Avoiding 6 Major Triggers in Early Recovery
Recovery is a battle that is fought in stages. If you’ve already survived the rigors of detox through inpatient or outpatient treatment, are working a 12-step program, and have made a firm commitment to living a substance-free life, you’ve already won half the battle. The other half of the battle requires careful self-inventory and a detailed, action-based plan.
In recovery there is a saying, “the relapse before the relapse,” which perfectly describes the process by which unresolved emotions and unhealthy mental habits lead a newly sober individual to return to drug use. This saying in never more true than in early recovery, where former users are confronted with situations, people, events, relationships, work-related stressors and internal demons that can shake the foundation of their sobriety.
An abundance of evidence has already proven the relationship between unresolved negative emotions and drug use. Negative emotions are naturally uncomfortable and lead people to avoid experiencing them by self-intoxication. Although all human beings suffer from negative emotions, they can be particularly troubling when paired with the demands of a drug-free lifestyle that leaves no room for escape. The key to effectively dealing with negative emotions lies in addressing them as soon as they arise— without allowing them to build up and override logical, rational thinking.
It has been said that the opposite of addiction is connection. When people are afraid to reach out for support because of social anxiety or fear of intimacy, or establish a network of sober connections through programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the likelihood of relapse increases. Relapse, like addiction, flourishes in isolation, where self-justification and rationalization go unchecked by the proper channels of support. When navigating the stormy waters of early recovery, always choose to make social connection and sober support a top priority.
The demands of a full-time job can be overwhelming— especially if someone is in a management position or required to perform physically demanding or tedious work. Even the positive perks that come with a promotion have a negative aspect, tempting people to celebrate irresponsibly or over-inflating self-worth. It is important to have a plan in place that helps prevent either extreme from occurring, dealing with stressors as they arise instead of allowing them to accumulate. Bottled-up stress is a relapse waiting to happen.
RELATIONSHIPS AND SEXUAL TEMPTATIONS
At some point, we’ve all heard the 12-step suggestion about avoiding relationships for the first year of early recovery. There is definite wisdom in this suggestion, although it is frequently overlooked or ignored. For many people, it is an inconvenient truth that sexual temptations are precursors to relapse, especially when they involve unhealthy connections where the following issues arise:
- Power struggles
Sobriety requires a full-time, self-motivated commitment, and, too often, people find themselves choosing the same toxic, dysfunctional relationships and sexual partners that led to addiction in the first place. Always remember, there is no priority higher than self-love and care, and it is wisest to choose those before sacrificing your sobriety on the dating scene. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is correct: give it at least a year.
There is a major difference between a healthy, appropriate sense of confidence and ego-based confidence stemming from an unhealthy or unrealistic outlook. Although successfully transitioning from inpatient or outpatient treatment is an important first step in early recovery, it is never a reason to feel cocky or overconfident. In fact, it is only one small step on the journey. 12-step recovery has a spiritual basis in humility, and for good reason.
Always remain humble with each step. Remember that addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease especially dangerous to those who feel they are beyond its hold, or arrogant enough to think that they can have “just one drink” or “just one smoke.” In almost every case, “just one” proves to be one too many. Don’t fall victim to that trap—stay humble!
THE POWER OF CHOICE
Victor Frankl, the famous author and survivor of the Holocaust, once said “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. And in our response lies our freedom and growth.” Nowhere does that apply more perfectly than in early recovery when temptations are not only possible, but guaranteed. Fortunately, no matter what temptation an individual is facing, it is always possible to choose to continue your recovery rather than feed your addiction.