group of sober people in recovery support group tackling triggers and cravings in substance abuse recovery

After completing a drug and alcohol rehab program, it’s common to experience uncomfortable situations or environments that might trigger unwanted emotions or substance cravings. Learning to tackle your triggers and cravings in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction is a fundamental part of the recovery process. The early stages of recovery are often the most challenging but also the most prominent time for establishing a solid foundation for your sobriety.

Identifying Your Addiction Triggers and Cravings

Substance abuse recovery is a different process for each individual, meaning that not everyone will experience the same emotions, mental health struggles, or triggers and cravings. Dealing with addiction triggers is a common struggle in recovery, comprised of both internal and external triggers that can stimulate a memory or craving for alcohol or drugs. Some of the most common relapse triggers often include stress, depression, people, places, or even the sight and smell of drugs or alcohol.

Someone in recovery might have dealt with challenging emotions, such as stress, anxiety, and depression, and used substances for relief. Coping with these emotions might trigger that memory and craving for the substance, some more intense than others. Certain people, whether it’s a family member, friend, spouse, or even an acquaintance, can act as an addiction trigger for someone in recovery. A family member or friend might have a negative or overwhelming response or reaction to something you say or do, triggering those negative emotions that you once coped with through substance use.

A particular friend group or social outing might trigger negative memories before sobriety, reminding them of their addiction and potentially fueling that craving. Specific places like a house with negative or traumatic memories or a bar with the presence of alcohol and drugs can also be incredibly challenging and triggering to be in for someone in early recovery. Identifying your emotional, social, or environmental triggers can help you effectively prepare to address and avoid them in the future.

man struggling with addiction triggers and cravings in recovery

Tips for Managing Cravings and Triggers in Recovery from Substance Abuse

The first step towards managing your triggers and cravings in recovery is identifying and understanding them. Once you’ve identified what triggers your substance cravings, you can physically and emotionally equip yourself with the tools to tackle them. Establishing a set of strategies and coping mechanisms can best prepare individuals to manage and overcome triggers and cravings in recovery.

1. Implement Healthy Coping Techniques

Self-awareness in recovery from addiction can help identify what environments, emotions, or people that are beneficial for your sobriety journey. This self-awareness can lead you to develop healthy coping strategies and techniques for managing triggers and drug or alcohol cravings. Coping mechanisms can help you manage stressful situations and negative emotions before your cravings get the best of you. Relapse is a common fear in recovery, especially during the early stages.

Discovering effective coping mechanisms can prepare you for potentially triggering situations or environments and how to handle them. Whether it’s deep breathing techniques or practicing mindfulness and meditation exercises—whatever helps to reduce your stress levels, adopt those techniques and strategies.

2. Build a Supportive, Substance-Free Environment

Building a solid support system doesn’t just refer to family members and friends. A support network in recovery can include peers from support meetings, your sponsor, or other sober individuals in early recovery. Surrounding yourself with other sober individuals who understand what you’re going through can make you feel more comfortable when opening up about struggles in recovery or addiction cravings.

Spending time with your friends, family members, and sober community in a sober-friendly environment free of alcohol, drugs, and triggers builds resilience and supports your sobriety.

sober friends in a sober-friendly environment

3. Create a Healthy and Consistent Routine

Establishing a consistent routine that keeps you occupied is critical in the early stages of addiction recovery. Planning out your days, including meals, workouts, hangouts, hobbies, etc., can help sober individuals stay on track and away from substances.

While rest and relaxation are essential, too much spare time can open the door to doing drugs or drinking. Creating a healthy and consistent daily routine can help maintain a well-balanced lifestyle for someone in recovery, including both stimulating and relaxing activities.

4. Prioritize Sleep and Nutrition

Quality sleep and a well-balanced, nutritional diet are critical to a successful recovery. Poor sleep patterns and eating habits can exacerbate addiction cravings and lead to fatigue. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night and prioritizing nutritional meals can foster a healthy and energized body, both of which are critical when recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction.

5. Practice Self-Care

Self-care is not just pampering yourself and taking care of your outer appearance. Practicing self-care includes taking care of and prioritizing your emotional and physical well-being as a whole. A few self-care techniques include taking a warm bath, journaling, watching your favorite movie, cooking your comfort meal, or going for a walk in the park. Self-care techniques in recovery support managing triggers and cravings by eliminating stress and anxiety and promoting relaxation and peace.

practicing self-care techniques for managing triggers and cravings in substance abuse recovery

6. Utilize Delay Tactics and Replacement Behaviors

Delay tactics can foster healthy decision-making in the beginning stages of recovery when faced with triggers and addiction cravings. These tactics can act as a coping mechanism when cravings hit, allowing you to occupy your thoughts on something else or engage in an activity. Providing a distraction for yourself when a craving hits can allow some time for the craving to subside.

Replacement behaviors often consist of a list of healthy alternatives and strategies when you feel triggered or get a craving for drugs or alcohol. Calling a family member or friend, exercising, walking, or engaging in a hobby is another essential coping technique in recovery.

7. Prepare for Setbacks and Reflect on the Consequences of Substance Use

Acknowledging that setbacks and mistakes can happen, especially in the first year of addiction recovery. Don’t beat yourself up or view it as a failure if you slip up. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Identify what trigger led to the setback and how to handle it if it happens again.

Understanding the impact that drugs and alcohol have on your health and well-being can help you resist the urge to use or drink. Recognize how much progress you’ve made on your sobriety journey, and let that be your motivation to stay sober and keep going.

8. Celebrate Your Successes and Milestones in Recovery

Celebrating milestones in recovery, no matter how small, can encourage you to keep up with positive behaviors and decisions. You should be proud of yourself for getting sober and fighting off triggers and cravings. Staying sober and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is challenging, and it’s something worth celebrating. Recovery is a lifelong journey and a choice you must make every day.

Drug and Alcohol Rehab Treatment in Stuart, FL

Managing addiction triggers and cravings in substance abuse recovery isn’t something you have to do alone. Coastal Detox provides holistic treatment and psychotherapy, ensuring patients achieve holistic healing and recovery. Our drug and alcohol detox and addiction treatment in Stuart, FL, is for those struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

Reach out to Coastal Detox and get sober today!


  • PsychCentral, 2022. What Are Triggers, and How Do They Form?
  • Sleep Foundation, 2024. Nutrition and Sleep.
  • National Institute on Mental Health, 2022. Caring for Your Mental Health.