Relapse and Trigger
Relapse and Triggers
We are either working on our recovery, or working on a relapse.
— Author Unknown
The return of an illness after a period of improvement: that’s how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines relapse. We can apply this definition to our addiction, which the medical field agrees is a disease. Unfortunately, when some hear the word relapse in relation to drinking or using, they associate it with failure and judgment. People with addiction do not get the same compassion as those with other life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. When a friend or family member has another heart attack or cancer returns, the phone rings with sympathetic calls, and casseroles and flowers are dropped off at the house. People ask what they can do to help. No one blames, shames, or judges this group of people. When addicts are faced with “the return of the illness,” however, their disease is viewed in a different light. The addict is often shamed or ostracized, and certainly no one’s bringing casseroles to the door.
If you do relapse, realize that this is part of your journey and is not a moral failure. You can start over, and you can jump-start into a stronger recovery. It’s also a great opportunity to learn what your triggers are and how to keep them from tripping you up again. Yes, there are triggers that can lead to relapse, and once we know what our danger signs are, we can watch out for them. So when we identify the triggers, we can see them as highway signs that say Danger Ahead with flashing red lights.
Tools for Avoiding Relapse and Recognizing Triggers
- List your triggers: people, places, and things to avoid. Then create an action plan for what you will do when confronted with one of these situations.
- Make a list of activities you could do immediately when you have a craving. For example, go for a walk, call a sober friend, go to a support group meeting like Alcoholics Anonymous, Life Ring, Smart Recovery
- Put on your speed dial the names and numbers of sober friends or supportive people. When you have the craving, call and talk to someone about it immediately.
- Learn coping skills like relaxation exercises and meditation to manage stress.
- If you do relapse get help immediately. Find a reputable treatment center and go A.S.A.P.