“Triggers are social, environmental, or emotional situations that remind people in recovery of their past drug or alcohol use. These cues bring about urges that may lead to a relapse. While triggers do not force a person to use drugs, they increase the likelihood of drug use.”
Or put it even simpler: we must be aware and diligent about People, Places, and Things.
As the world is carefully exiting shelter-in-place, those of us with substance use disorder have to stay extra vigilant about relapse. We don’t have a lot to celebrate yet, but the mood has been overly celebratory in all the places where restrictions have been eased—videos showing people crowded in a massive pool or cramming into a small park to the point that it resembles a night club have been circulating all over social media. The excitable mood tends to be contagious even though it verges on hysteria, and it might give some of us the impression that all the socializing and partying is harmless and that we deserve it after all that time inside. We do deserve a lot of things, but relapse is not one of them.
Those of us who struggle with addiction are no less sensitive to drugs or alcohol just because things are different now. Our minds and bodies are the same, with the same tendencies and cravings, and no drink is innocent. It’s still a deadly poison, and we’re no more immune to it than we ever were. We must remember that one of the deadliest aspects of addiction is that it’s a condition that tells us we don’t have it (this sentiment is often repeated in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous). This is why we can never get complacent about our recovery. The idea that we can drink safely, again, is delusional, and we’ve committed to staying in reality the moment we put the drink away.
Besides delusion, another trigger for relapse is boredom. I’ve touched on boredom before, especially this new incarnation of it where we’ve been confined to our homes without our usual routines and distractions. Statistics have shown over and over that the consumption of alcohol has been on the rise, and there is no doubt in my mind that a lot of people turned to alcohol to be able to deal with stress and boredom. Now, more than ever, we would all benefit from solid meditation practice. As always, alcohol is a quick fix, and it doesn’t fix anything. Sitting in silence with your thoughts and listening to your breath is much more beneficial than reaching out for a drink. And consider that the boredom that you feel might be something else—a form of anxiety. Indulging in maladaptive behaviors will only increase that anxiety, which in turn might lead to an increase in use, and before you know it, it’s a full-blown relapse.
I know most of us are aware of those kinds of traps in recovery, but the point of reminding ourselves about them is because those reminders are a part of prevention. Since we’re such creatures of habit, repeating advice and information about our recovery is intended to beat the other, much more deadly habits.
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