside to observe from a different point of view.

By taking such an inventory, one can then work out a strategy to prevent or deal with the following triggers:

  • Influence of other people.

Not everyone is a good influence. It’s no secret that some folks do not have our best interests in mind. Someone encouraging drug or alcohol abuse, overtly or covertly, is not helping the cause of getting or staying sober. It was likely peer pressure that contributed to the substance abuse, to begin with. Conversely, deeming someone a “foe” who are trying to help does not particularly help. The primary thing to look at with people is, of course, their actions. One need not be overly critical, but being observant is a good start. This too may require help from someone “exterior” to the addict’s circle of friends, associates, and even family.

  • Influence from the environment.

If visiting the local pub with your pals invariably resulted in getting blackout drunk, it follows that one ought to avoid the pub. Other cases of environment can act as a trigger. A place where one experienced trauma can be potentially detrimental when one returns, thus going there with a trusted friend may be the solution. One’s hometown or neighborhood could be problematic if all one’s memories involved in drug abuse. Some recovering addicts even move to a different area or city altogether as part of their strategy. Each situation is different.

  • Hospital and doctor visits.

While hospitals and doctors help people, many people feel uneasy while in them or their care, but the influence can go far deeper. While under medical care, one can be prescribed drugs, which can be disastrous for the recovering addict, especially in the case of opioids. The rampant prescription of opioids for decades has contributed to what has now been deemed the opioid epidemic. No recovering addict should be given an Rx or administered any drug unless absolutely necessary for medical reasons. Some doctors are aware of this and are highly cautious when it comes to opioid prescription. Unfortunately, not all are and some offices and “pain clinics” are highly unscrupulous about it. It is something to be acutely aware of.

  • Alcohol use.

Alcohol is all too often a surefire path back to prior substance abuse, and many alcoholics must avoid any contact or association with alcohol altogether. This is challenging since alcohol is everywhere in our society. A recovering addict or alcoholic should have a good grasp on their tolerance level regarding the presence of alcohol. If one is on the right track, the cravings should subside. But for some, especially in the early stages, it’s best to avoid the sight or smell of alcohol. A recovering drug addict may think they can drink and still not use, opting to play with fire. One must have an excellent grasp of what substances to avoid.

  • Solitude vs. sociability.

Everyone is wired differently. For some, their addiction is rooted in solitude. They drink or use when they’re alone. For others, it’s the opposite. When they’re with friends who are having a good time, they join in and drink, or drugs can get involved. From sitting alone in a quiet, dark room to the festivity of the holiday season and every shade in between, it’s up to the recovering user and those helping to gauge the situation and draft a strategy.  Part of that strategy is to develop effective communication skills that will improve sociability.

  • Financial trouble.

Nothing causes stress quite like money problems. Financial stress is commonly at the root of a person’s drug or alcohol abuse, propelling them down a self-perpetuating spiral where all their money goes into their drug habit, a truly vicious cycle that feeds upon itself. Climbing out of that hole is hard work, and when financial stress hits, one should have someone to turn to. When one feels all alone, sometimes the only “answer” is the escape of drugs, putting oneself back into that downward spiral. Treatment centers often offer help with job placement and even paths for vocational training and financial management skills to help people get back on their feet and prospering.

  • Relationship troubles.

When you ask a former addict or alcoholic what led to the habit, you’ll often hear it was a breakup or divorce or disastrous relationship. Ask anyone who’s been divorced if it went “smoothly” and you’ll likely hear a resounding “no!” On top of this, marital trouble can go on for years and years before finally ending in divorce. But a lot of people stay together and need help in their current relationship to get to the root of their substance abuse problem. The process of working through this can be painful but is often essential for lasting recovery.

  • Familial strife.

Familial strife is often the basis of alcoholism and addiction. Abuse, neglect, and other areas of tumult within the family can be unbearable. If these are not addressed in rehabilitation, one goes back home where these problems kick right back in. People often don’t want to look at these situations (past or present) but ignoring them serves to exacerbate the situation. Trust is paramount when working through it. When bridges have been burned, it takes a team to rebuild them.

  • Guilt.

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. An addict may have transgressed against their sense of morals to support their habit, lied, cheated and stolen from their own family. Anyone working in addiction recovery will tell you nothing is surprising about this. When a person “does wrong,” they feel guilty and may feel compelled to drink or use in an attempt to numb that feeling. A far better option is to have one or more people who you can talk to, who won’t judge, who can help guide you through any dark alleyways if you’ve gotten lost. Blaming or making anyone feel guilty is pointless. Compassion and practicality work far better.

  • Lack of structure.

Aftercare and a proactive support network are vital for continued sobriety. A lack of routine and healthy activities can send one down a precarious road.  A structured life full of positive and productive time slots is conducive to an overall shift in lifestyle. Exercise, learning new skills, being around positive influences, being outdoors, helping others, working in the arts – all these and countless more replace old habits that revolved around substance abuse. No one can ask for an entire structure. Life throws many curveballs, but as one builds up new, healthy habits, these become a way of life, one of productivity and prosperity.

  • Unschooled support network.

A recovering addict or alcoholic needs a support network. This goes without saying. However, those within that network – friends, family, associates – must be appropriately grooved in on what is needed. Often the former addict will need one or more individuals they can contact anytime 24/7 if they are in trouble. Triggers and cravings can hit at odd times due to odd circumstances. Thus a schooled and stable network is essential for smooth recovery.

  • Idle hands.

The expression “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” has Biblical origins, and the statement carries considerable truth whether in a spiritual or secular sense.  In addition to a structured routine above, the best approach is to have an arsenal of things to do that one enjoys that are positive and not detrimental to sobriety. Hobbies, sports, a side job, a musical instrument, books, etc. could all help. The point is to think ahead and make a conscious effort.

  • Lack of goals.

While in drug rehab the goal is to recover, to get clean and sober and stay that way. But then what? There can be the initial “high” of successfully getting clean, but depression can set in following that. This is often due to just not having a new game to play. This is yet another example of doing some personal soul searching and making decisions, but one shouldn’t have to go it all alone. Goals and dreams are the sparks that set your life alight, but with aspirations can come heartbreak and setbacks, so having one or two trusted people in your corner is also vital.

  • Failure to stay positive.

No one said life was easy. All manner of upset, pain, and stress can and does befall every one of us. Staying positive can seem cliché, and it’s a bit much to ask someone to stay positive all the time, but when you do, it often works (cliché or otherwise). Staying positive doesn’t mean ignoring reality and pretending everything is all right – quite the contrary. It involves learning from the past, solving problems in the present, and building a future.

When is Relapse Possible?  Talk to the Experts at AFR

If you are in recovery, it’s not uncommon to be worried about relapse.  It’s important to remember that relapse doesn’t mean you have failed, nor does it mean the rehab failed.  More information about when is relapse possible can be obtained by contacting the experts at A Forever Recovery.

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