What are “Triggers”?

Coping skills for triggers

Triggers have a social, environmental, or emotional reaction that reminds them of their past drug and alcohol use. When they arise, they bring the urge to relapse. Some of the triggers will be people, places, harmful substances, and even scents that remind them of intense or distracting emotions. They may occur when a person reflects on and events, or when an uncomfortable experience took place. This may cause them to be angry, breakdown, or cope in unhealthy and harmful ways.  

When abusing drugs for an extended period, the brain creates an association between daily life and drug experience. They may suffer a drug or alcohol craving that’s uncontrollable when exposed to trigger cues.  

While being a recovering addict, the cravings may be so high that the probability of relapse is very significant.  

What Are External Triggers?

External triggers are associated with people, places, sights, smells, conflict, aggression, memories, activities, and objects that bring back the feelings and cravings of substance abuse. While in recovery, treatment specialists will come up with an action plan to avoid the external triggers that remind them of when they were using drugs in the past. They will be prepped and prepared to fight those cravings when they become triggered per the situation that brings those thoughts. 

These external triggers are very dangerous because the person will start to desire using drugs subconsciously without being aware they’ve become triggered. 

People closest to the individual may trigger those cravings that may lead to a relapse. An individual recovering needs to avoid any friends or family that are still substance using.

Places may also set off triggers when going through places they used to drink or consume drugs, which brings back the feeling and memory of using. 

Stressful situations or even holiday celebrations may trigger a recovering individual. Friends and family may encourage them to have a drink, unaware that this could lead to a relapse.

What Are Internal Triggers?

Internal triggers create a more significant challenge to manage than external triggers. They will bring thoughts, feelings, or emotions that were once associated with substance abuse. Internal trigger cues may deter recovery progress and may cause the individual to crave and use substances.

The emotions that may act as internal triggers are negative feelings, positive feelings, and frustration feelings. Therefore, it is very important to have a plan of action when such feelings occur. The key to suppressing these feelings is being aware of the internal triggers and the ability to seek support whenever needed.

how to handle triggers

Healthy Coping Methods for Trigger Management

An essential step to identifying triggers and managing them is to be self-aware. This will allow the individual to recognize the force that drives them into that behavior and control the trigger before it becomes a reason to relapse. Some popular methods to effectively manage your triggers include: 

  • Exercise daily 
  • Rest often
  • Counseling or therapy
  • Meditation 
  • Spend time with positive people
  • Drink water for hydration and tea for relaxation
  • Join a support group
  • Dieting with only nutritional meals
  • Positive and constructive activities
  • Controlling negative attitudes or perceptions

These practices will allow the individual to focus and keep their mindset on the present moment. When practicing healthy ways to manage triggers, you can detach from any painful or stressful situations that may create triggers. 

Be Honest with Yourself and Others

You’re encouraged to be honest with yourself about what exactly triggers you. You’ll realize that the pain and anxiousness don’t go away when you try to avoid it, it may even cause more pain. Also, even if this approach feels like self-harm, it will help you adjust to being more compassionate with yourself and the understanding and honesty about your triggers, which will allow you to self heal them. 

Everyone has emotional triggers. They come in the form of a feeling when someone makes a jokingly mean comment that is a big deal to another person, but it completely destabilizes you for the rest of the day. You can relate when somebody else expressed disapproval for you. Now you found yourself feeling off-center, and the feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, or shame come about. 

Learn to Relax in Any Situation

There are many ways to relax. Some are designed to relax the mind and some to relax the body. But the way the body and mind are connected, many relaxation methods can work on both the mind and the body simultaneously. 

Relaxing the mind: 

To relax the mind, take slow, deep breaths. Try soaking in a warm bath or even listening to soothing music. Meditation is a great tool also. While meditating focuses on the things that are happening right now in the present moment. Some will use a journal to write about their feelings. Guided imagery is also a great way to imagine yourself in a certain setting that helps you feel calm and relaxed.

