Now that you’re seeking addiction treatment in New York or Princeton, there may be many places in and around town that remind you of your former habit. Perhaps it’s the highway exit to your supplier’s house or the nightclub where you used to stop for a drink on the way home from work—just seeing these places can often be enough to elicit cravings and a strong desire to use.
But the triggers that invite us back to old behaviors don’t stop there. Places can be strong reminders of our addictions, but so can people, certain circumstances and even emotions associated with use. When a drug inhabits our lives so strongly that we use it in many different settings, it becomes associated with so many aspects of our lives that we feel the pull of cravings just about anywhere we turn.
One of the most crucial steps in achieving abstinence as part of addiction treatment will be to identify these triggers, raise your awareness of them and develop a plan that helps you anticipate and avoid their influence. Here are some likely areas to start looking for triggers in your environment:
Anywhere you’ve used in the past can be a trigger, especially if you used there often. If you live just around the corner from a bar where you frequently used alcohol or other drugs, the pull to return to your old habits can feel insurmountable whenever you pass the place. Moving may not be an option, but you can always change your route. The inconvenience of taking the long way home is a small price to pay for avoiding a powerful trigger.
Treating your drug or alcohol addiction will be extremely difficult if you continue to interact with dealers and other users. Sometimes just seeing people you’ve used with can make the desire to use overwhelming, while a conversation or invitation to use can spell certain disaster. Breaking off these relationships can be difficult, especially if you view fellow drug users as valuable friends, but avoiding exposure to them will help you avoid the temptation that will likely lead to relapse. It can be helpful to change your phone number and other contact information, but you should also prepare for the contingency of an unexpected drop-in.
Of course, few triggers are as strong as seeing the drug itself, or an item that you associate with its use. It’s absolutely essential that you dispose of any remaining drug stashes in your office, home, car or anywhere else. You’ll also need to rid yourself of any remaining drug-related supplies—this means things like pipes, lighters, mirrors and razor blades, as well as other materials like dealer phone numbers, pornography and even large sums of cash. Remember: these items need to be made permanently inaccessible and should not be sold or given to friends. It may also be prudent to avoid images of drug use in movies, magazines and newspapers, on TV and on the internet.
Even something as simple as a sound, smell or special occasion can trigger memories that incite cravings. Music you listened to frequently while using may be a trigger, as can smells that remind you of a drug. Birthdays, significant anniversaries (like the death of a loved one), party-centric holidays (think New Year’s or St. Patrick’s Day) and occasions for celebration (weddings, parties, etc.) can all elicit strong desires to use. Try to predict which of these will create the biggest problems for you and make an effort to keep yourself from situations that weaken your resolve. If you find that something unpredictable triggers a desire to use, take note and seek to avoid it in the future.
When drug use becomes a pervasive part of your live, we begin to associate it with countless things we come in contact with each day. Every one of us has different triggers, but as part of your addiction treatment, taking the steps to figure out yours now may help you prevent a serious relapse later.