Triggers That Cause Relapse – Part 1

Today I would like to speak with you about triggers that cause relapse and why this is so common in recovery.

The assignment of a trigger has one mission: to set off a craving within the individual which is fueled by an obsession that becomes more difficult to resist than to just submit to.

The obsession over the craving becomes too great to resist after building momentum in the obsessed individual.

Thus, enter the submission of relapse.

In this three-part series on the topic of triggers that cause relapse, we will be discussing the three external triggers connected directly to anyone and everyone’s relapse: the three external triggers are people, places and things.

Today, we will be looking at the ‘people‘ and the role they may play in relapse.

Relapse: A Part of Recovery?

We have all heard the saying “relapse is a part of recovery” without actually giving much thought to why that is exactly.

The truth, be told, is that an average of 40 to 60 percent of the general population recovering from alcohol or drugs, at any given time, will experience a relapse, according to many studies, including a 2022 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Today I hope to shed a little light on ‘why’ relapse is a part of recovery and what are the most common triggers to recognize that cause relapse, which could have possibly been avoided had we know otherwise.

The External Battle

We simply can’t avoid life because life is going to show up rather, we like it or not.

For the person in recovery, triggers that cause relapse is not something you can dodge, duck or hide from.

It is something that you must face and be able to make adjustments on your behalf which are not only healthy for you but conducive to your staying recovered.

If you are unable to do this, the relapse is ultimately not a matter of ‘if‘ but a matter of ‘when‘ a relapse will take place.

It will happen if there is no defense. It is just a matter of time.

Once again, the key factors connected to external triggers are – you got it…people, places and thangs! (Things for those of you who are not excited about your recovery).

So, let’s look at some possible people who we will need to disconnect from on our new journey in recovery.

The People

It is important to know that the same people that were part of our addiction are also the same people who are connected to our triggers.

In some form or fashion, this rings true with all of us. Here are just a few examples to relate to:

  • people we used drugs or alcohol with
  • people we bought drugs from
  • people we sold drugs to
  • people we had sex with while we were getting high
  • family members and/or spouses

Now granted this list could go on and on depending on who it may pertain to, but for the sake of commonality, the people above are the precise prerequisite for a relapse.

It’s important to understand the same people who were triggers in our addiction will be the same triggers in our recovery.

Yet and still, some of us, after getting clean and sober, seem to think that it is OK to keep company with those still using.

We lie to ourselves, saying it’s OK to be around the same people now that we are clean and “what they do isn’t going to affect me!

Wrong!! If you sit in the barber shop long enough, you are going to eventually get a haircut!

Let me tell you something…if you see two people walking together, it is safe to assume that they ‘agree‘ on some level.

Two people that do not agree on something you will not likely find together as thick as thieves.

In other words, you are not likely to find them walking together.

If I see two guys dressed in suits, holding Bibles in their hands and walking together, my better sense tells me that they both are probably on their way to church and they both read the Word in the Bible.

Now, if I see two shifty people with pupil-pierced eyeballs and sketching, moving real fast and suspect, it is safe for me to also assume that these two guys are up to no good…together!

More than likely they are looking to rob or burglarize someone for another hit or fix…together…they agree and are in agreement…together!

Rather, it is for the good…or for the bad…the only reason you see two people walking together is because they agree.

Triggers Don’t Change: The Same Before & After

If we are to be serious about our recovery then we must realize that there are people, places and things that we must disconnect from and separate ourselves from…for good.

The person I used to buy drugs from is no longer a person I associate with because I no longer buy drugs and if he or she) is still selling and I am no longer buying, then we are no longer in agreement.

If someone I used to get high with is still getting high, then we are no longer in agreement, therefore, no longer walking together, so to speak.

The person I used to sell drugs to is still buying drugs today but I am no longer the seller or providing that service. No longer do we agree.

Many sexual encounters and relationships were discovered and created using drugs and the many “euphoric highs” that instigated those continuous drug-induced encounters.

Many of those encounters were in slummy motels, as well as very nice hotels on occasion, or even less desirable places…but we will talk about the role that “places” play as triggers in part two of the series.

Point being, we established relationships with sexual partners in our addiction that we can no longer concede to or condone the behavior we once did.

We may also find that family members or even our spouses remain in their addiction, which is not conducive to our recovery.

So the drinking you used to do with your brother before is no longer something you can do. If he is still drinking, you need to be aware of the possibility of a trigger that may exist for you today.

And what about your wife or husband that refuses to quit using or drinking? Or who doesn’t use at all and doesn’t believe you will quit or stay clean for long?

To Conclude

One thing that all of this following scenarios have in common is that they can all be triggers…and triggers are slippery places.

If they were triggers while you were using, then they will be triggers during your recovery as well.

There will be slippery people in your recovery only if you allow it.

I am not able to discern who is slippery to you…nor is anyone else able to.

This is something you will have to realize, accept and enforce during your recovery.

You have to be able to understand your triggers and your boundaries to apply to prevent them from taking you out again.

Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I have people in my life today who were in my life during my addiction.

The difference today is that we are in agreement with sobriety, not addiction.

I also have family members who believe and support my recovery today because the addiction is no longer present.

I also see people that are still in their addiction that I no longer am able to walk with today…because we no longer agree.

I have friends who have also recovered and are still recovered to this day and the minute that tune changes for either of us, then we are no longer in agreement.

In our next episode we will be looking at “places” that play a role in our triggers. See you soon!

Please feel free to comment or share your thoughts or questions with us!

Please Follow Us! Like Us Too!

2 thoughts on “Triggers That Cause Relapse – Part 1

  • March 8, 2023 at 7:56 PM

    Thank you for this article.  It’s definitely a hard topic to discuss, and unfortunately some find it still a bit taboo to talk about.  

    We tend to ignore addiction because we think it’s just a phase or they’ll get over it in time.  People make allowances, and there’s a ton of enabling that goes along with it from family members and non family members.  You want to help, but in the end you’re considered an enabler because you’re trying to control something that is not in your control.  

    You have to be ready mentally, physically and emotionally for sobriety and you do have to want it! 

    • March 8, 2023 at 8:39 PM

      Thanks Jenny and, yes, you are absolutely right. There is a very thin line between helping and enabling that most family or friends don’t realize. You can’t invest more into someone that isn’t willing to invest in their own self. Sadly most people trying to recover focus on fixing everything else but them….I know I did. The realization that the only true thing I had control over was me, and nothing else. Thanks for your comments!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


support recovery? please share the word!