Triggers are internal or external cues that cause a person to want to want to engage in previous addictive behavior. For example, internal triggers may be feelings of anger, loneliness, despair, or over-confidence. External triggers may be seeing a place where the person used to abuse substances, holidays when a person is lonely, or seeing people drinking in a movie. Triggers can affect anyone at any stage of their recovery, but for those at the beginning of their journey, triggers can be very difficult to overcome.

There are several ways in which individuals recovering from alcoholism cope with the triggers they experience. In a 2016 thesis study conducted by a researcher from Indianapolis titled “How Those Recovering from Alcoholism Make Sense of Alcohol Messages in Media” several coping themes emerged:

  1. Separation – for several participants, recognizing the consequences of their actions considering their reality helped them to refrain from being tempted by triggers. For example, if someone saw people “having fun” and drinking in a movie, they would remind themselves that they are different from those people and that when they follow what everyone else is doing, negative outcomes occur.
  2. Avoidance – when some individuals found that external triggers were too overbearing, they would attempt to avoid those external triggers. For example, if a person felt triggered passing by a person’s house where they previously used drugs, that person may take a different route when driving.
  3. Spirituality – a few participants noted having faith in God to help them overcome their triggers. Some of the participants were in AA groups, which could have contributed to this coping mechanism.
  4. Social support – when feeling overwhelmed by either internal or external triggers, all participants noted reaching out to someone that supported them, such as a sponsor, friend in recovery, family member, etc. In doing this, some participants were able to work through their feelings and remain sober.

Psychiatrist Dr. Chad Coren explained on The Fix that triggers lead to cravings and urges to use. By employing different coping mechanisms, a person can work through the emotions they feel when faced with a trigger. If you are already in recovery, consider which tactics you use to help and how successful they are. There is much we can learn from our triggers as well as our relapses. Keep pushing through – recovery is possible, and you are not alone.

New Vista Behavioral Health is home to several world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery treatment programs. If you are ready to seek help, call us today at 888-316-3665 for a consultation; our centers offer a variety of methods to help you build your understanding and defenses against triggers.



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