Relaxing the body:

Yoga is a great way to relax the body. You can learn with books or videos to do at home or take up a yoga class. Muscle relaxation reduces anxiety and muscle tension. Muscle Relaxation is the process of tensing and relaxing each muscle group. Stepping outside to take a walk or do other activities may also help you relax. A massage is another great way if you have somebody to assist you with it. Try a warm drink that does not have alcohol or caffeine in it like warm milk or herbal tea. 

Keep a Daily Journal and Gratitude List

Get yourself a journal that you can put in a convenient place to write out your feelings daily. Try to recall the small moments in your day that brought you joy. That simple habit of reflecting on what you’re grateful for can lead to a much happier and more content life. Make a few minutes of your time everyday writing in your gratitude journal of your thoughts for the day. Go back and check up on yourself with things you had written the day before to inspire the next positive entry.

The key is writing daily weather only about your day or even gratitude quotes you can focus on. The most important is finding a schedule to sit down and write in it that will work with your lifestyle. 

Develop a Strong Support Network with Other Recovering Addicts

Building a support network in recovery is very important. Spending time with positive people who live life without drugs and alcohol, and supportive of you doing the same provides several benefits, including:

  • Accountability for choices in recovery
  • Encouragement to continue sober
  • Support if cravings return
  • Shared experiences in recovery
  • The opportunity to help others and support them on their healthy path

By spending time with positive people, the positive choices become normal, and the less likely you’ll turn back to drugs and alcohol to cope with stress, anger, boredom on other issues that arise.

Exercise Regularly

Combined with other treatments, exercise shows promise to help continue with sobriety. Many patients with various substance use disorders have found that exercise helps to distract them from cravings. Workouts add structure to the day. They help with forming positive social connections and help treat depression and anxiety in combination with other therapies.

Practice Meditation

While in recovery for drug or alcohol addiction, you need to heal on every level to achieve long-term sobriety. This includes improving your mind, spirit, and body. Meditating gives you a range of benefits while in recovery. Practicing meditation often will have a significant role in your recovery with just some of these benefits:

  • You’ll make better choices in your everyday life and react appropriately without relapsing to drugs or alcohol. 

  • You will lower your stress and anxiety, which lowers your overall potential risk to relapse.

  • When stress and anxiety do arise, you’ll be equipped to re-align yourself and regain control of your emotions. 

Keep Focused on Proper Nutrition and Hydration

Some diseases contribute to poor nutrition or malnourishment. Addiction is one of those. Regular consumption of drugs or alcohol will deprive the body of essential nutrients and can cause dehydration. Many drugs suppress or increase appetite. 

Unhealthy diets will derail recovery by causing sleep problems, headaches, and low energy. These symptoms become familiar because they are the same feelings you’ll experience during withdrawal, so it isn’t easy for many people to know the difference. A healthy and nutritional diet, along with staying hydrated, will be an essential step in the recovery process.

Nutrition is essential to the recovery process not only to feel better but to avoid further damage to your body. When you consume too little calories, your muscles will break down. The heart is also a muscle, and when it breaks down, a person’s pulse and blood pressure can drop to life-threatening levels.

Hydration is an essential part of recovery also for everyday exercise and flexibility. Electrolytes are an important chemical that helps flex the muscles. Without enough electrolytes, muscles deprive, and even the heart struggles to beat. 

Unhealthy Coping Skills: What Feeds Your Triggers

Coping skills are techniques you use during the moment to deal with a stressful or difficult situation. Coping skills may not solve long-term problems, but they’ll assist with your deal with painful experiences, thoughts, or triggers that happen throughout the day. 

Positive coping skills will help you at the moment and will improve your overall quality of life if practiced frequently.

Don’t expect perfection while trying a new coping skill; developing these skills will take time. Stay committed by strengthening them and continuously seek new coping skills that are out of your comfort zone. Once established, you’ll live a happier and healthier lifestyle with a sense of control in those difficult situations that may arise.

Recognize the H.A.L.T. Symptoms

A tool that people use is known as HALT, which reminds us to ask ourselves is feeling hungry, lonely, angry, or tired. The key to maintaining a healthy life in recovery is by practicing self-care and self-awareness. While taking care of ourselves, and by understanding sure signs, we can prevent relapse. 


