Staying Optimistic in the Face of Triggers

Oct 10, 2021

For those recovering from a substance use disorder, abstinence is at the top of the to-do list. Every day can feel like a battle to manage cravings and memories of past use. You fill your day with scattered reminders of why sobriety is better than being intoxicated. You connect with your Brothers when the weight of recovery has become too heavy to carry alone.

Finding ways to be positive in this very moment and have optimism about the future is required to stay focused on what really matters: the recovery of your mind, body, and spirit. This article will discuss the importance of optimism and how it can help you battle triggers to relapse.

Addiction Is a Relapsing Disorder

Addiction to drugs or alcohol alters the way your brain’s reward system functions. Substances can make it really hard to receive satisfaction from anything else, including activities you used to love. Despite the harmful consequences to your mind and body, an addiction makes you want more and more, even after you’re received treatment in a residential program. The long-lasting changes imposed on the brain make relapse a possibility for anyone in recovery at any time.

Backsliding Is Always Possible  

Following a period of using for an extended time, quitting drugs or alcohol can feel like a major achievement. However, the work isn’t over just because you’ve been abstinent for a while. Relapse is a common and even expected occurrence, especially in early recovery, although it can even happen after years of sobriety. The possibility is always there, so understanding its stages can help you remain self-aware and avoid cutting your sobriety short.

Relapse Is a Process With Three Stages 

Relapse is not an event. Rather, it is understood as a process that has three stages: emotional, mental, and physical. The emotional stage begins when you start to experience negative emotional symptoms like moodiness, anger, and anxiety. You might stop leaning on your support system and self-isolate.

At this point, you won’t necessarily be conscious of your desire to start using again. Instead, you will become increasingly pessimistic as your faith in the recovery process starts to fade. Pay attention to this negativity. Managing emotional symptoms during this first stage is critical because once in the mental stage, it is incredibly challenging to avoid relapse.

During the mental stage, you will consciously realize the tug-of-war going on inside your mind. You will start reminiscing about all the good times. It’s not hard to romanticize the substance and forget about all the hardship it caused you. Dangerous thoughts overwhelm you as you start to calculate how you could go about buying. This precarious state of mind requires immediate attention because the next stage is physical relapse.

Pay Attention to Your Triggers

Relapse can be caused by different things. However, depression is a very common trigger among individuals with a substance use disorder. If you feel hopeless, irritable, empty, and lack motivation, you may be depressed.

Stress is another common trigger that can be especially hard to cope with in early recovery. Not knowing how to deal with stress appropriately may be the reason you started using substances in the first place. This is why learning effective stress management skills is a key aspect of relapse prevention in outpatient programs.

Exhaustion can also lead to relapse. An article by the National Institutes of Health explains that you need sufficient high-quality sleep for normal brain function. Sleep affects various parts of your physical and mental well-being, including concentration, productivity, body weight, risk-taking behavior, and cardiovascular health. Importantly, research also shows that a “lack of sleep affects many of the same neural processes involved in addiction.”

Finding Refuge in Optimism 

Your ongoing battle with addiction can make it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, you may wonder if it is all worth the effort. It can be so easy to get sucked into the dark hole of negativity and pessimism. Learning some ways you can cultivate positivity can help you avoid the stages of relapse.

The first thing you can do is surround yourself with positive people. Evaluate your circle and steer clear of anyone who is excessively cynical. Remember: misery loves company, and you do not want to be that company. Check-in with friends from recovery as they are probably also in need of supportive and uplifting influences. Helping your Brothers process their experiences and emotions during recovery can also keep you motivated.

You can also repeat positive affirmations throughout the day and reflect on what you are grateful for. For example, you could say, “I am really struggling, but I know I can get through this because my God is with me every step of the way.” Recovery is hard but think about the progress you’ve made thus far. You may be grateful for your health, the authentic friendships you’ve made in treatment, or the second chance at life that God has given you.

Some days, you won’t know what to expect on the winding road of addiction recovery. Relapse can emerge in stages, triggered by the emotional symptoms of depression and stress. Learning how to manage the emotional stage effectively and avoid getting sucked into pessimism can save your sobriety. At Renaissance Ranch, we want the best for our patients. We have been effectively treating men for all types of addiction for over twenty years. Our outpatient program is one of the best around and is designed to teach you the skills needed to stay optimistic in recovery and avoid the trappings of relapse. Gospel and spirituality-focused classes will remind you that God is always with you, and He accepts you as you are right now. We also have an alumni program that you will maintain membership in for life. You will always have supportive and positive influences available to keep you on track. Call Renaissance Ranch today at (801) 308-8898.