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What is a “Trigger” in Recovery?

In early recovery, there are certain things that can trigger or cue us into thinking about drugs and alcohol. Just as Pavlov’s dog would salivate when a bell would ring, men and women suffering from addiction can begin having cravings and thoughts of using or drinking when faced with a trigger. Fortunately, through a program of recovery we will not have to spend our lives avoiding potential triggers, but in early recovery, when we are still struggling to maintain sobriety, experiencing triggers can lead us toward relapse.

Environmental cues can cause us to feel urges and desires for drugs and alcohol, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere. Adi Jaffe, in a 2010 Psychology Today article entitled Triggers and Relapse, a Craving Connection for Addicts, explains, “As if matters needed to be made worse, triggers not only bring about responses that make you think about the drug. In fact, over and over in learning and addiction research, it’s been shown that triggers actually bring back drug seeking, and drug wanting, behavior. As soon as a cue (or trigger) is presented, both animals and humans who have been exposed to drugs for an extended period of time, will go right back to the activity that used to bring them drugs even after months of being without it. In fact, their levels of drug seeking will bounce back as if no time has passed.” These cues can range from seeing old friends we used to drink or use with, to feeling negative emotions that used to be a reason for our drug and alcohol use.

Fortunately, with adherence to a program of recovery, we will not have to avoid triggers once we are spiritually fit and strong in our recovery. According to 12-Step recovery, we should not avoid places or situations where alcohol is present if we have a legitimate reason for being there. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains, “While you were drinking, you were withdrawing from life little by little. Now you are getting back into the social life of this world. Don’t start to withdraw again just because your friends drink liquor. Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful. You should not hesitate to visit the most sordid spot on earth on such an errand. Keep on the firing line of life with these motives and God will keep you unharmed.” Our ability to be around possible cues, however, is contingent on our spiritual condition, the strength of our recovery, and, above all, our motives for being in such a place. Our lives will not be controlled by avoiding people, places, things, and situations, but this freedom comes with adherence to a recovery program of action and maintenance of our spiritual condition.

You can discover a life of happiness, joyousness, and freedom in sobriety. Recovery is possible, all you have to do is reach out for help today. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, is staffed with caring and compassionate professionals who understand addiction and recovery from every angle, and are determined to help you develop all the tools needed to achieve and maintain sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431