You’ve been working so hard on your recovery! The absolute last thing in the world you want to happen after all this time and effort is a relapse, but unfortunately, relapses do happen to so many who are fighting addiction. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates as many as 40% to 60% of people relapse in recovery – figures that may seem extremely daunting. Even though your experience with Ibogaine has certainly helped you to reset and reroute the pathways in your mind that formed during your struggles, any addict is susceptible to falling back into old patterns at any time. There are many things you can do to avoid relapses, and perhaps the biggest thing you can do is learn how to recognize, avoid, and deal with relapse triggers.
There are a vast number of addiction triggers, and almost all of them can apply to anyone in addiction recovery. These obstacles and pitfalls are unfortunately waiting around every corner to trip you up. However, if you are aware of them, are able to identify them, and can take the steps to deal with them, there’s nothing you can’t handle. You made it this far, didn’t you? You are strong and powerful, and you CAN avoid and overcome these issues, and stay clean and sober for the rest of your life.
First, one thing to be especially aware of is that triggers for addictive behaviors do not necessarily initiate immediate use. The battle against them is ongoing, and in some ways, they can deeply affect you on a subconscious level. It could be weeks or even months between exposure to a trigger and actual relapse. Furthermore, one trigger by itself may not have any effect on an individual who is focused on his or her recovery, but the build up and combination of several over time can eventually lead to one’s downfall. It is important to be vigilant in looking out for the things that can lead you back down the path to addiction – no matter how long you have been clean and living a sober life.
There are many common triggers reported by people in recovery who have had experience with relapses. Most are quite obvious and not surprising, but each warrants discussion and recognition. Relapse triggers can be classified into three types: stress, environmental, and, re-exposure. None of these is more dangerous than another; all three types can affect anyone, although some triggers may be more hazardous to certain types of personalities than others.
Stress triggers are generally based on emotions such as anger, fear, anxiety, and sadness, and are the most common in our everyday lives, since they happen nearly every day, and exist for all people, whether they are in recovery or not. We all experience stress, and things like our jobs, relationships, parenting, and overextending ourselves can be difficult for all. H.A.L.T., an acronym for hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness, is something that is especially applicable to everyone. When any of these things describes how you are feeling, you are more likely to relapse. Lots of outside influences can cause these feelings. Obviously, lack of sleep and not eating right can contribute greatly to falling back into old, unhealthy patterns, so it’s extremely important that you take good care of yourself. If you are feeling lonely, its important that you don’t socially isolate yourself – if you need a shoulder to cry on or simply seek some friendly company, make a point to reach out to others, and make an effort to surround yourself with supportive, upbeat people. No matter who you are, its often difficult to get a good handle on your emotions and control them, but letting negative feelings run wild without reflection and analysis can lead anyone down a dangerous path.
Environmental triggers generally include social events or circumstances that were once associated with drug use. After some time in recovery, many addicts may find themselves reminiscing about or glamourizing their drug use experiences in the past. With time and distance from these experiences, it’s easy to forget about all the bad effects drugs had on your life, and to simply focus on the good times. This is a major pitfall for so many, and it may lead individuals into situations where they are at risk of slip ups or even full-blown relapse. Something as simple as seeing drug or alcohol use on television can trigger these feelings and can often be difficult to avoid. Or, an anniversary of a loss or personal trauma can often trigger the emotions that can lead to use. On the flip side, a happy event can be a trigger; although this may seem counterintuitive, good feelings may encourage you to celebrate, thereby putting you in a precarious position. And, being around certain people or environments that you frequented while using can be another environmental trigger, too. In fact, many of your relationships can be an issue in the environmental triggers realm – people who love and care about you may have been enablers while you were in active addiction, and those people can unknowingly and unintentionally encourage a relapse as well. They may mean well, and you may not need or want to cut ties with these people that you love, but simply being aware of their potential as a trigger is extremely important.
Re-exposure triggers are the third category and are perhaps the most obvious; however, they are also often the easiest to avoid. First, it is paramount that you do not find yourself feeling too over-confident about your recovery. Perhaps you think you are completely over it, and can therefore insert yourself into situations that are clearly dangerous, like spending time with the same people you used to use drugs with, or attending events where you definitely would have used in the past. Even if it’s different people and different places, its best if you avoid social situations or places where drugs may be available. You may feel confident, but these sorts of encounters can truly send you down the wrong path. Remember, using a drug just once again can rapidly and, in some cases, almost immediately put you right back where you started, so it’s best to avoid these people and places entirely whenever possible.
How to Deal With Relapse Triggers
Although the number of possible relapse triggers is quite long and may seem insurmountable, there are many ways to deal with them that can help keep you on the straight and healthy path to the wonderful life free of drugs and alcohol that you seek. First and foremost, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, it is important to be aware of these triggers; identification of them is the first step to avoiding them. Once you have recognized a trigger, recommit to your recovery efforts. You can do this mentally, verbally, or in writing, but reminding yourself that you are on a good path now, and why you have chosen that path, can help immensely. If you feel yourself slipping, call your sponsor or go to support groups, and be conscious of whether your recovery plan or other tools have stopped working, and take steps to adjust accordingly. If possible, work one-on-one with a therapist to address possible triggers and how to deal with each one. Engage in activities that make you feel good and remind you of your recovery like journaling, exercise, meditating, yoga, flotation therapy, and positive self-talk. If you encounter a potential trigger, immediately redirect your attention on positive actions. Most of all, stay focused on your recovery and know that you have made the right choice in seeking a healthier life.
You have come a long way since you were active in your addiction and remember, slips are extremely common. A lapse in sobriety does not necessarily mean you have relapsed, so don’t give up! As time goes on, avoiding drugs and alcohol will become easier. According to one eight-year study of nearly 1200 addicts, only about one third of people who are in their first year of recovery will remain abstinent, but after a year, fewer than half will relapse, and after five years, that number drops to less than fifteen percent. Hang in there, be on the look out for triggers, and stay dedicated to your recovery. Don’t beat yourself up over a slip, but seek help and support immediately if it happens, and identify the causes so it doesn’t happen again. You can get back on track and continue to recover, and remain on the straight and direct path to a healthy and amazing life.
Dr. Sola is one of the world’s leading experts in medically-based ibogaine treatment; he has more clinical experience with safe and effective ibogaine administration than any other M.D. in the world today.