Getting into alcohol rehab is the biggest step an alcoholic can make. Following through the rehab program can be a life-saving or at least life-changing experience. The recovering addicts get a lot of knowledge and tools to use, once they return to their regular lives.
What is a trigger for alcohol abuse?
A trigger for an alcohol abuse is anything that stimulates the person to start drinking and to abuse alcohol again. Triggers can include to person’s environment, a person’s emotional state, or the person’s attitude itself.
When a recovering alcoholic quits the treatment programs, real life starts back again with all its challenges. They are not protected by the four walls of rehab facilities nor by surrounding supporting staff. Now they are back to their old environment, with old habits and triggers waiting around the corner. An ex-alcoholic can change the environment, friends, the job and so on. But there is no way to escape triggers.
The crucial task a former alcoholic needs to implement is not to avoid these triggers, but to deal with them. A relapse can happen, and it might not be the end of the world. It probably means that the person has not been long enough in rehab. In that case, it is best to return to a professional treatment program for a while.
However, for some people, a relapse can have grave consequences.
- Children of relapsing alcoholics or other personal or professional responsibilities will suffer.
- They might face a lot of pressure and disappointment from his close ones. Their self-esteem can lower significantly.
- The alcoholics can get deeply demotivated and hopeless and give up in their chance to live a sober life.
- If they suffer from a medical condition for which alcohol rehab was life-saving, drinking again can be a death sentence.
What Triggers an Alcohol Relapse?These factors include:
- Exposure to alcohol
- Other substance abuse
- Frustrations and stress
- Exposure to alcohol. Even if people avoid drinking, they can be exposed to it without knowing it. There could be alcohol in a dessert, for example. A tempting scenario is, for instance, going to a restaurant with drinking co-workers. Some people also drink on purpose, to want to test if they are already sober. They consume a small amount to see if they get triggered. In early stages, that is dangerous and often leads to relapses.
- Abuse of other substances. Many people fall into the trap of addiction substitution. They recover from one drug and replace it with another substance or habit.
- Overconfidence. Some ex-alcoholics is especially in the early stages of recovery and become overconfident. They might take their recovery for granted and have unrealistic expectations. The euphoria and wellness drive their motivation. But they risk being harshly disappointed if they realize, that long-term recovery takes a lot of hard work.
- Self-pity. In recovery, that attitude is unproductive. It is not assuming responsibility for one’s life, but rather choosing to act like a victim. These people tend to blame other people or situation for their addictions. They will find it easy to excuse a relapse.
- Frustration and stress. Coming back to the normal, stressful life is very challenging for dealing with triggers. In addition to that, stressed people will often get easily frustrated. They are patient enough. These people too, that full recovery, is a process, and it is a long one.
- Depression. It is common for addicts also to suffer from depression, which makes the returning to a functional life more difficult. Some are diagnosed with clinical depression. Others experience it as common withdrawal effects, which have yet to fade. Depressive states as a withdrawal symptom can even last a year.
How Can I Avoid Triggers After Rehab?
But triggering a relapse is not at all a fatality. One of the purposes of the rehab phase is to learn to deal with them. Of course, it is one thing to gain theoretical knowledge and to use it in real life. Here are several methods that very often are helpful to recovering alcoholics and drug addicts stay sober. Take good note and try to implement them. It’s ok if not everything will work on you. But give yourself a chance to discover an efficient method. You could be surprised what works for you.
Here is a list of things that will help a person avoid triggers:
- Know your triggers
- Stay away from alcohol
- Keep track of your progress using a journal
- Practice mindfulness
- Stay motivated
- Recognize your body’s needs
- Strengthen your willpower
- Be kind to yourself
Be Aware Of Your Triggers
Let’s start with the most important thing: you need to know what triggers you. Are these particular situations or people? Maybe special feelings? It usually is a mix of both.
That seems obvious, but some people think, they are “cured” after rehab and can start drinking again. Nope. Not for some time. At least for sure not in the beginning stages of recovery. Not when you feel emotionally unstable. But even if you’re emotionally balanced, try to stay away from situations, where alcohol is involved. For a while.
