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TRIGGERS OF ADDICTION
The spark that fires cravings within us. . .
BLOGS & RESOURCES
TRIGGERS. . .
When people decide to quit using drugs & alcohol, they‘re likely to encounter situations that might set off or “trigger” a desire to start using again. This experience can lead people to feel confused and vulnerable and may increase the possibility of a relapse. Helping people to 1) become aware of their specific triggers, 2) their physical and psychological impact, and 3) how to cope with them successfully is an important part of the therapy process and relapse prevention.
SO. . .WHAT IS A TRIGGER?
A “trigger” of addiction involves any high-risk situation or stressor that sparks off a thought, feeling, or action to use drugs/alcohol. This spark, which is experienced as as a temptation or desire to use, is called a “craving” or “urge”. So, triggers lead to cravings and urges to use.
There are two types of triggers: internal (occurs within us) & external (occurs outside of us). External triggers includes people, places, things, and situations that spark a desire for us to use after a period of abstinence. For example:
-A friend at college who you drank with every night calls you up to “hang out”. . .
-A colleague at work who sold you pain medications tells you he just got another prescription filled. . .
-A drug dealer sends you a text. . .
-You’re invited to go to a bar or club you drank at often after work . . .
-A friend invites you to his house where you always smoked pot in his basement. . .
-You drive through a certain neighborhood where you went to buy your Oxys. . .
-You see a pill bottle lying on the counter of a friends house. . .
-There’s an unopened wine bottle in the refrigerator. . .
-You see rolling papers while buying something a convenient store. . .
-Holidays (New Years, Christmas, Fourth of July, Superbowl)
-Certain times of the day (after work, before sleep)
-Significant events (loss of a job, loss of a loved one)
Internal triggers involve our thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations. Some examples include:
-Anger, Anxiety, Sadness, Pressure/Stress,
-“If I don’t drink, I won’t be able to fit in. . .”
-“I won’t be able to have fun anymore with drugs. . .”
-“I can handle it this time. . .”
-Back pain, headaches, no energy.
When a trigger fires, this can lead people to catastrophize. They may feel terrified, frustrated, or hopeless; believe that they are failing in their efforts to stay clean and sober; and abandon the process with thoughts like, “What’s the point” or “I just can’t do this. . .”. Learning to identify your specific triggers can help to counteract these unhealthy reactions and begin to develop an action plan to address them directly.
Think of times when you stopped using for a moment and something sparked a desire within you to pick up. . . What was it that triggered this reaction?
What were you doing? What was going on at the time? What were you feeling/thinking? What time of day was it? Who was with you? Where were you going? What was around you in that moment?
These questions may help you begin the process of identifying your triggers of addiction.
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