7 Easy Steps for Effectively Managing Triggers in Recovery

Are you new to addiction recovery and looking for ways to stay sober? Many people have many triggers, and it’s essential to manage them. So these tips are helpful with managing triggers in recovery. So that when cravings or challenging emotions occur, you have a plan. Understanding triggers and how to overcome them aid in healing. Finding healthy coping mechanisms is vital to your sobriety success.

What are Triggers?

Addiction triggers are anything that initiates thoughts, feelings, or memories of when you were an active drug user. These physical and emotional cues cause you to want to use substances or your drug of choice (DOC) again. So identifying triggers is the first step to effectively managing triggers in recovery.

1. Managing Triggers in Recovery by Identifying Them

While there are several apparent triggers for drug and alcohol abuse, there are often inconspicuous things or circumstances that cause many people to relapse. So start by identifying triggers that lead to substance use. Without a doubt, this is an integral part of the recovery process. It forces you to think about it and prepare before they unexpectedly confront you. There are three types of drug addiction triggers for you to consider.

Examples of External Triggers

Eternal triggers are things in your environment that cause you to want to use drugs or alcohol. Likely, due to their attachment to your past. For example, when I quit using heroin, my external triggers included tin foil, elastic headbands, and sunglass cases. All being part of my junkie kit. Here are a few other examples of external and physical triggers:

  • Movies & TV Shows that depict drug abuse and alcohol use.
  • Clothing or artwork with alcohol brands, drugs, or 4:20 memorabilia.
  • Music or songs associated with that time in your life.
  • Smells that remind you of using drugs.
  • Drug Paraphernalia (bongs, torch lighters, pipes, needles, etc. )
  • Being around people or the sound of someone’s voice.
  • Entertaining friendships with people from the recovery center or treatment center you attended.
  • Exposure to the substance itself or being around other substance use.
  • Cash and credit cards.

Examples of Environmental Triggers

One of the most detrimental factors of relapse is returning to the environment that you were using in. If you have a choice or the ability to relocate, I would (and did). Don’t put yourself in places that trigger relapse. Here are a handful of environmental trigger examples:

  • Driving through the neighborhood, you used to score or get high.
  • Driving/walking past your old watering holes.
  • Seeing or entertaining relationships with people you used to get drunk or high together.
  • Working where there is easy access to drugs and alcohol.
  • Using the same A.T.M.s you used to get cash for drugs.
  • Businesses and parking lots you waited to score dope in or where you used drugs.

Examples of Emotional and Internal Triggers

Internal triggers are thoughts and overwhelming feelings that cause an addict to want to feel whole and accepted. Or to fill a void. Some examples of these include:

  • Trauma and painful memories.
  • Undiagnosed or Untreated Mental Illness.
  • Loss of a loved one.
  • Stress.
  • Financial Hardship.
  • Getting fired or passed over for a promotion at work.
  • H.A.L.T. (hunger, anger, loneliness, tiredness).
  • Family issues/lousy breakup/divorce.
  • Overwhelming emotions (sadness/anger/boredom).
  • Intrusive thoughts and a feeling of inadequacy.

2. Managing Triggers in Recovery by Avoiding Them

Avoid people, places, and things that trigger you. For example, if the bar on your way home is a temptation for you, then find an alternative route. If you know you will run into drug acquaintances at the casino or the supermarket, find a different venue to fulfill those needs. Take the first step of understanding triggers with a relapse prevention plan.

Creating a relapse prevention plan for managing triggers in recovery is crucial for remaining successful. Undoubtedly, you will face challenges and obstacles along your recovery journey.

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3. Throwing Away Triggers in Recovery

Once you’ve identified external triggers that will hinder your sobriety, it’s time to throw them away. Don’t donate them. These triggers may trigger someone else. Also, something is liberating about physically placing them into the garbage. It gives you confidence and power over something that once controlled you. However, I wouldn’t recommend this method for cash and credit cards.

Perhaps, a reasonable solution for those triggers is to deposit your money into the bank and use Apple or Google pay. Fortunately, these weren’t my triggers. So I’m sorry if I can’t be of more assistance here.

4. Silence Your Triggers in Recovery

Managing triggers in recovery by silencing them is essential for keeping temptation minimal. So what do I mean by silencing them?

First, take inventory of your movie collection and toss out any films that may trigger you with drug and alcohol depictions. Or any movies or television shows that you associate with using. For example, watching shows such as Intervention can be problematic, but many people do it. If part of your drug addiction involved watching The Notebook on repeat, throw it out. Or it may cause you to relapse. Also, was reading a book part of your alcohol abuse. Then, toss it. It’s not worth holding on to relapse triggers.

Second, clean up your music playlists by removing songs that cause you to reminisce or fantasize about using drugs again. For example, I listened to Techn9ne before committing crimes to support my habit. So I choose not to listen to those songs anymore and have tossed his C.D.s out. 

Third, unfollow any internet content that may trigger a relapse—for example, YouTube channels, blogs, Discords, and Facebook groups. Don’t forget subreddits that glorify drug and alcohol use. Also, don’t forget to unsubscribe to email subscriptions if applicable.

