The “R” Word


By Shelby Hendrix

That “R” word keeps popping up even though nobody likes talking about it.

In order to succeed, you must plan for the worst-case scenario. In recovery, the worst-case scenario is relapse. The best way to cut off or completely avoid a relapse is to understand why one might happen. Triggers are situations, emotions, or periods of time during which we become more vulnerable to relapsing. Figuring out how to navigate potential triggers will keep you on a healthy recovery path and away from relapse.

Relapse triggers can be highly specific to one person, common among a large group, or universal for all people in recovery. But particularly common triggers are negative emotions. Things like stress, frustration, depression, and anxiety can cause anyone to feel like they need a drink. Negative emotions tend to get their claws in us when we are at a low point and often when we are alone.

Don’t be alone! Not literally of course, but if you start feeling like you need to drink in order to deal, call a sober contact. Ask them to meet up and talk. You may not feel like talking but you should open up about what you’re feeling. In recovery dealing with emotions is always better than burying them.

Positive emotions can also be triggers. Confidence in recovery is often a slippery slope that can quickly lead to overconfidence. Recovering people will falsely think they can go out with friends and resist the urge to drink. Eventually they’ll find themselves in over their heads. Thinking “one drink won’t hurt” is a very quick way to relapse. Be confident but have realistic expectations of yourself.

Putting yourself in potentially harmful social situations is another way to feel triggered to drink. Don’t agree to go to happy hour with your coworkers if you’re not confident in your ability to resist, even if they ask you 100 hundred times. Most importantly, don’t hang around people from your former life who don’t fully support your sobriety. It’s likely that calling up your old drinking buddies to hang out will derail your recovery.

It’s often recommended that people in recovery find new groups of like-minded people to associate with. Find a new support group if your old one doesn’t have your best interests in mind. Carry a token of your sobriety in your wallet. This can be an Al-Anon chip, photos of your children, or a list of affirmations. If you’re in a potentially triggering situation, you can pull out the token in an effort to refocus on your sobriety goals.

Triggers will vary from person to person and they are certainly not limited to the ones stated above. The key is to figure out which ones are most threatening to you. Take stock of your recovery progression and the strength of your willpower (be honest, don’t overestimate). Develop a relapse prevention plan with a close friend or loved one. Steer clear of places and people that remind you of drinking. Avoid situations where you will be unnecessarily exposed to alcohol or and work to develop coping mechanisms to help you deal with internal and external pressure to drink.

Follow the link below and share some of your triggers on Soberlink’s discussion.

Continue Reading this Soberlink blog and learn more about the 7 steps to avoid alcohol relapse.