Substance Use

Drug & Alcohol Relapse Triggers

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What Are Relapse Triggers and How Can They Be Avoided?

Drug or alcohol addiction is a common struggle for many Americans. NSDUH reports that around 3.4% or 9.5 million Americans aged 12 or older misused opioids in 2020 alone.

While going through the recovery process, addicts sometimes fall into a relapse at least once during their journey. A relapse is when someone who is not using begins to use again.

Various internal or external triggers usually cause this. However, this does not have to be the case for everyone.

Learning to know what triggers you have can help you work through them and help you have a plan to prevent a relapse.

In this article, we’ll outline common drug and alcohol relapse triggers and how to overcome or avoid them with the help of Zinnia Health. If you want to skip straight to treatment options available at Zinnia Health, visit our treatment page or call us at (855) 430-9439.

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What Are Common Drug & Alcohol Relapse Triggers? 

For some drug users, a relapse can be very dangerous or even deadly. Therefore, it’s essential to understand common relapse triggers and learn how to overcome or avoid them.

Some of the most common drug and alcohol relapse triggers are outlined below. 

1. Stress

Not surprisingly, one of the primary triggers of relapse is stress. It is not uncommon for those who struggle with addiction to turn to or begin craving their drug of choice during stressful times.

In addition, many research studies show that “wanting” to participate in drug use was the person’s primary coping mechanism for dealing with stress.

One of the most critical steps to take here would be to evaluate what stressors you currently have in your life. Although you may not be able to remove every stressful person or thing in your life, you can control avoiding stressful situations.

You can start by making a list of people, places, or things that elicit this response from you.

Who or what causes you stress? This could be anything from a toxic relationship to a financial situation.

Some ways to help manage stress include practicing mindfulness, managing your time to avoid panic mode, and incorporating healthy eating and exercise into your daily routine.

In addition, working with a therapist or counselor can help you listen to your body and know what to watch for.

Tips for managing stress:

  • Find mindfulness meditation and practice it daily.
  • Practice healthy eating habits such as incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet, regular meals, and avoiding junk food or sugar binges, which can cause fatigue.
  • Exercise is important, but try not to overdo it either. Yoga has been shown in several studies to help with anxiety symptoms.

2. Difficult Emotions 

Challenging and negative emotions from daily life can be a relapse trigger. People recovering will need to find a healthy way to cope with these feelings, primarily since drugs and alcohol were usually used to deal with these negative feelings.

Remember, having these feelings is not a setback as long as you learn to deal with them in healthy ways.

Emotions can be a growth opportunity — learning how to deal with them is an invaluable lesson. Things like meditating and journaling can be beneficial. Come up with a plan with your counselor on different healthy alternatives to dealing with emotions.

Tips for calming your emotions:

  • Pick up a book to read.
  • Take a deep breath and count to five.
  • Find something that makes you happy, i.e., watch your favorite movie, or call a friend or family member who can help distract you from these feelings.

3. Mood Swings 

Mood swings are a normal emotional response to life experiences, and it is essential not to be ashamed or upset about them.

Recognizing what triggers your mood swings will enable you to better deal with the changes in your emotions during this process.

Remember that these feelings are natural parts of many people’s withdrawal experiences.

Tips for coping with mood swings:

  • Find healthy outlets for your feelings.
  • Talk to someone about how you feel, whether with friends or family members who can support what you are going through.
  • Meditate and practice deep breathing exercises, if possible. These activities will help slow down your heart rate, decreasing stress levels in the body.

4. Sleep Deprivation 

Most people who use substances to cope with stress and pain will often overwork themselves. They may even do this after they have quit using drugs or alcohol because their body has been used to functioning on little sleep for a long time.

When you are under-slept, it can be challenging to make clear decisions and care for yourself properly.

