Trigger Happy: Overcoming addiction Triggers In Recovery

Trigger Happy:

Overcoming  addiction Triggers In Recovery

One of the major hurdles in recovery is the emotional and physical cues/triggers that we experience which can make us feel like breaking our cycle and using again.

These triggers are unique to everyone. For some, it might be spending time with old friends; dealing with stress at work; visiting certain places; or for me it was almost everything in my daily life that deserved cause for a celebration was a trigger (hoovering, washing the dishes, and just breathing)

Whatever the cause, triggers should be expected—and like many other facets of recovery, expecting and planning for them is the best course of action for success.


How do you identify triggers?

Triggers are thoughts, feelings, and memories that remind you of your substance use or the lifestyle around your substance use. Brain scans have shown that these triggers are tied to your neurochemistry, activating the key parts of your brain that lead to the desire to use.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) breaks these down into categories—physical and psychological symptoms—and knowing about both can help you protect your recovery.


  • May include tightness in your stomach.
  • Feeling nervous through your body.


  • May include increased thoughts of how good you would like to feel from using drugs.
  • Remembering times you used in the past.
  • Planning how you would go about getting substances.
  • Feeling you need substances.


What kind of triggers are there?

The most common types of triggers include: 

  • Exposure to the substance itself.
  • Seeing other people using.
  • Contact with people, places, times of day, and situations commonly associated with using (such as, parties and bars, getting home from work, weekends).
  • Particular types of emotions (such as frustration, fatigue, feeling stressed out); even positive emotions (elation, excitement, feelings of accomplishment) can be triggers.
  • Physical feelings (feeling sick, shaky, tense).


How do you manage and prevent triggers?

The easiest way to manage and prevent triggers is to avoid them in the first place. However, this is not always realistic in practical life, and having a set of skills to effectively manage your triggers will help you.


Try the following:

1: Talk it through - Talking through your triggering experience with a friend, mentor, sponsor, loved one, or friend can help you process, overcome, and prevent the same trigger from occurring in the future.

2: Engage in some form of distracting activity - This may be reading a book, cleaning the house, going for a walk, playing a video game; whatever you can do to distract yourself completely for a short amount of time is often enough to overcome a trigger. Did someone say exercise? Nice.

3: Challenge your thoughts - When a trigger occurs, we tend to find ourselves only remembering the good things about our previous use; changing the way we think about this use (actually remembering the awful things that usually happened) can help us change our thoughts which can help overcome a trigger.


We are all different so no one strategy can prevent or manage every trigger you might experience in your recovery. However, if you developing a set of strategies you will have tools available to you to overcome triggers and prevent relapse.


What to do if triggers result in a relapse?

Understanding triggers and how they can impact your recovery can often prevent relapse from occurring. However, addiction and the process of recovery is not always straightforward and sometimes fighting these triggers may prove unsuccessful. If this happens, don’t panic! Ask for help, reset and don’t beat yourself up.

You CAN and WILL get back on track.

1 comment

  • Great blog post!


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