Staying Healthy in Recovery: How to Identify Triggers and Overcome Them

Staying healthy in recovery is a process that affects everyone differently. One of the biggest concerns people in recovery face is avoiding triggers that could result in relapse. People, places, activities, and other things can bring back memories of past drug or alcohol use and result in intense cravings. Knowing how to identify triggers and preparing yourself to fight them will help you stay on track with your sobriety.

What are Triggers?

After using substances for a substantial amount of time, the brain creates associations between certain things in your life that can remind you of prior drug or alcohol use. Being reminded of past usage can easily result in intense cravings for the substances you used to use. Being able to recognize the things in your life that cue intense cravings will help you avoid them throughout your recovery.

Common Triggers

Triggers are different for each person. But, there are common types of triggers that many people face throughout their time in recovery. These cues can be people, places, things, events, and even emotions.


Being around substance-using people is one of the most common causes of relapse. Anyone from former drug dealers, to old friends who invite you out to parties with drugs and alcohol can trigger a relapse. This not only applies to people who use substances. Even close friends or family may say or do something that can cause you to want to use drugs or alcohol again.


If there are any places you associate with substance use, it’s best to avoid them. These include places like concerts, bars and clubs, specific neighborhoods or houses where you used to use drugs or alcohol, and more. From the rooms where drinking or drug use took place to those familiar smells that evoke memories of abusive behavior, places can have a powerful effect on recovery. It’s best to avoid these triggers at all costs.


There are objects in your life that may cause memories to flood back and increase your urge to use drugs or alcohol. These could be movies where people are using substances, drug paraphernalia, drugs or alcohol, or anything else you associate with prior substance use. It can be as simple as seeing a lighter or a certain glass in the cabinet. Get rid of these items, regardless of the sentimental value they may have. Throw them away or, if they are valuable, give them to a trusted friend or relative for safekeeping.


Unfortunately, parties and celebrations often involve temptations like alcohol. It’s difficult to avoid birthday parties, company happy hours, graduation parties, or anything else where people are celebrating with alcohol. Having someone attend with you to help you stay away from any temptations is key to staying sober in these situations.


Emotions are considered internal triggers, and they’re usually much more difficult to avoid than external triggers. Anger, fear, jealousy, loneliness, boredom, and depression are just some of the emotional states that can cause stress and relapse. Recognizing your emotions and having a plan in place to deal with them in healthy ways will help you cope with these types of triggers.

Developing an Action Plan

Recognizing your triggers is an excellent first step. Learning to live with them is what will keep you healthy throughout recovery. In an ideal world you would never encounter a trigger, but in the real world that’s unlikely to happen. Preparing for triggers is crucial to the recovery process. Having someone who cares about you and understands your triggers can make a world of difference.

Staying healthy in recovery and learning how to cope with triggers is extremely difficult, but a strong support system can help you. If you or someone you love is struggling to stay healthy in recovery, we offer residential treatment as well as intensive outpatient treatment for those in recovery. Reach out to us today.

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