5. Delete and Block Them

Indeed deleting and blocking people is part of the elimination process. Keeping drug dealers and old-using buddies in your contact list is a big no. Because you can revisit blocked contacts, I encourage you to delete the phone number before blocking the connection.

Alternatively, delete them if you’re confident these people will not contact you (I never had dealers calling me). It’s that simple. Furthermore, it’s liberating and demonstrates your authority in recovery. Additionally, permanently block dealers and drinking buddies from your social media feed. Or people who post about drugs and alcohol. They got to go.

Alternatively, taking a complete break from social media is remarkable for mental health. I highly encourage setting a goal of at least three to six months off social media so that you can focus on your sobriety and feel confident with some healthy coping mechanisms first.


5. Be Honest About Your Triggers in Recovery

Do you have an accountability partner or a sponsor? That’s vital to holding and keeping yourself accountable. Being honest about what triggers you starts with making your list. Also, doing the work helps to keep you truthful. Be sure to grab a book and work through the steps to build your confidence and strength.

If you feel tempted or are in a triggering situation, reach out to your sponsor or accountability partner and be one hundred percent with them. 

Additionally, be honest with your healthcare providers, especially if you have an opiate dependency. The last thing you want is a prescription for relapse.

It can occur many years down the road. For example, I had an arterial dissection six years into my recovery and was on IV narcotics for close to two weeks. However, I was honest about my opioid use disorder, and my doctor helped me create a pain management plan.

My accountability partner (husband) dispensed my medication at home during aftercare. So that I couldn’t abuse them, this practice kept me honest and healthy. If I had not taken this course of action, I’d have misused those pills and likely been searching for more. Once the drugs are in you, maintaining sobriety is more challenging. So don’t put yourself in that situation by being dishonest from the start with doctors and loved ones. 

6. Don’t Assign Them Power

A big part of not assigning triggers power over you is being honest about them. So you’ve got this! When you find your mind drifting to thoughts of using, reach out to your sponsor or accountability partner. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on these temptations when facing an intrusive thought or obstacle—instead, practice self-care. Engage in your passion or hobby that will distract you from being alone with your thoughts. Finally, visit your relapse prevention plan and follow the necessary steps to avoid addiction relapse.

7. Managing Triggers in Recovery by Practicing Self-Care

Practicing self-care helps reduce stress and alleviate anxiety, two internal triggers for relapse. Thus making self-care a crucial component for managing triggers in recovery. Furthermore, neglecting self-care demonstrates not loving yourself, which is vital for successful sobriety and good mental health. So what does self-care look like to you?

Examples of Self-Care

  • Going to an N.A. meeting or an A.A. meeting.
  • Taking prescribed antidepressants/meds (if applicable).
  • Taking a walk and getting into nature.
  • Getting a massage or having a spa day.
  • Participating in therapy in person or online.
  • A relaxing soak in the tub with organic fizzy bath bombs.
  • Prayer/meditation.
  • Yoga/exercise.
  • Journaling is fantastic self-care.

That concludes this list of practical ways for managing triggers in recovery. Do you have any healthy ways or coping skills to avoid addiction relapse? Please let me know in the comments below. Also, will you hit that social share for me to spread the love? Thanks. Those genuinely make my day.

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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and Jesus.

24 thoughts on “7 Easy Steps for Effectively Managing Triggers in Recovery”

  1. I think triggers might be as hard to deal with as the craving for whatever you’re addicted to. There are so many things that we can associate with our addictions.

  2. Good advice on how to handle triggers and respond appropriate. It is very easy to allow these triggers to bring out the worst, and knowing how to spot them and stop them matters a great deal for recovery.

  3. This is a wonderful guide. It’s so easy to forget that triggers can be based in both positive and negative emotions. The things that traumatized you that made you turn to something and the things that you enjoyed while you were engaging in that activity.

  4. This is really helpful advice. Recognizing triggers is so important when you are in recovery but others can translate this knowledge to help with other issues. Triggers exist in many situations. Thank you for sharing!

  5. So honest and thoughtful! I love this laydown about triggers. Sadly, so many of us fail to go past identifying our triggers and why they trigger us! Valiant effort, Lizzy. Thanks for sharing.

  6. These are really excellent tips. I think one of the factors that led to my success in quitting smoking and staying smoke-free was to avoid triggers in the first few months like alcohol, going out in bars, etc.

  7. Congratulations on quitting smoking! I’ve done it and it was a difficult feat. Definitely had success by avoiding and managing triggers. So awesome you were able to successfully quit!

  8. Yes, I have heard about addiction triggers. That is true for so many things too (even things outside of drugs).

  9. Thank you for the details on addiction triggers. I have a friend that is an addict and just started AA. I will see if I can talk to her or send your article to her without offending her. Just want to help her.

  10. Staying away from social media can be effective. Reading motivational
    Stories about people who beat addictions are also helpful. I had an uncle who wanted to beat smoking addiction, and he used these to succeed.

  11. Mental health is so important, so this post about managing triggers in recovery is amazing. There are so many useful self help tools and ideas good on you for writing this xx

  12. I’d rather be sober any day than drunk one more day. To me my sobriety must come first before EVERYTHING else! If I put anything in front of my recovery I will lose it and my recovery. 12-22-93!!!!!!!

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