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Clear Minds Sobriety Haven Blog Series about overcoming binge drinking and tips to stay sober.
Overcoming Addiction Triggers

Triggers and cravings for alcohol when you are trying to stop are the main reasons someone relapses. How do I avoid triggers and what should I do when I’m craving alcohol during abstinence?

Stopping binge drinking has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It seems like there are triggers everywhere. Football games and parties, big “drinking” holidays and celebrations, and watching everyone else around you enjoying their drinks can be so hard for someone who is fresh in their sobriety journey. Things like this can be a big trigger for someone overcoming addiction. Sometimes just hearing someone playing music will trigger me to want to fall back into my old routine of playing music while I get drunk. This is the last thing I want though. To fall back to the way I was before, would be devastating to me, and thinking about that is so scary. I decided to write a few tips on how to avoid triggers and keep you sober even in the hardest situations. 

What are common triggers for relapse?

  • Stress is the most common cause of a relapse. Whether it be work-related, family issues, or financial matters, stress can be a huge trigger to make you want to drink or use drugs when you are being obstinate. 
  • People or Places Connected to the Addictive Behavior. Going to places where you used to drink or hanging out with friends after work or family members who drink a lot can be a trigger. Not wanting to “let them down” by not drinking can cause you to relapse without really even thinking about the consequences. 
  • Negative or Challenging Emotions. These emotions can come from trouble in relationships, death in the family, or even in our own minds. It’s important to not jeopardize your sobriety because something bad is happening in your real life. 
  • Seeing or Sensing the Object of Your Addiction. If you still have alcohol, beer, or drugs in your home or living space, get it out now. Give it away. Throw it away. But having it near you gives you a “Can’t have”. It’s just within reach. This keeps it directly in the back of your mind. It’s like keeping your “fat jeans” after weight loss, just in case you get fat again. It’s better to get rid of that “fallback” to prevent it from happening in the first place.
  • Times of Celebration. You can celebrate just as easily without drinking as you can with alcohol. Celebration should be a happy time so why would you ruin that with a drink? Celebrate YOU being sober EVERY DAY! 

    Abstinence Stage


    The abstinence stage of recovery typically is the first and second year of your sobriety. The main focus of this time is to deal with cravings and triggers that you will encounter on a daily basis. You can’t avoid people and living your life forever!

    These are the steps in the Abstinence Stage:

    1. Accept that you have an addiction. You don’t need to call yourself an alcoholic to admit to yourself that you have a problem. If things are triggering you to want to drink, if you have cravings for alcohol, or if you are like me, and binge drink, you already know you have a problem. Admitting this to ourselves is the first step to recovery.

    2. Practice honesty in life. Being honest with friends and loved ones about your abstinence from alcohol (or drugs) can help them understand where you are coming from and possibly make them less likely to pressure you to drink. You will be surprised at how many people don’t really care if you drink around them or not, as long as you are there. People who do not support you in your sobriety are not really your friends. 

    3. Develop coping skills for dealing with cravings. A typical craving only lasts 3-5 minutes. You need to find something else to do when you feel that craving coming on. Whether it’s doing a few jumping jacks, cleaning out the refrigerator, or leaving the situation altogether, find something else to do when that craving hits. Go outside and take a few breaths of fresh air. You can do it. You are stronger than these cravings.

    4. Become active in self-help groups. You can read self-help groups, join self-help groups, AA groups, or download an app that will help you get through some of your triggers, Blogging is very helpful in keeping me from relapsing. These are a few great apps that I have personally used and they are available to download and are free of charge unless you want to upgrade your service.
    I AM SOBER   

    5. Practice self-care and saying no. Whatever your personal self-care is, reading a book, taking a bubble bath, exercising, or taking a nap, take care of your mental health in any way you can. Practice saying no. It will get easier in time. Once people get used to you saying no they will stop asking and it will become normal for you to not drink around them.

    6. Understand the stages of relapse. There are three stages to relapse: emotional, mental, and physical. The main reason someone has an emotional relapse is poor self-care. If you do not practice sufficient self-care, eventually you will start to feel uncomfortable in your own skin and look for ways to escape, relax, or reward yourself. Mental relapse is where you want to relapse but part of you doesn’t. I fight with myself a lot on this aspect. I know if I drink I will spiral out of control in no time but a small part of me still wants it. Physical relapse is where you actually go ahead and drink again. 

    7. Get rid of friends who are using. If your friends do not support you in your sobriety they are not really your friends. I cannot stress that enough. It is highly possible that they too struggle with addiction and are jealous of you because they don’t want to stop yet. You need to avoid these people completely. 

    8. Understand the dangers of cross-addiction. This is when you replace one addiction with another. You stop smoking cigarettes and start smoking pot. You stop drinking liquor but switch to beer. Replacing one addiction for another is never a healthy choice. Try looking for healthy alternatives to replace your addiction. Hobbies like yoga, exercise, hiking, playing an instrument, painting, find your niche. 

    9. Deal with post-acute withdrawal. This is when you are still experiencing withdrawal symptoms long after you should be. A lot of times this is just in your head but your body still feels the symptoms. These feelings can last for months and up to years in some cases. Speaking with a therapist or at group meetings can help you with these issues and sometimes medication is necessary. 

    10. Develop healthy alternatives to using. Drinking water is the best thing we can do for our bodies. Instead of alcohol, you can drink water with fresh fruit added like sliced strawberries, lemon, lime, or cucumber. Your skin will thank you for the added nutrients and moisture and you will feel great. Not waking up with a hangover and puffy skin rewards you each morning. 

    11. See yourself as a non-user. At first, this can seem scary and out of reach but we can manifest our future selves by seeing ourselves now, as non-users. 

    As always going to treatment, even for 30 days or on an outpatient basis is the best way to control triggers and avoid relapse. Find a meeting in your area or call Addiction No More today. One of their counselors can get you in contact with a treatment center, detox program, or meetings near you if you need help controlling your cravings and the things that trigger you/us. 
    Sobriety Blogger Anna Marie Skye

    Author: Anna Marie Skye
    Follow Anna Marie Skye as she discusses her struggle with binge drinking and her sobriety journey HERE.

    Overcoming Addiction and Relapse Triggers
    Article Name
    Overcoming Addiction and Relapse Triggers
    Learn how to avoid triggers that might make you want to relapse.

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