Hunger can be a physical or even an emotional need. Remind yourself not just to eat regularly, but to eat tasty nutritional meals. 

While hungry, stay focused, and sustain going back to destructive habits or negative people. Find something wholesome and nutritional to eat with a good friend or loved one. 


Anger is a very natural and healthy emotion to experience. While practicing halt, focus on understanding what causes your irritation and the proper way to express it. However, you do expire your anger, acknowledge and reflect upon it so you may relieve it in a non-destructive way.


Loneliness is something you may feel when all alone or surrounded by people. Being alone is a deliberate choice. If you feel alone, halt and ask yourself if you have reached out to friends or family lately. You’ll have a support system for when feeling depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or need to talk. Make an effort to reach out to somebody if required so you won’t be tempted to return to substance abuse.


Tiredness takes a significant toll on our bodies, mind, and spirit. When being busy with daily activities, you may ignore how tired you have become. While running on low energy, you compromise your ability to think clearly and to cope. Taking time to HALT is very important when you are tired. Recharging the mind, body, and spirit will assist you through tough moments you may endure. 

HALT is for you to remind yourself of basic needs every day. While recovering from addiction, you must pay very close attention to your feelings to prevent relapse. Check-in with yourself daily by asking, “Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?” and this will assist with the everyday stress of life to help you maintain sobriety.

Falling Back Into a Crowd with Those Who Abuse Substances

In early recovery, it is essential to stay distant from old friends you knew while using. Use the time away to reflect on who in the crowd you hang out with is a friend or somebody you like to party together. While getting back to seeing old friends, focus who is a real friend and will support you during the transition. Although maintaining friendships while now sober may take work, it is very well possible.

Start by being honest with your friends. If they are real friends, they should understand what you’re facing, and honesty is a great way to help a friendship go forward. 

It is essential to know your limits and boundaries while seeing friends at old hangout places. If meeting at a bar is something that might trigger you, try suggesting a different location. Besides bars and other alcohol-serving establishments, try coffee shops or a juice bar. Even have a friend host dinner while binge-watching new shows. 

The safest way to avoid triggers to use amongst friends is by cutting out the ones who are tempting or encouraging you to abuse. However, this might not work for all of your friends, stay resilient, and refuse to give in. Some people won’t understand the importance of living sober, regardless. 

Bottling up Your Emotions

There are many reasons people choose to bottle up their emotions. Unchecked feelings could develop into bad behavior like drinking or using to cope with the suppression. 

When stressed and not letting out your bottled up emotions, this can develop many different mental health issues. Bottling up emotions is usually a sign that your worried people will see through your happy and carefree exterior. Keeping up with this persona will lead to stress and anxiety, which could eventually lead to abusing again. 

If this sounds familiar, try these few steps to make you more comfortable with opening up about your emotions:

  •    Figure out why emotions are bottled up
  •    Release your bottled emotions
  •    Accept your feelings
  •    Own the feeling
  •    Consistently communicate your feelings
  •    Ask yourself feelings daily
  •    Talk any time you need 
  •    Write in a journal
  •    Build upon friendships
  •    Unexpressed emotions will weigh you down

Develop an Attainable Plan for Trigger Management

You will need to develop a plan that works for you when triggers arise, so you can comfort yourself and keep your reactions tempered. 

Use tools that have worked previously, plus ideas you’ve learned, and always refer back to your wellness toolbox when needed. 

Your trigger management plan may include:

  • Finishing everything on the daily to-do list 
  • Reach out to a sponsor when needing to talk 
  • 30 Minutes daily of exercise
  • 30 minutes daily journal writing 
  • Pray often 
  • Start a new hobby like an instrument or puzzle
  • Meditating often 

Contact Coastal Detox Today! 

No matter how lost you feel, you have the power to turn your life around. We are here to support you throughout the entire journey. From the dedicated staff to a beautiful residency, Coastal Detox can be your home away from home while you recover. 

Our trained medical staff will attend to your needs and help give you the tools for recovery and sober life. With the right support and treatment, your entire life can take a turn for the better. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to give us a call. You can contact us here to begin your recovery journey today.