One of the most commonly talked about aspects of recovery is relapse. When relapse occurs, we revert back to our old, addictive habits – whether for a brief moment or for a longer period of time. Relapse is often used synonymously with “failure” or “weakness”, but you’d be surprised to know that this isn’t really true. For many, relapse is actually a learning experience where a person can find out what their triggers are, and what steps they can take next time to prevent that behavioral response. Triggers are incredibly important to familiarize yourself with, and it may take trial and error to find them over time. If you can understand your triggers and how they affect your cravings, however, you can get an upper hand on relapse.
A few years ago, researchers did a study to find out a little more about personal cues (thought processes, experiences, triggers, etc.) and how they influence cravings. They found that ultimately, it’s a matter of what really “hits home” for someone – it’s the context of a person, place, or thing that can send someone into a relapse. For example, one person may have specific memories tied to a certain city and state. Even if they’ve moved halfway across the United States, a person who talks about that city and state could trigger that individual because it sparks memories of when they used to live there, when they used to use substances, etc. A person who has never lived in that particular city or state won’t have that same reaction, because they don’t have a special tie to that place.
There are 3 overarching concepts of triggers to watch out for, and you can call them the three E’s:
- Emotions – guilt, sadness, anxiety, anger, confidence, happiness, loneliness, etc.
- Environment – returning to a place where substance abuse once occurred for you, hearing a song you used to get high to, etc.
- Exposure – seeing others using substances at a party, being at a bar, etc.
These types of triggers can really spark up the desire to use substances again, and that’s because your brain has not forgotten the rewarding feelings of abusing substances and its association to those different feelings, places, things or people. Recovery is about re-learning to live without needing to act on those associations, and it takes a lot of hard work – but it’s absolutely worth it because you get your health, happiness and life back.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-campus, we are made up of 2 twelve-step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.
Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.