This part-two of a three-part series about how to manage cravings.
In part one of this series, we explained what cravings were and highlighted the fact that they are a normal part of the recovery process. In this portion of the series, we will explain triggers in greater detail.
Understanding External Triggers
External triggers are things happening outside of yourself that prompt you to experience a craving. Remember, a craving is an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing to use drugs or alcohol.
Here are some examples of external triggers:
Going into a convenience store and seeing someone buy beer may trigger you to want to drink alcohol.
Driving down a street where you used to score drugs may prompt you to have a craving for that particular drug.
Listening to music that reminds you of a time when you used to use drugs or drink alcohol can trigger you to want to get high or drunk.
Seeing a person you used to drink or drug with can cause a craving.
Money can be a trigger for some people.
These are just a few examples of external triggers that can bring about an intense craving. This is because seeing or hearing certain sights or sounds can trigger the brain to have a memory associated with drugs or alcohol. These memories will cue the brain to want to experience the sensations it once did when it was intoxicated or high on certain drugs.
Internal Triggers Are Powerful Mechanisms
While external triggers are things that happen outside of your body, internal triggers happen inside the body. Internal triggers are emotions, thoughts, memories, and sensations you experience within yourself. They can be just as powerful as external triggers.
Here are some examples of internal triggers:
When you have a memory you have of a time when you had fun while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You might experience a craving.
Depression can trigger you to want to get high or drunk to escape intense feelings of sadness.
Anxiety can motivate you to want to use drugs or alcohol to calm the experience of panic or distress.
Low self-esteem can make you want to get high or drunk so you will feel better about the way you interact with the world.
Internal triggers are like external triggers. They trigger a memory in the mind that brings about a craving. Although it might seem more difficult to avoid internal triggers because they seem to have a mind of their own (literally!). You can change your mind and think about something else when the trigger arises.
Avoiding Triggers Keeps Cravings At A Minimum
You can experience cravings when you are feeling good because you want to celebrate how well you have been doing. Conversely, you might find that cravings are the most powerful when you are feeling depressed or when something tragic has happened in your life. You might even feel cravings for no particular reason at all. Whatever the situation may be, the best option you have for avoiding a relapse is to avoid triggers as best you can.
By identifying triggers, you can keep cravings at a minimum. For example, if you associate a particular person with getting high or drunk, stay away from that person. If going to the ATM is a trigger for you, only get cash from the bank. You know you will be triggered by beer at a convenience store, pay for your gas at the pump and don’t go inside. If depression is a trigger for you, do what you can to take care of your mental health so that you can ward off depression. When certain memories cause cravings, change your thoughts.
It is better to do what you can to manage your life so that you can avoid cravings at all costs. However, if you do experience a craving. There are certain things you can do to overcome them and keep your recovery in check.
Be sure to read Managing Cravings In Recovery – Part Three to learn how you can overcome cravings when they happen.
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