Coping with Triggers: Strategies for Maintaining Sobriety



If you have an addiction, one of the most important things you can do is learn to cope with triggers. A trigger is something that sets off a relapse or makes it more likely that you’ll use drugs or alcohol. Triggers may be social, emotional, physical or situational—and they often vary from person to person. For example, if someone has a traumatic childhood experience with food and binges when they’re stressed out at work, then the sight of an office candy jar could be a trigger for them; but for another person who craves sweets when stressed out about money issues, the sight of their own kitchen cupboards might set off cravings for cake instead!

Know What Triggers You

Triggers are the things that cause you to feel an urge to use. Triggers can be anything from seeing your old drug dealer, smelling pot or alcohol, feeling lonely or bored and even having a bad day at work. The more you know about your own triggers, the better prepared you’ll be when they come up again.

To get started on this process:

  • List all the things that trigger you (i.e., people/places/things)
  • Think about how these things make you feel when they happen
  • Write down what happens right before using drugs or alcohol

Avoid Triggers When Possible

Avoiding triggers is not always possible, but if you can’t avoid them, try to cope with them. Coping with triggers can be difficult. If you have a trigger that is unavoidable (such as being around your family), then consider having someone else present who also has a substance use disorder so that they can help support and comfort you during this time when needed.

Learn to Cope with Triggers

  • Learn to cope with triggers. Triggers are situations, people and places that remind you of your addiction. They can trigger cravings for drugs or alcohol, as well as other compulsive behaviors like eating disorders, gambling and shopping addictions.
  • Use your support system to help you deal with these triggers in healthy ways. For example:

o If there is a situation that reminds you of using drugs or drinking, talk about it with someone who understands what you’re going through–that way they can help guide you through the situation without giving into temptation!

o When negative thoughts come up while coping with addiction triggers (like “I want this” or “I need this”) challenge those thoughts by asking yourself if they’re true…and then replace them with something more positive like “I don’t need this” or “There are better things out there.”

Find Support When You Need It

When you’re struggling with triggers and feeling like you have no one to turn to, it can be helpful to develop a network of people who are willing to help. This can include:

  • Friends or family members
  • A therapist (if you have health insurance)
  • An addiction specialist (if your insurance doesn’t cover therapy)


I hope that these strategies are helpful for you. Remember, it’s not your fault if you experience triggers–they can happen to anyone. The important thing is to know how to cope with them when they do arise in order to maintain your sobriety. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by triggers or other challenges related to your recovery, don’t hesitate: reach out for help!

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