A relapse trigger is something that reminds a person in recovery of their past substance use and cues cravings. Some triggers are evident and once-offs. Others are less straightforward and gradually pave the way to the slippery slope of addiction. The idea that these relapse triggers can be removed permanently are a common addiction recovery myth.

Triggers can be physical, mental, emotional, social, or environmental. In this post, we point out some common relapse triggers and how to mitigate these.

Common Relapse Triggers

Identifying and finding healthy ways to overcome triggers, lays the groundwork for relapse prevention. Here’s a list of some of the usual suspects, both obvious and inconspicuous, when it comes to relapse triggers.

HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired

HALT is an acronym used in recovery programs to help keep these four triggers in mind. Those unfamiliar with the dynamics of addiction may think to feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired isn’t a big deal but these are often the culprits of unhealthy behavior.

Mindfulness of meals, keeping anger at bay, staying connected with a support system to curb loneliness, and a healthy sleep schedule impacts recovery.

People, Places, and Things

A surefire relapse trigger is being around substance abuse. Whether it is being with people using drugs, or being in places where drugs are easily accessible, or an object that has strong connotations to drug use, this can trigger cravings and endangers recovery. Steering clear of people, places, and things related to drug use is paramount to sobriety.


Stress, in all its many shapes and forms, runs rife throughout recovery as a relapse trigger.

Stress significantly increases vulnerability to relapse triggers. Finding healthy coping mechanisms to deal with life’s inevitable stresses is necessary for long-term recovery. Stress, in all its many shapes and forms, runs rife throughout recovery as a relapse trigger.

It’s important to know your stress limits. Knowing how much you can cope with, and signs that you’ve reached the limit of what you’re able to handle, and dealing with it in a constructive way is crucial in managing stress-related triggers. The best thing you can do when you hit a critical point with stress is to bring yourself back to the moment.

Uncomfortable Emotions

Feelings, thoughts, or emotions associated with past substance abuse are critical relapse triggers. Uncomfortable emotions like fear, anxiety, shame or guilt, can arise from time to time and it’s important for people in recovery to be aware of personal emotional triggers, and have a helpful plan in place to manage these.

Positive Life-Events

Relapse triggers sometimes come in the guise of good things. Exciting life-events like starting a new job or a new romantic relationship can be a trigger as these, however positive, also hold the potential for added pressures and stress.

Another hidden relapse trigger is over-confidence in recovery. Achieving and maintaining sobriety is an immensely positive experience and one to take pride in. But, reaching a point of complacency can be detrimental to continued recovery.

More Tips To Sidestepping Relapse Triggers

Here are two more tips for standing strong and sustaining recovery when relapse triggers show up.

Lean on Your Loved Ones

Addiction is destructive to family bonds and friendships. It’s rightfully described as a family disease but, getting and staying sober is a collective effort as well.

Strained relationships aren’t easy to repair and as much as these can be a trigger for relapse, restored relationships can also form foundations for a support system against relapse. When dealing with triggers, lean on your loved ones for support. Healthy relationships help people keep up recovery.

Make a Fuss Over Milestones

Recovery milestones can be anything and everything from completing a rehab program or remaining sober for six months, to getting through a tough the day. Whatever you regard as a recovery milestone, when you reach it, celebrate!

Getting sober is hard work but staying sober can be even harder. Commemorate how far you’ve come – it keeps up recovery morale and adds a sense of accomplishment.

Sea Change Recovery: With You Through Recovery and Relapse

Relapse happens. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we falter. The crux is to take the necessary steps to get back on track. At Sea Change Recovery, we’re with you every step of the way.

We offer substance abuse treatment programs that help you reach and sustain recovery. Our curriculum is designed to guide you to sobriety and helps you develop strategies to stand strong against relapse triggers. To learn more, contact us today.

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