Keep A Journal
Does that sound childish? Maintaining a journal is actually a very efficient method to learn about yourself. Not only can you keep track with your progress on a daily basis. You can also analyze triggering situations that you would not have seen otherwise. Or maybe you spot repeating, worrisome behavior that you recognize as a warning sign.
There are different methods for practicing mindfulness. Some people like meditation. Others prefer self-compassionate contemplation. If you are more into concrete and pragmatic things, you can do journaling. The purpose is to have a better insight into your thoughts. What is your thinking pattern? What are the reasons that you are behaving a certain way? Self-knowledge is a powerful tool for leading a satisfying life – consciously and in control.
Set your priority for getting sober. Not your career, not your social life. Nothing is more important that getting back in control of your life. What’s the point in trying to get a promotion, if you won’t be able to keep up because of alcohol problems? You can do that afterward. Of course, it is important to work and have meaningful social interactions. But your priority, above all, is to get sober. Then you can invest much more in other areas of life. But you will do it with much more energy, control, assurance, and satisfaction.
Listen To Your Body’s Needs.
Addicts often need to relearn their physiological cues. Hunger and tiredness are often confused with anxiety during the addiction. It is important that you start analyzing your sensations. That can be difficult at first, and you might still be confusing physiological sensations with emotions. For that reason, stick to a schedule. Eat regular meals and DO NOT starve yourself. Do not go on a restrictive diet. (Stay focused on your goal, remember?) You will probably not feel hungry often. Even so – eat your breakfast. With time, you restore the hunger cues and learn to recognize them.
Do you often wake up at nights to go to the bathroom? Here is a tip: don’t drink too much water just before going to bed. 3-4 sips to not feel thirsty are fine, but a glass of water will make you get up at night. To avoid feeling dry at night, drink regularly all throughout the day. It might feel uncomfortable the first 2-3 days, but you will adapt quickly and sleep better!
Work On Your Willpower.
That is a very common excuse for lack of commitment: not having enough willpower. Well, guess what – you can train it. Don’t worry: you don’t have to expect from yourself to have a power of steel the next day you make a commitment. Start out small. Pick a habit that is not particularly important for you. At first, the goals is only to practice willpower; it doesn’t have to be big. For example, it can be a change in your daily routine: brushing your teeth before your hair, as it was before. Or washing your cup immediately after drinking your morning coffee. You will strat feeling satisfaction from having control over your behavior. Yes, even if it’s only cleaning your morning cup. Once it gets automatic, it’s time to add the next habit. Do only one new thing or two at a time. Take small steps. If not – you might quickly feel overwhelmed and like a failure. Developing your willpower
Be Patient With Others
Unlike some other addictions, alcoholism affects all your close ones, family, and friends. Their attitude to your recovery can vary, don’t let yourself distract by it. Some people will be very enthusiastic and ready to help you in every way. Accept their help, if you feel they are not taking over any responsibility. It is YOUR job to work through it. No one can do it for you. Moral support and understanding are invaluable. But don’t forget and make it clear to them: YOU need to do the recovery job and learn constructive habits.
Other people might be doubtful or resentful. Maybe you harmed someone with your earlier alcoholism? Don’t panic and don’t feel guilty – that is not a constructive emotion neither. Focus on your recovery. And as far as possible wrongdoings are concerned: don’t let negative emotions control you. Let them be your guide to take responsibility for your actions.
Be Kind To Yourself
You will experience many emotions; your recovery might feel like a rollercoaster. Have good moments, rewards yourself from time to time.
Don’t be hard on yourself. Maybe you did many things wrong, but, if nothing else, you did these several things right:
- You decided to quit
- You got help and went to rehab
- You are committed to working on a healthy life
These are enormous, life-changing decisions and actions. Look at it that way: not everyone has the courage to complete change his or her life. And these measures change your life and those of your close ones and everyone you will encounter, for the better!