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Early Sobriety: Tracking Your Triggers

Early Sobriety: Tracking Your Triggers

Like the treatment of a chronic medical condition, addiction treatment does not come without the threat of relapse

Keeping track of what triggers cravings and relapses can help solidify a fledgling sober life. People have to look at recovery realistically and understand that it is a marathon and not a sprint. Recovery is a learning process, not a one-and-done event, and by tracking things like triggers for drug cravings, a person establishes a solid foundation for maintaining life in recovery. Tracking triggers also helps individuals not only prevent relapses, but also helps them get back on-track when relapses or slip-ups occur.

Why is Recovery a Learning Process?

When it comes to recovery, it must be clear that it is not a one-and-done event. Recovery is a life-long learning process where individuals attempt to change deeply embedded, harmful behaviors. Why is this?

This is because addiction is a chronic illness, just like diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Addiction cannot be cured, but it is treatable. Treatment can put a halt to substance abuse or maladaptive behaviors, therefore allowing people to once again productively live their lives.

Just like the treatment of other chronic medical conditions, addiction treatment does not come without the threat of relapse. In fact, experts believe drug relapse occurs in at least 50-90 percent of individuals who attempt treatment. So does this mean failure? Absolutely not.

This is why recovery is a learning process. There is always the possibility of a relapse, which is why individuals must continue to educate and equip themselves with the best tools and skills for maintaining recovery. If a person with diabetes relapsed, they would not throw their hands up and give up on the idea of life in recovery. They would do what they had to do to get well and get back on-track in recovery. The same goes for addiction. Individuals cannot view relapse as a failure, rather a learning process that they must overcome. Relapse is a trigger for “renewed intervention.”

Successful treatment will be personalized to an individual’s drug use, medical, psychiatric and social issues. In order to find success in recovery, a person must continue to make sure treatment and recovery skills are suited to their lifestyle. They must continue to learn throughout the recovery process. Change is inevitable in life, therefore individuals must be prepared to continue to learn and adapt throughout their recovery journey.

The Importance of Tracking Your Triggers for Drug Cravings and Relapse

Understanding the importance of tracking personal triggers for drug cravings, relapses, or any maladaptive behavior is simple: knowing what fuels these destructive thought processes, behaviors and bad habits allows a person to change or avoid them.

If a person can grasp why they do something, they have a much better chance at changing the things they no longer want to do. When it comes to addiction, everyone has their own personal drug craving or relapse triggers. Common examples include things like:

  • Stress
  • Social isolation
  • Being in social environments where drugs or alcohol are available
  • Complacency
  • Mental or physical illness or pain
  • Self-pity
  • Trauma
  • Boredom
  • Reminiscing about drug use or other addictive behaviors or bad habits
  • Hunger

What a person must do is to track their specific drug craving or relapse triggers. A good way to keep track of triggers is to record five pieces of information each time there is an urge to use or engage in a particular bad habit. These five pieces of information include:

  1. The location where the urge/trigger occurred.
  2. The time that the urge/trigger occurred.
  3. The emotional state(s) that accompanied the urge/trigger.
  4. The other people involved when the urge/trigger occurred.
  5. What happened immediately after the action. What was the response? How did you feel? Was your response effective at reducing the urge/craving?

Making sure to track triggers in this fashion will be extremely helpful in understanding why a person behaves or wants to behave in a certain way. An individual can do a better job at learning how to refrain from experiencing relapse. Yes, relapses are not avoidable, but individuals can do their best to minimize the triggers that cause relapse. They can minimize people and things in their lives that are going to trigger cravings and relapses. Getting into the habit of keeping track of triggers can be tough at first, but a person should implement reminders to make sure they are jotting them down as they occur. Simply setting a reminder in your smartphone or calendar can keep a person dedicated to tracking triggers. This process can complement the long-term learning process that is recovery. Individuals can continue to learn and adapt in their recovery, just as their lives and relapse triggers will continually evolve.

Want to Set Yourself Up for Success in Recovery?

Yes, recovery is a life-long process. Yes, recovery is not a walk in the park; but your life in recovery doesn’t have to be a trying, grueling process day in, day out. Recovery will get easier and making the right decisions will become instinctual.

So whether you are attempting recovery for the first time, the twentieth time, or somewhere in-between, you can improve your chances of maintaining long-lasting success in recovery by setting yourself up with the right treatment programs and recovery services.

Finding individualized programs and services will make sure that treatment is tailored to a person’s unique needs. This will instill him or her with the best knowledge, tools and skills needed to remain sober or get back on-track if needed during a lifetime in recovery.

If you would like to find quality treatment or recovery services that can provide this individualized care, you can call our toll-free helpline, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are happy to assist you with your questions and concerns, provide you with information, and help find and connect you with the treatment and recovery options that will work for you. You do have the power to find and achieve life in recovery, and we can help. Call and speak to a recovery professional right now.