Entries tagged with “Triggers”.


Leaving rehab is an exciting time. You’re beginning a new chapter in your life, equipped with the tools to maintain your sobriety. However, this does not mean that you won’t be faced with temptation.

The best way to prevent relapse after rehab is to proactively think about what triggers the urge to use and how you’ll handle cravings when they arise. Everyone’s experience is a little different, but this post outlines the most common triggers and offers suggestions you can use to help yourself stay clean.

1. Stress
A major part of the appeal of drugs and alcohol is that they provide a temporary escape from life’s stressful situations. If you’re worried about losing your job, experiencing financial difficulties, or fighting with your significant other, the key to maintaining your sobriety will be finding a constructive outlet for your stress.

Some ideas to consider include:

  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Write about your feelings in a journal.
  • Pray or meditate.
  • Exercise.
  • Talk to a friend about what’s bothering you and brainstorm solutions together.

2. Boredom
Boredom is a common trigger among recovering substance abusers who turned to drugs and alcohol as their preliminary method of socializing and having fun. It can be challenging to find ways to entertain yourself after leaving the structured environment of a rehab facility.

The best boredom busters are ones that align with your own interests and passions, but here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Have friends over to binge watch a new show on Netflix while enjoying a bowl of freshly-made popcorn.
  • Take a class to learn about a subject you’ve always been interested in, such as painting, gardening, or mastering a new language.
  • Spend time outdoors hiking or biking. Exercising and spending time in nature helps provide natural endorphins to boost your mood.
  • Get involved with a volunteer organization that lets you meet new people while helping to make the world a better place.
  • Look for opportunities to socialize at your place of worship, such as guided Bible study groups or short service trips.

3. Frustration
Making significant changes to your life isn’t easy, so it’s normal to become frustrated when your recovery doesn’t progress as well as you’d hoped. However, you can’t let this frustration cause you to give up or decide that being sober isn’t worth the effort.

When you’re frustrated, head to a meeting. Friends and family may mean well, but other recovering substance users will have a unique understanding of the challenges you’re facing. They can reassure you that what you’re feeling is normal and help you work towards finding a way to move forward with your life.

4. Peer Pressure
In a perfect world, the people closest to you would respect your decision to get clean. Unfortunately, the friends you made while you were still using may feel threatened by your newfound sobriety. They may ignore your requests to engage in drug- and alcohol-free activities, take you to places that trigger memories of past substance abuse, or encourage glamorizing your history of addiction.

The sad truth is that there isn’t thing you can do to control the behavior of others. You are only in control of your own thoughts and actions. If you find yourself surrounded by people who aren’t being supportive of your recovery, it’s time to put some distance between yourself and them. Saying goodbye to old friends is hard, but it’s sometimes necessary to move forward. Give yourself permission to seek a new social circle that understands your worth and encourages your recovery.

5. Failing to Address Co-Occurring Conditions
Many people with substance abuse disorders also struggle with co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. If you’re not taking the time to address these issues, you may find that you’re tempted to start using as a way to self-medicate.

To effectively maintain your sobriety, you must address all mental health concerns with your therapist or counselor. Cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication may be necessary as part of your addiction treatment plan.

One Mistake Isn’t the End of the World

If you do succumb to the urge to use, it’s not the end of the world. One mistake doesn’t mean that your efforts in recovery are doomed. Think of the recovery process as a journey that requires regularly reevaluating which treatment strategies and coping mechanisms work best for your needs.

St. Joseph Institute offers extensive relapse prevention and aftercare services, including counseling, retreat programs, and alumni gatherings. If you’re struggling to maintain your sobriety, we can help connect you with the resources you need to ensure a lasting recovery.

By Dana Hinders


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Staying active is an important element to good health. For people who are stuck in the cycle of drug or alcohol abuse, physical exercise is often one of the first parts of their routine that gets neglected.

Physical exercise is an important part of treatment for those who are in the early stages of recovery. In these early days, staying busy is important. The time that an addict used to fill with activities related to finding and using drugs or alcohol now needs to be filled with non-drug-related activities. Exercise is a good choice to help fill up this time, not only because it’s a common leisure activity, but also due to its effect on the brain.

Benefits of Personal Training on Addiction Recovery
Regular physical activity provides a number of benefits to those who are in recovery.

  • Regular Exercise Reduces Stress
    • As the physical dependency on drugs and alcohol gets broken, it’s important for addicts to repair their physical and psychological health. Part of addiction treatment involves learning new ways of dealing with emotions and tension. Exercise is a natural way to deal with stress and is healthier than using chemicals to relax or holding on to unnecessary stress.
  • Exercise Changes Brain Chemistry—for the Better
    • When someone exercises, their brain releases endorphins, which are the body’s “feel good” chemicals. The person experiences feelings of pleasure, which are a type of natural “high.” These are the same brain chemicals released when someone abuses substances. Substance abuse interferes with the normal release of brain chemicals to feel pleasure and happiness from anything other than using substances.
    • With time, regular exercise reintroduces natural levels of endorphins into the system. The addict’s body learns to feel better physically over time. They also relearn that they can experience pleasure from experiences that don’t involve using chemicals.
  • Exercise is a Way to Relieve Boredom
    • For a person in recovery, having large blocks of free time with nothing to do is something that should be avoided. Exercise is something that can be included in a daily routine to fill in part of the day. There are a number of activities that can be enjoyed with others, which makes exercising a way to meet new people who aren’t part of an addict’s former lifestyle. Taking an exercise class or playing a team sport is a way recovering addicts can get involved in sober activities and move away from their former circle of friends. This leads them to activities that don’t trigger the urge to drink or do drugs.
  • Regular Exercise Improves Mood
    • As a person in recovery begins to feel better physically, their outlook on life follows suit. People who exercise regularly have increased self-confidence and are less likely to feel anxious or depressed.
  • Participating in an Activity is Fun
    • Addicts who have spent years feeding their addiction may have lost the capacity to simply enjoy themselves by participating in some type of physical activity. Exercising doesn’t have to involve anything fancy or expensive. You can start by putting on a sturdy pair of shoes and going for a brisk walk. It won’t take long for someone in recovery to notice that once they feel better, they’ll start increasing their exercise as part of their new, sober lifestyle.

