Completing treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction is a major accomplishment and something to be proud of, but it doesn't mean that the hard work is over. The hard work actually begins when you leave rehab and start applying what you learned in treatment to real life.
This is when you truly make the commitment to stay sober for the rest of your life. This is also the time when the toughest challenges begin to arise. These challenges take the form of triggers, which can be people, places, or situations that make you crave alcohol or drugs.
These triggers arouse certain emotions that can make a craving for drugs or a drink overwhelming. It's important to understand what your triggers are and what you should do to manage them when they arise.
Every person in recovery will have their own unique triggers, so knowing what they might be before you leave recovery is a great way to be prepared. Here are some other valuable tips for managing triggers during the recovery process.
1. Get to know your personal triggers.
This is the first and most important step that starts while you're in treatment. By going over your own personal history, talking with a therapist, and educating yourself about addiction you can begin identifying your unique set of triggers. These could be walking by a specific bar in your old neighborhood, hanging out with old friends or drug buddies, a certain time of the day or week, or even feeling bored or sad.
2. Don't fool yourself into thinking you're invincible.
It's quite common for someone fresh out of rehab or with several years of sobriety to convince themselves that they are immune to triggers. Overconfidence will only end up hurting you in the end. It's important to keep a realistic outlook about your recovery and be aware of the fact that it's an ongoing process that brings lessons and obstacles, no matter how great you did in rehab or how many years you have sober.
3. Have a plan ready.
Formulate a plan for when a trigger presents itself and practice it if necessary. It may feel silly, but practicing could possibly save you from letting a rough day overwhelm you or even having a relapse.
4. Put your health and wellness first.
Taking steps to maintain your physical and mental health during recovery is another valuable tool for managing triggers and preventing a possible relapse. This means making sure you eat a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, exercising, and taking care of your mental health.
Neglecting these areas (and it's easy to do so) makes a person more vulnerable to triggers and puts them at a higher risk of a relapse. Learning how to be more aware of emotions is an especially valuable skill.
You can identify when you are feeling sad, bored, or so forth, what triggered that emotion, and what you can do to handle the emotion in a healthy way. This puts in a position where you're better equipped to handle the factors in your life. Instead of letting emotional responses happen automatically, you can learn to take a step back from them and do the things necessary to manage them.
5. Don't try to test yourself.
After going through the process of identifying your triggers and finding healthy ways to deal with, it can be tempting to try and test the strength of your recovery by purposely exposing yourself to a known trigger. This is a bad idea because no matter how far you may have progressed in recovery, there is always a risk that a known trigger or even a new one may affect you.