Tips to help with sleep deprivation:

  • Go to bed at a regular time each night.
  • Do not use any electronic devices or watch TV in bed, as it will make it harder for your mind to shut off and calm down. Try reading instead.
  • Limit caffeine intake after lunchtime and sugar intake throughout the day — both can interfere with sleep quality.
  • Exercise daily but avoid working out right before going to bed.

5. Financial Problems 

Financial issues are common substance abuse relapse triggers. Many drug addicts and alcoholics take to crime, such as theft or fraud, to provide themselves with their substance of choice.

You must make a plan before these types of situations happen, so you know what steps you need to take if something were ever to go wrong financially speaking — otherwise, your addiction might come right back again because the pressure was too much.

Tips to help with financial stress:

  • Create a budget and stick to it.
  • Make sure you have some savings set aside for emergencies.
  • Stay away from the ATM and credit cards.
  • Take care of your bills before going out and buying unnecessary items that will drain your bank account.

6. Family Issues 

Arguments with family members or friends can be a common trigger for relapse. If you feel lonely, embarrassed, sad, or angry about your past behavior and choices, you must take care of yourself emotionally.

It’s okay to feel these feelings, but try not to act on them. Instead of drinking or using drugs, call your counselor or therapist instead.

Tips to help with family issues:

  • Accept the things that cannot be changed.
  • Learn to see beyond your world and consider other people’s feelings.
  • Take some time for yourself.
  • Leave the house if you need to.

7. Celebrations 

Even positive settings like family celebrations can be a trigger. Perhaps holding a drink in your hand gives you the confidence to flirt and chat, but without it, maybe you are not so sure of yourself. Even so, can you keep it under control?

Many individuals struggling with addiction have a hard time knowing exactly when to quit. Thus, one drink leads to a binge.

Relapse could occur during recovery, but it is not a failure. Instead, it is a slight detour in your road to recovery.

Working with your counselor, recognizing your triggers, and coming up with different alternatives can help you stay healthy.

Tips for staying sober during celebrations:

  • Stay busy so that drinking doesn’t become the main focus of the night.
  • Ask someone else who will be attending if they can keep an eye on you or are willing to help keep you accountable.

8. Social Pressure 

Being around people that you know use is a risk of relapse. It can also be tempting to try things again because they look so fun, even if just for a moment. This would usually only result in more pain, suffering, guilt, and loss of trust by those who care about you the most.

Instead, find healthy ways to deal with these feelings, such as talking them over with your counselor or therapist, taking some time away from others, going outside for fresh air, or exercising at the gym, which might help blow off some steam.

Tips to help with social pressure:

  • Don’t isolate yourself from those who care about you because of your feelings.
  • Avoid triggers such as talking to others about drugs and alcohol or going shopping at stores where liquor is displayed prominently.
  • Come up with safe alternatives for dealing with these emotions. Perhaps taking an exercise class or calling a supportive friend might help keep you on track without risking another setback in recovery.

9. Coming in Contact With Drugs or Alcohol 

Reminders of your addiction can trigger a relapse, even something as small as a whiff of cigarette smoke or watching others enjoying a few cocktails. Such reminders might feel like they are everywhere in the beginning stages of your recovery.

Remember the negative consequences of when you were drinking or using. For example, people may have been hurt and relationships lost. You might think that you want to use again, but it brought a lot more heartache in reality.

Instead, create a plan for a healthier behavior to replace the old habits. Things like yoga or other physical activities are great alternatives. You might even enjoy taking a nice relaxing bath or going for a walk and listening to music.

Tips for coming in contact with your drug of choice:

  • If you are afraid of coming in contact with the drug, avoid people who use it or places where it is used.
  • Practice staying sober for even one day at a time to ensure that relapse does not become an option again.
  • Try using different coping skills when dealing with stress and negative emotions so that these feelings do not lead to a craving.

10. People or Places Associated With Drug or Alcohol Use 

People who were involved in your drug use could be a trigger. Even if they are no longer using, there is a lot of history and emotion that could bring up feelings of wanting to participate in drug use.

This goes for places and even family members, especially if they make you feel vulnerable or child-like.

