Relapse Triggers and How to Avoid Them

Anecdotal stories about recovering drug addicts and alcoholics who have experienced a relapse are so common that many people assume that relapses are an expected and regular part of recovery. Regrettably, relapses are not uncommon, but the good news is that they are not inevitable. Addiction recovery counselors and therapists have gained a greater understanding of the triggers that lead to relapses and are structuring recovery programs to give addicts and alcoholics new tools and techniques to recognize relapse triggers and to either avoid them or to handle them in a manner that keeps them away from drugs or alcohol. These tools and techniques are especially helpful for parents and family members who are committed to helping their teen or adolescent family members to defeat a drug addiction or alcoholism problem.

“Relapse Triggers”
The most obvious relapse triggers to avoid are the environments and social settings that make drugs and alcohol available to a recovering addict. Where younger people are concerned, this might require a teen to shun old friends who supplied him with substances and to stay away from social gatherings where drugs and alcohol are present. Social isolation can lead to boredom, which is itself a relapse trigger, and it is critical for a recovering teen alcoholic or drug addict to establish new friends and social activities to replace the old relationships that fostered his substance abuse.

“Staying Away From Drugs”
Staying away from drugs of any kind can be a challenge for adolescents, particularly if drugs are present in his home as, for example, if a parent or sibling is using any kind of prescription painkillers. The mere presence or proximity of any kind of drug can tempt a recovering addict to use that drug or to seek other substances. Parents and family members of recovering teen addicts will need to take great care to isolate and secure their prescription medications to prevent any inadvertent relapse triggers from taking hold of a recovering teen addict.

“Addict’s Mental State”
A recovering addict’s mental state can swing wildly among over-confidence, boredom, and complacency as he adjusts to a new life without substances. That mental state will be affected by regular daily stresses, or mental and physical pain that the recovering addict experiences as he goes on with his daily routine. Parents and family members of recovering teen addicts need to maintain an extreme state of vigilance to monitor his or her mental state for signs of triggers that could lead them back to substance abuse. When they suspect any problems creeping into the teen’s psyche, they should contact the teen’s addiction recovery counselors and therapists, who may not be able to detect those problems in more limited one-hour sessions.

“Drug Addictions”
In spite of the difficulties that drug addictions or alcoholism might have created, both teen and adult substance abusers often lapse into reminiscences of experiences they had while using drugs or alcohol. Those memories can lead a recovering addict to rationalize his substance abuse and to minimize memories of the pain and suffering it may have caused, and that rationalization can easily trigger a relapse. A teen’s romanticizing about those problems may be evidence of a relapse trigger in the making. Likewise, a teen’s portrayal of himself as a martyr or his expressions of self-pity may be signs that he is trending back toward drug and alcohol usage. His parents and family members should pay close attention to how a teen talks about his prior substance abuse problems.

Sustain Recovery Services in southern California has developed numerous programs to help adolescents and young adults who are recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism, and their parents and families to, recognize the common triggers that can lead to a substance abuse relapse. Please see our website or call us at 949-407-9052 for more information about our services or to arrange a confidential consultation with one of our counselors.