St. Joseph Institute offers a variety of exercise options, from hiking across our wooded campus, to exercising in the weight room, or swimming in our endless pool. If you or someone you love needs help with an addiction problem, please call us anytime at 888-352-3297.


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holidays

The holidays can be a difficult time for those who are in the early stages of recovery. If you’re used to a holiday season that involves using alcohol or drugs to socialize and celebrate, navigating a sober Christmas may feel a little intimidating. Prepare yourself for the challenge with this 7-step game plan.

1. Organize Your Support System
Experts agree that having a strong support system in place is the single most important thing you can do to help yourself stay sober over the holidays. Here are some simple ways to prepare your support system for the holidays:

  • Make a list of 5 to 10 people you can call if you’re struggling and feel tempted to relapse. Carry the list with you in your wallet or purse.
  • If you’re traveling, look up addresses of meetings in the area you plan to visit. Keep this information with your list of emergency contacts.
  • When you’re attending social events, try to go with a friend or family member who is supportive of your recovery and willing to help you navigate tricky situations, like politely refusing alcoholic drinks.
  • Ask someone you trust to check in on you regularly during the holiday season.

2. Give Yourself Permission to Let Go
The best gift you can give yourself this holiday season is permission to let go of the toxic people in your life. People who are ill mannered, mean spirited, unsupportive, and manipulative drain your emotional energy and jeopardize your recovery. You deserve better.

Giving yourself permission to let go may mean not returning phone calls or skipping a few holiday parties where these toxic individuals are likely to be in attendance. This isn’t rude; you’re simply giving yourself the space you need to move forward with the next chapter of your life.

3. Keep Your Expectations in Check
The media hype surrounding the holidays makes it seem like everyone has a picture-perfect Christmas celebration. However, the reality is often that children squabble amongst themselves, dinner gets burnt, the dog breaks your favorite tree ornament, and bad weather cancels your favorite cousin’s flight.

These unexpected setbacks are bound to be frustrating, but they’ll be less bothersome if you try to keep realistic expectations for the holidays. Accept that the best parts of life are often messy and imperfect. When you’re frustrated, take a deep breath and try to find humor in the situation.

4. Make New Holiday Traditions
If you’re worried about being tempted to relapse due to holiday rituals that center around alcohol or drug use, now is the time to create new traditions. Make positive memories that fit into your new sober lifestyle.

Ideas for new holiday traditions you might want to incorporate into your Christmas celebration include:

  • Bake and decorate cookies for friends and family.
  • Pick a Pinterest DIY décor project to try.
  • Go caroling.
  • Pop a bowl of fresh popcorn and watch classic Christmas movies with your loved ones.
  • Purchase a special ornament for your tree to commemorate the year.
  • Organize a small Secret Santa gift exchange.
  • Send Christmas cards to family and friends.

5. Take Time to Help Others
Helping others during the holiday season lets you make a positive change in the world while providing a welcome distraction from your own struggles. Once you see how wonderful it can be to do something kind for people in need, volunteering might become a regular part of your routine.

Some ideas to consider include:

  • Volunteer at a local soup kitchen.
  • Spend some time helping care for pets waiting to be adopted at an animal shelter.
  • Make a donation of food or toiletries to a nearby homeless shelter.
  • Visit nursing home residents who don’t have any family nearby to keep them company during the holidays.
  • Deliver puzzles, coloring books, or other inexpensive gifts to a children’s hospital to provide joy to kids who won’t be home for Christmas.
  • Bring homemade treats and a handwritten note of appreciation to firefighters, law enforcement officers, or others who work to help keep your community safe.

6. Make Time for Self-Care
Self-care is a vital part of your recovery, even during the holidays. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season that you forget these vital self-care principles:

  • Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Regular physical activity strengthens your body, boosts your immune system, and releases endorphins that help balance your mood.
  • Strive to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. A healthy diet helps repair some of the damage to your body caused by drug and alcohol abuse, while giving you the energy you need to get through your daily routine. It’s fine to indulge in a few Christmas sweets, but make sure you’re still getting the fuel your body needs.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, even if it means turning in earlier at night or making time for a short 20-minute nap during the day.

7. Monitor Your Triggers
The most common triggers for relapse can be remembered with the acronym HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. These triggers can all be successfully managed, but only if you’re making a conscious effort to think about how your mood affects your urge to drink or use drugs. Writing in a journal each day can be a helpful way to identify patterns in your mood and behavior so you can proactively manage your recovery.


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