Relapse Triggers

Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction is filled with challenges. Even once you return home from a recovery center and commit yourself to living a substance-free life, you will encounter obstacles that make resisting your urges to use seem extremely difficult. This article discusses some of the most common relapse triggers recovering addicts face, as well as methods through which you can identify triggers that pose the greatest risk of relapse to you.

Common Relapse Triggers

When someone has been using drugs or alcohol on a daily basis for several months or years, adjusting to a life of sobriety can take a long time. This difficulty with which people adjust explains many of the most common relapse triggers, which include:

  • Experiencing strong and sudden emotions or feelings, ranging from anxiety, impatience, and boredom to anger, fear, and frustration
  • Stress
  • Overconfidence
  • Discontinuation of outpatient therapy
  • A return to the crowd with whom a recovering addict once used

Senses-Based Cues

A whiskey bottle at the liquor store, any white powder reminiscent of cocaine, and the smell of marijuana are all triggers for some recovering addicts. Sights, sounds, and smells that you encounter post-treatment will be some of the sources of the most irresistible triggers.

Environmental Cues

Hanging out with the crowd that you used to drink or use with is usually a recipe for a trigger-happy time. The reason why your old friends are triggers is because of the associations your mind has with those people. The same is true of places you used to drink or use at; frequenting those places will more than likely cause a relapse trigger.


Talking and listening during group support meetings and individual therapy sessions can help you identify the triggers that are most prevalent in your life. Once aware of these triggers, you can make a concerted effort to ensure you encounter them as infrequently as possible. Whenever you do encounter them, do not hesitate to ask a loved one for help.

Participation in ongoing outpatient therapy is often considered the most effective way to identify and avoid relapse triggers. At Sundown M Ranch in Yakima, Washington, our trained and dedicated addiction recovery specialists facilitate group and individual therapy for patients who have already completed a residential treatment program. To learn about our diverse outpatient therapy options, call (509) 457-0990.