Relapse doesn’t happen by accident! There is a process that occurs when a person relapses. Typically, what happens is that a person is triggered to use, then he or she has thoughts of using which lead to cravings and eventually using. So, is it possible to break the using cycle? Absolutely and we will discuss how to do that in a bit.
People who are in recovery experience triggers all the time. Triggers are people, places, things, emotions or situations that a person encounters. For instance, you are driving down the road and see the beer truck pass by you or you smell alcohol in the air. These are external triggers and can easily cause someone to think that a drink might be appealing. Another example of a trigger for some people is having money. Just having that extra cash can cause one to consider heading out to the bar, the casino or to the drug dealer. Sometimes hanging out with certain people can be triggering. For many it could be family, friends or co-workers. There are also internal triggers like emotions. A lot of times people can be feeling angry or sad and it can trigger them to want to use. Even feelings of happiness and joy can cause a relapse.
It is always a great idea to write down potential triggers so that you can have a game plan to either avoid them or manage them properly. We now know what triggers are and that they just sometimes are not avoidable. So, let’s discuss what to do when they happen. The next step is that triggers will cause thoughts of using. This is when it is so important to stop this process. To allow yourself to continue thinking about drinking, drugging or gambling is choosing to relapse.
One simple way to stop these thoughts is to tell someone who is supportive. Many people find this support in 12-step programs. A recent article discusses how one dad remains sober because of attending Alcoholics Anonymous. Remember, it is normal to have these thoughts but it is what we do with them that will make a difference. Having a support network and remaining positive will certainly help prevent relapse when times are tough. Another great thought stopping technique is relaxation. This can be through deep breathing, music, exercise, or just enjoying nature. One other technique is visualization. Whether you visualize the consequences of relapsing or use something simple as a light switch to turn off the thoughts is useful. Any of these techniques can work if you practice using them when you have thoughts about drinking, drugging or gambling. Remember, although we can’t always control what pops into our head, we do have the power to share what is going on in our mind.