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5 Tips for Dealing with Triggers and Cravings

So you’re in early recovery. You’re sober, but life has so many more rules, and it feels like there’s so much to fear. All you want to do is get get back to work, get back to school, find your footing, and make up for lost time.

As you get back into the groove, invitations to social events will start to roll in—concerts, weddings, barbecues, family gatherings. The truth is that life keeps rolling on, and the fact that you can choose to be a part of it as a sober young man is amazing. Addiction isolated you, kept you feeling alone even in a crowd. But how do you jump back in?

The world is full of triggers.

Diving back into your social life without considering triggers, or hiding out and abstaining altogether are both approaches that can threaten your hard-won recovery.

When we think of triggers, we don’t immediately think about the people we love most and the places where we’ve made some of our most treasured memories—triggers don’t always look obviously dangerous. Triggers can be found all over, even in otherwise innocuous settings with our friends, family and coworkers.

As a guy who got clean young, I had to face all sorts of social, academic, and professional situations as a newly recovering person. Jumping with my eyes closed or hiding from the world were my two standard reactions.

I had to learn how to listen to myself, and how to talk to others about my triggers, feelings, thoughts, as they related to getting back into living.

I had to be honest about weird feelings at places that seemed like they would have none, like a birthday dinner at my grandparent’s house. I had to be honest about not wanting to ask for advice about going to a concert that I knew was going to smell like the back end of Humboldt County. I didn’t want to hear no, and I wanted to just be normal.

Finding balance happened in finding honesty and strong supports.

The word “trigger” brought visions of being offered a drink or invited to get high. But the reality is that triggers can occur anywhere. Success can be a trigger. Failure can be a trigger. A great date can be a trigger. A break-up can be a trigger. Anything that brings me closer to using, or considering using, is a trigger.

It can feel hopeless; any event, anywhere, anytime can feel dangerous and triggering. And your craving can come in so many forms, like self-pity, fear of the future, or feeling alone.

Here’s an important truth: cravings are temporary.

You might find yourself terrified of moments or seconds or minutes when you’re deep in a craving for a substance. The most crucial aspect of triggers and cravings is that we recognize that we are not alone.

How do we help prepare guys for returning to their lives with new sobriety? We come at it from two angles, group therapy and experiential.

The disease of addiction makes men keep secrets, tell lies, manipulate others, avoid social situations, and stay closed around friends and family.

Being in group is about practicing honesty. The men who live together, who work together, who get vulnerable together, come to learn how crucial it is to their recovery to practice honesty. Sharing their memories, fears, and hopes with the other men, patients learn that they don’t have to carry any burden alone. It’s incendiary finding people in this world you can love and trust enough to want to hold yourself accountable.

At Voyage we teach men the opposite of these behaviors: honesty, accountability, responsibility, autonomy, connecting with community, and forming bonds of friendship and brotherhood.

We use robust, evidence-based, proven clinical approaches that challenge a guy’s beliefs about himself and his disease, but it’s not all work. Our men spend a good chunk of time each week in experiential. It’s about learning to have fun again, to chase natural highs, and finding that we don’t need drugs or alcohol to enjoy ourselves or to cope with overwhelming feelings. Building a life you love takes you further away from your life in active addiction.

The point of recovery is building a life worth living without drugs and alcohol. It makes sense that life includes spending your time with the folks you love and doing the activities you enjoy.

Here are a few tips that can help steer you through the minefield triggers:

BYOB - Bring your own brother. Asking a friend from your home group or your alumni program is a great way of ensuring you’ve got someone to arrive with, to hang with, and to leave with if things get overwhelming.

RSVP - Talk to your host about what kinds of non-alcoholic beverage options you’ll have and if appropriate, make a special request or bring your own.

SHARE - Go to a meeting before going to the event. Relying on the experience, strength and hope of others who’ve ‘been there’ can help. It’ll give you a sounding board while you think out loud, helping you decide if attending is really the best choice for you.

CALL - Calling your sponsor or your counselor can give you valuable perspective. They can remind you of what it was like before recovery and the ways drinking negatively impacted your life and hurt the ones around you. They can also help you focus on the aspects of your recovery that you’re most grateful for.

TIME IT - Deciding in advance how long to stay can help you mitigate any anxiety that crops up. Maybe you just want to stay long enough to enjoy a grilled burger, or to see your friends say their I-do’s before taking off. Spend your time at this event feeling your best and seeing everyone else at their best too.

Getting clinical care at a treatment center like Voyage is a great way to examine your triggers and develop the coping mechanisms that will help you enjoy a long life of sustained sobriety.

At Voyage, men learn to fall in love with life and to chase natural highs. The brotherhood and friendship men find at Voyage is powerful and life-changing. Check out our program and call us to learn more about how we can help you, (772) 245-8345.


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