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7 Strategies for Dealing With Relapse Triggers

Relapse is a common and challenging part of addiction recovery. Understanding and managing relapse triggers is key when it comes to long-term sobriety.

One of the most common relapse triggers is intense cravings, leading many individuals to revert to substance use and other addictive behaviors. However, relapse triggers can be internal, such as emotions and thoughts, or external, such as places, people, and situations.

Here are some effective strategies for dealing with relapse triggers.

1. Learn How to Identify Your Triggers

When managing relapse triggers, the first step is learning how to identify them. It’s important to note that triggers are unique to every individual; what triggers one person may not trigger another.

To determine the root cause of your addiction and identify your triggers, one must undergo a thorough self-assessment to understand what situations, emotions, or even people drive one to substance use. This assessment can also take place with a mental health professional.

Common triggers include:

  • Emotional Triggers: Stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, boredom, and anger.
  • Environmental Triggers: Bars, clubs, parties, and specific locations associated with past substance use.
  • Social Triggers: Friends or family who use substances, social gatherings, and family gatherings where substance use occurs.
  • Situational Triggers: Financial strain, work-related stress, relationship issues, and significant life changes.

Throughout recovery, it can be helpful to keep track of your triggers and take note of instances where you experience cravings so you can learn to identify patterns and avoid relapse.

2. Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Once you have learned to identify your triggers, the next step is to develop healthy coping skills to manage them, including:

  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity has been proven to reduce stress and improve mood. Regular exercise releases endorphins, which can help manage cravings while stimulating the body and the mind.
  • Mindfulness Practices: Mindfulness practices such as meditation and breathwork can help you stay present and reduce anxiety throughout recovery. Techniques such as deep breathing can be particularly effective in dealing with negative thoughts and can help you get back to a place of calm.
  • Hobbies: Engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoy can distract you from cravings and provide a sense of fulfillment. Having an activity to turn to when feeling stressed or overwhelmed can be particularly soothing during recovery.

3. Avoid High-Risk Situations

One of the most important aspects of managing relapse triggers includes avoiding situations with a high risk of relapse. This can be done by:

  • Changing Social Circles: Distance yourself from people associated with substance abuse or those that may put you in a triggering situation.
  • Creating Safe Spaces: Reduce your exposure to triggers by avoiding certain places such as parties, clubs or bars or removing substances from your home.
  • Planning Ahead: If you find yourself having to attend a high-risk event, be sure to plan ahead. Bring a sober friend or family member with you, have an exit strategy, and limit your exposure to external triggers such as drugs or alcohol.

4. Prioritize Mindfulness and Self-Care

Self-care is one of the most important aspects of managing stress and maintaining sobriety. Prioritize activities that promote physical, emotional, and mental well-being such as:

  • Healthy Eating Habits: A balanced diet can improve your mood and energy levels.
  • Plenty of Sleep: Following a regular sleep schedule can help reduce fatigue and leave you better suited to cope with internal triggers.
  • Regular Exercise: Activities such as daily walks are a great way to incorporate regular exercise into your routine and boost endorphins so you can better cope with stress.

5. Stay Connected with a Support Network

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who understand your recovery journey, including:

  • Support Groups: Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can provide a sense of community and understanding throughout your journey.
  • Therapy: Regular sessions with a therapist or counselor can provide ongoing support and guidance in coping with the strong thoughts and feelings associated with recovery.
  • Peer Support: Stay connected with sober friends and family who understand your journey and can offer encouragement.

6. Create a Relapse Prevention Plan

A relapse prevention plan is crucial when it comes to coping with triggers and preventing relapse. Your plan should include:

  • Personal Triggers List: A detailed list of your known triggers.
  • Coping Strategies: Known strategies to manage each trigger.
  • Support Network: A list of people you can contact for support when you feel triggered.
  • Emergency Plan: Steps to take if you feel you are about to relapse, such as a sponsor to contact or professional help.

7. Learn How to Forgive Yourself

If a relapse occurs, it’s important to forgive yourself and know that relapse is a part of recovery. Do not view this as a failure but instead, as a learning opportunity. Take note of the triggers that may have led to the relapse and adjust your prevention plan as needed. Reach out to your support group or seek help from a professional treatment center to get back on track.

Get Help at Mandala Healing Center

Learning how to manage triggers for substance use disorders is overwhelming and difficult to manage on your own. If you feel you need professional help to deal with your addiction, we’re here to help.

Our dedicated team at Mandala Healing Center works alongside you to identify your triggers, develop healthy coping mechanisms, create a relapse prevention plan, and provide you with a supportive network so you can get back to a healthy and happy life.

Contact us today to learn more.


  1. National Institute of Health (NIH): Relapse prevention
  2. National Institute of Health (NIH): Relapse on the Road to Recovery: Learning the Lessons of Failure on the Way to Successful Behavior Change
  3. Springer Link: The role of stress in addiction relapse