When you are reminded of your addiction, it is essential to have a plan to deal with all the emotions that might arise from these situations.

For example, if friends are inviting you to go out drinking and you are recovering from drinking, have a response ready or another activity suggestion.

In addition, you can brainstorm ideas with your counselor or therapist on different ways to respond to situations to be better prepared.

Tips for dealing with people or places related to drug use:

  • Change the way you think about people and places that remind you of drug use: try looking at them as a reminder to stay strong and not give in to temptation.
  • Avoid situations where drugs or alcohol are offered.

If you’re ready to start the next step on your road to recovery, then it’s time to call Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439 today. Our dedicated team is ready to help you identify your triggers and teach you the best strategy to combat and avoid these relapse triggers altogether. 

How To Avoid Common Relapse Triggers 

The key to avoiding relapse triggers is being prepared. This means knowing how you typically deal with difficult situations and emotions so that when they do happen, it’s easy for you to stay on track without feeling tempted by substances again.

Being attentive to your feelings and taking action towards improving them can be helpful during this process.

It would help if you also tried working out what types of activities help you feel better to build a list of healthy alternatives. If boredom often leads you back to drugs or alcohol, getting involved in new projects will give your mind something to focus on besides cravings.

At the same time, exercise might also relieve some tension from negative emotions.

You might also find it helpful to surround yourself with positive people who are not using substances themselves because they will understand you easier without triggering a desire to relapse.

For example, you could try some new hobbies or meet up with friends — this will help fill your daily routine with activities, keeping you from boredom and the opportunity to run into another trigger.

Remember, it’s about learning from these experiences and making changes where necessary. Remember that recovery takes time, but eventually, things should improve as long as you continue moving forward one step at a time towards sobriety instead of looking back at what once was.

1. Share Your List of Triggers with Someone Close

Sharing your list of triggers with somebody you trust can help because they will know what to watch out for.

This person should also learn a lot about addiction and how it works to give advice when needed — this could make the whole process more manageable instead of going through the motions alone.

Using these strategies is crucial if you want to succeed in your recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. It’s normal not to feel too confident initially. However, it’s important to try talking to others whenever possible.

In addition, researching topics related to relapse prevention and getting involved in activities such as meditation have been proven by experts to help combat relapse triggers over time. 

2. Make a Plan

Making a plan for what you’ll do if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation where one of your triggers might come up is an excellent way to prepare for the worst.

You could even write it down as an emergency strategy or draft text messages that you can send yourself, which gives you encouragement and motivation.

Remember that it might be difficult the first few times you try, but as long as you keep trying and practicing these techniques, they will eventually become second nature.

It’s also essential to think about how much better things could be if you find a way through, so try not to get too discouraged.

Don’t beat yourself up for falling back into old habits when triggers happen. Learn from the experience instead, then move forward one step at a time towards sobriety again, just like in recovery.

The key is having support and knowing how to handle these things — working with an addiction counselor can prove invaluable to keeping you on the path to recovery.

Zinnia Health Can Help Identify the Common Warning Signs That Often Lead up to Relapse

The most critical element to remember when avoiding relapse triggers is that you are not alone on this recovery journey. There is always someone who has been on a similar journey to what you are going through.

These individuals, along with qualified professionals, will be able to help guide you every step of the way.

And remember, relapse does NOT mean failure — recovery is a process without an endpoint, but keep taking one day at a time until eventually, lasting change happens.

Recovery can take months or even years, depending on how long you have gone through addiction-related issues before getting professional support.

It might feel challenging sometimes because life has become unmanageable due to substance abuse relapse triggers, but by seeking help and using techniques, you can make changes for the better.

All Zinnia Health methods are intensive, customized, and proven to help people overcome various forms of addiction and work past common relapse triggers.

Are you interested in learning more about Zinnia Health at and our treatment options? Then, reach out to our caring team at (855) 430-9439 to start your path to a brighter future today.

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