A trigger is anything that provokes a craving. Cravings don’t usually come out of nowhere. Even if you aren’t always aware of a trigger, something stirred your memories of using. Staying sober requires you are aware of your triggers to you can avoid them as much as possible. If you can’t avoid them, being aware of a trigger makes it easier to brace yourself against cravings. Here are the main kinds of triggers to watch out for.
Environmental triggers. These are usually obvious. If you walk into a public bathroom and it smells like marijuana, that could be a strong trigger. If you are on vacation at the beach and everyone around you is drinking, you will probably want a drink. It could be more specific associations, like passing a bar you use to drink at, or a corner where you used to buy drugs. You see these cues and your brain automatically says, ‘Oh, it’s time to use again’. You can mitigate the damage of these triggers by avoiding places you strongly associate with drugs or drinking.
Social triggers. Some people have a lot of problems with social triggers. Often, they find that their friends have no desire to get sober, or even to refrain from drinking or using in their sober friend’s presence. Many people find that recovery requires them to stop associating with most of their old friends. This creates a new problem: loneliness. Social isolation often makes people feel depressed, which is itself a trigger. As a result, people in recovery often feel they have a difficult choice to make between friends who use and no friends at all. One way to address this problem is attend meetings and make friends there. That way, you can enjoy some social support and benefit from your peers’ expectation that you remain sober.
Emotional triggers. In a sense, every trigger is an emotional trigger because it’s the emotion that makes you want to use again. However, emotional triggers are often where the mystery cravings come from. Stress, anxiety, depression, and anger are common emotional triggers. Anything that causes those feelings will suffice, even if it’s not at all related to addiction. So maybe your boss yells at you and you go home feeling angry and a little scared you might be sacked. That’s a huge warning sign. There are also subtler emotions that might cause cravings. Very positive emotions are even more dangerous for some people. As with environmental cues, some emotional cues might be very specific. In much the same way you might dream about someone you hadn’t thought about for 10 years, you might have a craving that seems totally unrelated to anything happening in your life.
Figuring out your triggers takes patience, observation, and maybe a bit of help. Whenever a craving hits, think about what’s going in your life that may have caused it. Write about it and see if any patterns emerge. The more aware you are of triggers, the better you will be able to manage them.
Smarmore Castle Private Clinic in County Louth, near Dublin was founded in 1988 as a residential rehabilitation hospital treating people suffering from drug and alcohol purposes. Smarmore Castle believes in helping patients lead a life of abstinence through 12 Step programmes, detox and medical treatment, psychotherapy, and complementary therapies. For more information, please call 041-214-5111. For those who live out of the country, the international number is 00353-41-214-5111.
Last updated & clinically assessed 30 March, 2022