What Can You Do to Deal with Common Triggers and Avoid a Relapse?

MHWS - Substance AbuseWhether you have been in addiction recovery for a week or for ten years, the process of avoiding triggers and staying sober is a life-long struggle for many former addicts. Indeed, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that between 40 and 60 percent of all drug addicts in recovery relapse. While this is a sobering statistic, it shouldn’t deter you in your own journey towards sobriety.  However, it should encourage you to arm yourself to deal with the common triggers that addicts of all types face, in order to avoid relapsing yourself.

With that in mind, here are the most frequently experienced triggers that can lead to relapse, as well as three effective coping techniques that can help you deal with such triggers head-on instead of turning back to substance abuse.

Understanding Common Triggers that Recovering Addicts Face

Exactly what can trigger the desire to begin abusing substances again depends on the individual, but there are certain common categories of triggers that almost every recovering addict will face eventually.


Negative emotions often lead those in recovery to seek comfort or solace from formerly-abused substances. Stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, depression, loneliness and fear can all spur substance-abusing behavior. However, positive emotional experiences can also lead to relapse. A fun, happy event such as a birthday or promotion causes many recovering addicts to want to celebrate as they used to.


Finding yourself around the people you used to abuse substances with is a very common trigger, particularly if they are still using illicit substances and pressuring you to do so. Even places that you used to go while using drugs or alcohol can act as a trigger. For those who have a problem with alcohol, attending social events where others are drinking can potentially spur a relapse.


The use of other substances–even ones you didn’t abuse–can act as a trigger. For example, a heroin addict in recovery who drinks alcohol faces a greater chance of relapsing into heroin use.

3 Ways to Handle Your Triggers and Prevent Relapse

Particularly because recovery is often an ongoing, life-long process, you won’t always be able to avoid your triggers–but you can learn to cope with them. Here are some of the most effective strategies that can help you avoid relapse:

Know your own triggers

Understanding when you’re most likely to experience the urge to abuse substances again is key in avoiding relapse.

Build a support system

Create a network of friends and family around you who can help you steer clear of triggers, spot warning signs of relapse and hold you accountable for your choices.

Become a member of a formal therapy or support group

Being able to talk about your experiences in a recovery based support group, with those who are facing similar feelings, can help give you the strength to prevent relapse.

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