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What Is A Trigger?

During recovery, a person may experience urges to use again. The cause of these impulses is known as triggers. A trigger can be internal or external. It can be a person, place, or thing. Triggers can be an event, thought, or memory, and they can vary in severity. The common thread between triggers is the craving and urge they cause. A recovering user’s exposure to them can increase the possibility that they will relapse. Triggers serve as an intense reminder and distraction by causing a resurfacing of anger, pain, or other strong emotions.

Handling Triggers

Often triggers leave individuals feeling frustrated, terrified, or hopeless. The intrusiveness of this phenomenon can influence a person to believe that they will not successfully recover. Fortunately, that is not always the case. Maintaining sobriety is possible. Millions of people live a “clean” life after addiction. The important thing is to recognize what is happening and to get a handle on it. Below are few ways anyone can regain control of their journey to sobriety.

Identify Your Triggers

Identifying personal triggers is no easy feat, but it is possible. By noticing the onset of an urge, individuals can counteract their unhealthy reactions. One way of doing so is by recalling a time when you stopped using and reflecting on it.

Take a moment to ask yourself questions like:

  • What was I doing?
  • Where was I?
  • Who was I with?
  • Where was I going?
  • What was around me?
  • What was I thinking?
  • What was I feeling?

By taking time to think about what was happening externally and internally, you can identify the cause of a trigger.

Prepare A Plan

Once you have identified your triggers, it is time to prepare a plan. By developing an action strategy, you can help counteract unhealthy reactions and address them directly.

Everyone’s relapse prevention may look different, but below are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Write it down.
  • Consider your recovery goals.
  • Identify your motivation for positive change.
  • Include identified triggers.
  • Add tools and methods for coping with stress/triggers.
  • Schedule healthy lifestyle initiatives.
  • Practice self-improvement concepts.
  • Add a daily maintenance plan.
  • Introduce communication ideas for family and friends.
  • Create forms of accountability.
  • Set up a support system.

A written down relapse prevention plan can serve as a physical guide and reference. If used with dedication, it can minimize the effects of triggers and support sobriety.


Once you have a plan prepared, it’s time to set it into action. The list will serve as a blueprint to fall back on. Here are few tips to help you settle into your practice:

  • Place a copy of it somewhere visible, like on a wall by the door or your bed.
  • Keep a copy with you at all times.
  • Discuss your strategy during counseling or therapy sessions.
  • Reread it daily.
  • Change or edit it as needed.
  • Talk about it with your loved ones.


However, an individual choosing to practice using their relapse prevention plan actively is up to them. The point is to have something solid to fall back on during times of stress. They serve as a personal reminder of a person’s options, goals, and desires for the future. By incorporating and practicing a written recovery master plan into an addiction treatment program, people can minimize their relapsing chances.

Learning how to handle triggers and overcome them takes practice. It requires dedication, support, and self-compassion. It is essential to understand that conquering the urge to use may not be instant. Still, by committing to a plan, they are manageable. Our team hopes that the guide above helps you or your loved one prepare and maintain a sober and healthy recovery.

Get Help Today

If you or a loved one are battling an addiction disorder (AUD), please reach out for help. For more information on treatment options, contact a treatment provider today.  

  • Author: Suzette Gomez | Last Updated: October 4, 2021

    Photo of Suzette Gomez

    Suzette Gomez

    Digital Content Writer

    Suzette Gomez earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida. Her desire to help others led her to a Pre-medical track with a focus on psychological and social development. After graduation, she pursued her passion for writing and began working as a Digital Content Writer at Recovery Worldwide LLC. With her background in medicine, Suzette uses both science and the arts to serve the public through her writing.

  • Medical Reviewer: David Hampton

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