Planning Ahead for Triggers in Recovery
Triggering feelings, circumstances, and events are always going to be an obstacle to living a sober life — but those road bumps can become mountains if you’re unprepared or unsure how to respond. While triggers can be difficult to face, finding ways around them and tackling them responsibly will make it easier to resist substance use urges in the moment and in the long run.
To help you stay on the right path in sobriety, we’ve compiled five preventative measures to keep yourself from encountering — or succumbing to — harmful triggers.
Identify Your Triggers
Your recovery journey is unique, and so are the triggers that can put you in danger of relapsing. Analyzing the situations that induced emotional or mental symptoms like anxiety, depression, fear, or self-deprecation in the past can help you plan ahead and put your sobriety first.
It may be tough, but it’s valuable to take a deeper look at your relationships, living conditions, and traumas to understand not only which people, places, and things are triggering, but also why. These can range from obvious issues like failed relationships, financial hardships, or losses to undefined traumas like prolonged isolation, family problems, or smells, tastes, and noises that recall your lows. Considering them when you’re in a good place is the first step to overcoming them when they’re in your face.
Set Firm Boundaries
To avoid triggering situations, establish limits that work best for you and your lifestyle. You likely won’t feel comfortable going to a bar or party with friends, but you may also need to consider how you can safely enjoy concerts, sporting events, family gatherings, and more.
A variety of situations could provoke, so it’s essential to learn how to set boundaries. Saying “no” to invitations or activities isn’t rude, especially if you suspect that specific people or places could negatively impact your sobriety. Be honest and straightforward when rejecting an invite to help others understand and respect your decision: it’s more important to skip events that don’t support your goals.
Examine Your Relationships
Everyone needs people they can rely on for additional compassion and motivation, and that’s especially true during early recovery. Reflect on your relationships with friends and family to determine who will encourage your past behavior and who will support you throughout your journey.
Toxic relationships can create challenging feelings of guilt, pressure, and shame that could drive you to engage in destructive behaviors. If you feel your current connections aren’t lifting you up and bringing you joy, it may be time to build new ones. Consider reaching out to fellow Extra Mile Recovery alumni to bond with people who truly understand what you’re going through.
Since addiction affects the mind, body, and spirit, it’s essential to account for all three aspects. Putting your health and happiness first isn’t just “giving yourself a break,” it’s also a responsible and crucial part of managing the ups and downs of sobriety.
Self-care isn’t limited to soaking in a bubble bath or applying a face mask, although they can absolutely help; it refers to any activity that contributes to your overall wellbeing. Consider exercising, meditating, hiking, or writing in a journal. Set aside time for hobbies you love, such as reading, playing an instrument, cooking, or watching your favorite show. Let yourself reset and regain energy!
Use the H.A.L.T. System
To increase self-awareness, try the H.A.L.T. system. Sometimes, we need to identify the underlying reasons we feel badly well before we can effectively combat negative emotions.
- Hungry — Eat tasty, balanced meals to sustain your energy and mood. Each day, aim for three nutritional meals and three healthy snacks with protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Angry — Anger is natural, but it’s important to express in a healthy way. Use that energy to accomplish something like exercise or cleaning, and once the feeling subsides, take time to acknowledge and interpret it so you can learn how to avoid or channel it the right way.
- Lonely — If you feel isolated, ask yourself whether you’ve reached out to your support network recently. Contact friends, family members, or sponsors and be willing to talk through feelings.
- Tired — Normalize your sleep schedule by waking up and going to bed at the same time every day. If you have trouble falling asleep, create a dark, quiet sleeping environment and try calming activities like reading, drinking tea, or taking a bath before bedtime.
Extra Mile Recovery Can Help
You don’t have to prepare for recovery triggers on your own — we’re here for you every step of the way with preventive skills and a lifetime of support. With individualized counseling, chronic relapse programs, aftercare planning, and more, Extra Mile Recovery can teach you how to identify your triggers, avoid unnecessary exposure to them, and respond in healthy ways when they arise.