Avoiding Triggers vs. Tackling Triggers

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May 14, 2021

There will come a time, especially in early recovery, when every patient will have to contemplate whether it’s best to avoid specific opiate relapse triggers or take them head-on. Everyone makes progress with handling these triggers at their own pace, but understanding the difference in approaches can help bring clarity to those who feel unsure of the best course of action for their recovery goals.

Preparing for Triggers

Medication-assisted treatment helps patients deal with their substance misuse and eliminates the drugs that their lives previously used to revolve around from the picture. That leaves a lot of time and space for other things to be experienced in life, but it’s crucial to prepare for instances where a trigger may unexpectedly appear. These triggers can be people, places, or things like calendar dates, scents, sounds, or anything imaginable that can cause the brain to recall drug use or negative feelings associated with it. While it’s impossible for people in recovery to completely reconstruct their entire lives to never come across another trigger again, strengthening their reaction muscle is the best defense.

Avoidance Tactics

Some triggers are best avoided, especially the things, people, and places that offer very little control to the person in recovery. Rerouting walks and drives to avoid certain areas that one would frequent when using drugs is an easy solution, but with people being mobile, they’re a bit harder to avoid. Changing personal contact information, blocking numbers of friends who are still active in their addiction or have enabling tendencies, and communicating to others who seem insistent on interactions that they’re no longer welcome around are great and straightforward measures.

Emotional triggers, however, can be a bit trickier to avoid, but using the HALT method and learning to relax by doing activities that stimulate the mind are practical and helpful methods. While it may be impossible for someone to escape their mind, making sure their basic needs are met (hungry, angry, lonely, tired, etc.) and avoiding slipping into emotional spirals are the best way to avoid them.

Taking Triggers Head-On

Certain unique triggers simply can’t be avoided, and people in recovery may become frustrated with their inability to cope, leading to potential complications. That’s why some people engage in what’s considered to be exposure therapy, where they are faced with their triggers in a controlled setting, with the help of an experienced counselor. People who have gone through these practices have found great success in overcoming intense cravings and harmful emotional reactions that could lead to relapse. While this kind of therapy isn’t for everyone and should be recommended by a qualified medical provider, it can improve a patient’s potential for successful, long-lasting recovery, especially for those who suffer from chronic relapse or mental illness dual diagnosis.

AppleGate Recovery is equipped to help those with substance use disorder using evidence-based treatment methods and FDA-approved medications. With the help of substance use counselors, patients will also work on healing their mental and emotional health to give them the best chance at long-lasting, successful recovery from addiction. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and staff.