5 Common Relapse Triggers and How to Avoid Them in Your Recovery

No matter how far you are in recovery, you will encounter relapse triggers in your daily life. Triggers are internal and external stimuli that cause recovering people to crave drugs and alcohol. Relapse triggers can be emotional, situational or mental in nature. If these are not dealt with in a proactive manner, you can become vulnerable to relapse, and you will have to start over in your recovery.

The following article outlines 5 common relapse triggers and how you can combat them to minimize their impact on your hard-earned sobriety.


Nearly everybody who is in recovery has heard of the acronym HALT, which stands for hungryangrylonely, andtired. These are states of mind, emotions and physical feelings that can cause you to lose focus in your recovery. If you dwell in these states for prolonged periods of time, you are more likely to give into the temptation of substances to provide relief.

To minimize the impacts of HALT in your recovery, it is important to practice great self-care. Be sure to get to regular meetings and work with your sponsor. Get adequate sleep and make sure that you are eating healthy every day. Additionally, lean on family, friends and others in your support network if emotions get the best of you. 


There is no doubt that stress is a huge relapse trigger. The stresses of daily life have significant impacts on one’s mind and body. The source of stress often is due to HALT, but can also come from a variety of other sources. Examples include the loss of employment, loss of a loved one, relationship stresses and financial worries as examples.

While it is impossible to remove stress from daily life, there are things that you can do to make stress more manageable. Practicing mindful meditation techniques such as focused breathing and yoga is beneficial in reducing stress. You can also engage in daily rigorous exercise to help blow off some steam. Additionally, you can engage in productive activities such as mentoring or volunteering. Most importantly, talk to your sponsor, family member or friend. Their advice and support can be invaluable. 


One relapse trigger that people don’t think about is overconfidence. While it is important to be confident in your recovery, being overconfident or cocky is a warning sign that relapse may be imminent. When you stop going to meetings, or you feel that you are “cured”, those are red flags that must be addressed.

If you notice that you are feeling overconfident and your recovery program is stagnating, re-examine your recovery plan itself. Find those areas that aren’t being addressed and take steps to add new elements into the plan. It is important to stay humble and realize that you must live one day at a time. Again, volunteering of your time to others can be of great help in allowing you to stay grounded and focused on your sobriety.


Another relapse trigger that needs attention is isolation. If you start feeling reluctant in reaching out to others when you need help, you may start feeling the effects of isolation. The same holds true if you begin to miss meetings or move away from your sober support network. When you start feeling isolated, thoughts of using drugs and alcohol become more prevalent. As a result, you can begin to rationalize that substance use will be acceptable.

Combat isolation by forcing yourself to reach out to others. Reach out to a counselor or sponsor for help. If you are feeling social anxiety, a counselor can give your guidance and tips to help ease your mind. You can also increase the number of meetings, or find a different meeting that meets your needs. You need to do what you need to do. Surround yourself with positive people and fake it until you make it. 

Thinking About the Old Days

Another trigger which is dangerous to your recovery is thinking about the days when you actively used drugs and alcohol. If you are thinking about the good times you had while using, but not thinking about the pain associated with using you can be danger of losing your recovery. These thoughts gather steam over time, and if you begin obsessing about the “glory days” you must take action.

If these thoughts are going through your head, don’t ignore them. Speak to your sponsor immediately. 

Take Control of Your Recovery

Experiencing relapse triggers is a part of the recovery process. It may not be pleasant, but facing triggers head on and in a proactive manner is necessary in preserving your sobriety. If you need help in developing the life and coping skills needed to deal with triggers, talk with your sponsor or counselor right away. 

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