Recovery is an ongoing process that requires you to put yourself first in order to heal. To do so, you need to avoid things that may trigger a relapse. For many, the workplace is one of the factors that encouraged the very addiction they are working to overcome.
Research shows that individuals in certain professions are more prone to addiction than others. When recovering from an addiction, it’s important to surround yourself with people and places that mitigate triggers. This can be challenging when returning to work. With the right tools, you can work to address, manage and avoid workplace triggers.
Dealing With Addiction Triggers in the Workplace
Addiction triggers differ for everyone, so understanding your triggers and the symptoms that come with them is important. For many individuals, stress plays a central role in triggering opioid cravings and addiction. Studies suggest those dealing with drug abuse are more susceptible to stress than the general population. This may be attributed to the way opioids impact the body over time:
- Opioids increase an individual’s cortisol levels.
- Cortisol levels drive an individual’s stress response.
- Increased cortisol levels heighten the mesolimbic reward system.
- An activated mesolimbic reward system propels cravings or compulsions to continue using opioids.
Workplace stress and triggers are fleeting, but they can be powerful. Having an action plan for when you feel at risk of a relapse can help you deal with the effects of a trigger. If meticulous planning doesn’t work for you, finding alternative coping mechanisms is crucial.
There is no template for the way someone deals with triggers at work. Each person is different, and their recovery process is just as varied. However, the following tactics and trigger tools can be applied in a variety of situations.
1. Check Your HALT Levels
Sometimes something as simple as being hungry or lonely at work can be a trigger. You can use the acronym HALT to keep track of important physical and emotional levels that could lead to relapses.
HALT stands for:
Keeping a routine that includes a good diet, proper rest and positive social engagements is one of the best ways to prevent your HALT levels from spiking. A quick snack or a short break with supportive coworkers can be an excellent solution if you find yourself experiencing a HALT trigger at work.
2. Distract Yourself
Triggers are usually temporary, and one way to deal with them is to distract yourself until the craving passes. You may take a short break from work to go for a walk or read a chapter of a book. Or you might use meditation to clear your mind, no matter your location.
Another way to distract yourself is by redirecting your energy into making a list of the benefits of staying sober. If you’ve already made this list, a trigger episode is a good time to review it.
The activity you choose can be anything as long as it effectively distracts you until the trigger passes.
3. Reduce Stigma
There is a lot of stigma surrounding addiction. Misconceptions about what sort of people become addicted and different addiction types perpetuate a close-minded attitude. This perspective is detrimental to successful long-term recovery.
Requesting workshops and staff education on sensitive topics can help lessen addiction stigma. The more knowledgeable people are about addiction, the easier it is to break down unhelpful misconceptions about it. Addressing the stigma can also make it easier for people to be forthcoming about their addiction struggles, allowing for a newfound understanding and camaraderie among employees.
4. Utilize Employee Assistance
If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), you may be able to use it to get support during your recovery. Your EAP may allow you to speak to someone confidentially about the struggles of addiction recovery. EAPs also might help employees find the appropriate resources or counseling they need.
Ask your employer about the details of your EAP to expand your options for dealing with triggers.
5. Find a New Job
Sometimes no matter what you try, your workplace presents oppressive triggers. If this is the case, finding a new, low-stress job that allows you to focus on your recovery may be necessary. Many people opt for a “sober” job that is low in stress, doesn’t require investment outside of working hours and allows them to focus on recovery.
Managing Addiction Recovery in a Stressful Workplace
Stress can be a trigger for people in recovery as many develop an addiction or can relapse when seeking ways to cope with stress. If a new job isn’t an option or you love your job and want to keep it, you will need to find ways to manage workplace stress.
Here are some ways to balance stress and support recovery while working.
1. Prioritize Yourself
When you’re in recovery, your well-being and health should be the most important thing. If your job is too stressful, consider taking time off or requesting a transfer to a less demanding department. Focus on your health and establish a routine that incorporates the following elements:
- Eating well
- Getting plenty of rest
- Getting an appropriate amount of relaxation
2. Recognize Triggers
You can’t overcome your triggers if you don’t know what they are. Take time to be introspective and pinpoint your triggers as well as ways to avoid them. For example, if stress tends to be a trigger, make sure you’re not taking on more work than you can handle.
3. Get Support
Individual or group counseling allows you to gain valuable advice from professionals while also befriending people who are in recovery. A new group of friends who are all on the same journey as you can help boost your self-esteem and serve as motivation to maintain sobriety. Close family and friends can provide the same sort of support and are great to have around.
Avoiding Workplace Triggers in Recovery
The best way to reduce your exposure to triggers is to avoid them altogether. This is sometimes easier said than done. Keep the following recommendations in mind to guide you throughout your recovery:
- Avoid stress: Even if you don’t consider stress to be a big trigger for you, avoiding it can make your recovery easier. Meditation and exercise are two great ways to keep your stress levels down while maintaining your physical and mental health.
- Know your limits: Acknowledge both your physical and mental limits and do your best to stay within them. Try not to overexert yourself before you are ready to take on a normal schedule, and remember to prioritize your needs.
- Talk it out: As you deal with the challenges of recovery, don’t be afraid to discuss your feelings. Talk to trusted friends, family, coworkers, counselors or whomever else you can be open with. You can voice any concerns or fears you may have and discuss ways to address them appropriately.
- Take breaks: Recovery is not easy, and you deserve to rest. Take breaks during your work, chores, socializing and more to avoid feeling burnt out. Make sure you practice the self-care you need to maintain proper sleep, rest and stress levels.
Medication-Assisted Treatment for Addiction
An established recovery program is a helpful step toward recovering from opioid addiction and overcoming triggers. AppleGate Recovery offers medication-assisted recovery coupled with counseling and other tools to encourage long-term health. We utilize two medications to aid in recovery and allow you to get your life back on track while still living it. AppleGate Recovery is committed to helping you gain control of your life and providing the support needed to maintain that control.