Dealing with “Triggers” and Avoiding Relapse

Stanton Peele By: Dr. Stanton Peele

Posted on June 8th, 2023 - Last updated: November 20th, 2023
This content was written in accordance with our Editorial Guidelines.

The Life Process Program approaches everything as a life journey, that is as a process. LPP doesn’t see an individual “triggering” thing or event “causing” you to relapse. If you move your life in a positive direction, you will ultimately not only avoid such triggers, you may eliminate them from your life.

Here are the 7 steps towards doing that:

  1. Resume your positive thrust: After a trigger has perhaps set you off so that you resume an addiction, go back to where you were. If you have made good progress heretofore, there is nothing to stop your resuming this progress.
  2. Understand your triggers: When you resume normalcy, examine the triggering event.  What about the situations, emotions or people caused you to drink again (or to watch pornography etc.)? Understanding the situations, emotions or people that triggered you will help you avoid these triggers or develop strategies to cope with them.
  3. Invest your life in positive alternatives: As you fully engage in the positive people and activities you have embarked on to replace your addiction, you become less likely to be distracted by activities that you later regret.  You can make a list now of positive things you can and have been doing that block and replace triggers. Return to these.
  4. Keep meaning and purpose foremost in your mind: Think of avoiding triggers and relapse as following a beacon. This focus on the positive allows you to sidestep crevices that appear along the way. It will keep you aligned with your larger values and undermine the power of your addiction in any and all areas of your life. Anything else fades in its importance or strength in your life.
  5. Explore support resources: Think of the things and resources you have been using to progress out of your addiction. There are tons of support options available, including many you may have already used. These may include a trusted friend or therapist, an online support group or a discussion forum (such as SMART Recovery), or just a positive meeting place you can go to (yes, although LPP is not a religious program, church is included), The Life Process Program is one such resource. It is specifically designed to help people who find that they are engaging in activities that they would like to steer away from, including a guided weekly online support group.
  6. Practice self-care: Leaving an addiction is mainly a matter of taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and in your overall life. Are you eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise and sleep, dealing with positive people, pursuing goals in your life? These are the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that reframe your life away from being an “addict”—which is NOT who you are.
  7. Remember that YOU are in charge: Don’t believe that a single event or negative episode can waylay your progress. You are the one steering your life. And certainly avoid a cascading sense of personal failure that builds upon itself. In other words, one bad night or brief period of excess is just that — a momentary lapse from the non-addicted you. We focus on this re-framing in LPP. This is a module in our program called Relapse Prevention.

Just remember: addiction— whether to drugs, porn, or something else— plays by all of the same rules as any other human developmental process. You may take a look at LPP’s general guide on how to beat an addiction. The principles that we discuss in this guide are applicable to any addiction including non-drug addictions such as pornography or gambling.

Whether you approach this yourself or through programs like LPP or other therapy or support groups, the same principles of positive human change and personal development apply. The rules for change and a positive life are not a therapy gimmick that you pick up at a quick check.

Back to step 1. Remember that overcoming addiction is a journey, and it is okay to stumble along the way. Be patient and kind to yourself, seek help where you can best find it if you need it, and follow your journey and goals forward.

If you enjoyed this blog, you may be interested in this Q&A segment of The LPP Podcast, in which we discuss triggers, relapse-prevention, finding support, and more! 

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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