How to Handle Triggers

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What are Addiction Triggers?

Substance addiction is a wide-spread problem in the United States. More than 23 million Americans have suffered from substance abuse, and 10% of the U.S. population will struggle with addiction at some point. These people are from all walks of life, facing unique challenges on their recovery journey. For many individuals struggling with addiction, it is not the initial detoxification, but the ongoing management of triggers that poses the greatest obstacle to sobriety.

Triggers are any internal emotion, or external stimuli, that might make a recovering addict feel compelled to use drugs or alcohol. And studies show that managing triggers can be a lifelong struggle. These triggers are often highly personal and may involve specific memories, such as a college dorm, a specific military site, or even a song.

Furthermore, while some triggers can be eliminated, such as moving away from a difficult neighborhood, many triggers cannot be entirely prevented. With this in mind, it can be helpful for those in recovery to consider their triggers and develop strategies for handling those experiences in a healthy way.

Looking for help in learning how to deal with triggers or beginning your recovery? Call Resurgence Behavioral Health, and let us support your journey.

Effects of Triggers

Some of the main triggers that those in recovery may face include:

Former friends, family, and other addicts

Individuals with a history of substance abuse likely shared drug and alcohol experiences with other people. These may be former friends, romantic partners, coworkers, patrons at local bars, dealers, or other individuals that can be encountered in daily life.

Ideally, friends and family are supportive of an individual’s willingness to pursue a sober lifestyle. However, some individuals may become resentful, or even try to sabotage treatment. Many people in recovery find that they need to remove certain relationships from their lives, stop frequenting certain establishments, and build new relationships that support sober living.


Anxiety is a known trigger for addiction, especially use of depressants, such as alcohol. And while chronic anxiety can be managed with medication or lifestyle strategies, it is difficult to eliminate anxiety from daily life. Bills, relationship troubles, work stressors, or even hormonal fluctuations can trigger bouts of anxiety.

With this in mind, those who are tempted to use substances as a response to anxiety may need to equip themselves with flexible strategies, such as deep breathing, aromatherapy, soothing music, trusted friends and coworkers, and other supports that can be drawn upon quickly to respond to unexpected stress.

Reminders and memories

Most people can relate to the experience of a song, a smell, a movie, or another stimulus bringing back a memory. When the memory is happy, this can be a wonderful way to reminisce. But when the memory reminds an addict of a time of addiction, it can be a painful trigger.

As with anxiety, it is hard to entirely anticipate triggers that will bring back memories, and even moving to new locations, or beginning new relationships will not entirely eliminate this possibility.

Instead, those in recovery often need to adopt easy, responsive strategies, such as positive affirmations, to help them manage these emotions while they transition to a healthy distraction.


Isolation is a well-documented trigger for addiction and relapse, and it can be dangerous to the physical and emotional health of those in recovery. In fact, research shows that there is a link between isolation and high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even chemical addiction.

Isolation can be particularly problematic for those who have cut ties with connections who pose challenges to their recovery but have yet to build new relationships. When faced with isolation, these individuals may slip back into old relationships, or depression, and suicidal thinking.

For this reason, peer recovery groups, such as 12-Step programs, can help former addicts develop an affirming social circle that will help them feel connected and supported.


Research indicates that insomnia and addiction have a “bidirectional” relationship. This means that addiction and substance use trigger and reinforce each other. This can be particularly difficult for those in recovery, because significant stress, such as the major life changes that come with recovery, can prompt episodes of insomnia.

Since chronic sleep deprivation can result in paranoia, impaired cognitive function, erratic behavior, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, as well as increased risk for serious, sometimes fatal accidents, and depression, it is easy for those coping with insomnia to become isolated, distrustful or desperate for relief.

Taking this into consideration, those coping with addiction should contact their mental health professional or medical provider immediately if sleep loss begins to occur.

Grief / Trauma

Grief and trauma are triggers for substance abuse relapse, and while they can be managed through counseling, they may linger for a lifetime. Studies show that grief, and the negative emotions it creates, can result in heartburn, high blood pressure, cardiac conditions, insomnia, exhaustion, body aches and other physical symptoms. It can also worsen self-care, such as exercising, which can exacerbate physical ailments.

This can result in a desire to numb the pain, leading to relapse.

Grief and trauma can also be ongoing triggers for those in social service or first-responder professions. Child support workers, police officers, and emergency medical staff rarely want to leave their roles, which may be the only careers they ever desired. However, re-traumatization can emerge as a trigger in their work.

Individuals in these situations would be advised to maintain an ongoing relationship with a mental health professional who can assist them with the realities of work-based grief and trauma as substance use triggers.

Mental Health

Mental health is a major trigger for addiction and relapse. In fact, roughly half of all individuals who have a serious mental health issue will suffer from a Substance Use Disorder in their lives. Furthermore, many mental health issues can last a lifetime. However, that does not mean relapse cannot be avoided.

For those who experience serious mental health issues, it is wise to form strong relationships with a substance abuse recovery team, such as the individuals present at a behavioral health center. Many of these recovery centers offer extended aftercare programs, helping those with mental health issues learn about their triggers and emotional needs, and providing an emotional safety net should a crisis develop.

There is no stigma in asking for help, and for those coping with mental illness and substance recovery, a supportive, team approach may be the best solution for lasting peace of mind.

Mental illness and How to Handle Triggers

Although triggers can appear in many forms, and to varying degrees, they can be significantly worsened by the presence of mental illness and may require ongoing support and treatment to manage. Learning how to deal with triggers is very important. When mental health issues are combined with emotional pressure and triggering stimuli, the possibility of relapse increases.

However, recovery is a marathon and not a sprint, and with each passing day of managing triggers, your likelihood of long term success increases. In fact, studies show that, for alcoholics who have been sober for two years, 60% remain alcohol-free, and after five years of sobriety, those in recovery are 85% likely to remain addiction free.

With the support of a behavioral health team, your odds of success can be overwhelmingly positive, and you can break the hold of mental health issues and triggers on your peace of mind.

Treatment and How to Handle Triggers

Triggers are powerful and can arise from any number of biological or environmental issues. This is not a battle that most people can fight alone – and you don’t have to. There are outpatient treatment options to help those struggling with trigger management receive the support they deserve.

With the help of resources such as aftercare programs, 12-Step groups, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, group counseling, one-to-one therapy, stress management, spiritual services, nutrition counseling, treatment for physical ailments, and other resilience-building strategies, those facing relapse triggers can learn healthy coping strategies, and develop an effective support system for their recovery.

Payment Information

Resurgence Behavior Health provides payment plans that reflect your unique needs. The team and resurgence will communicate with your insurance provider on your behalf, and we accept most PPO insurance and private forms of payment for treatment. You can even pay for admission online.

With so many coverage options, we can help you find the plan that is best for you. Just call our caring team at 855-458-0050 and let us help you achieve your recovery goals. Just call us at 855-458-0050 and experience Resurgence.

How to Get Help

At Resurgence, you will find yourself surrounded by staff and caregivers who understand the triggers you’re facing, and how to manage them for long-term recovery. In our relaxing and state-of-the-art facilities, you will discover self-empowerment, as well as the tools and techniques to live a satisfying life, free of addiction.

You can manage relapse triggers – and we can help. Call Resurgence today and experience the difference.