Relapse Triggers

If You Are Looking for an Excuse, Anything Will Work

By Buddy T, About.com Guide

Updated September 10, 2009

About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board

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  • alcohol relapse
  • alcohol craving
  • early abstinence

While searching the news headlines each day to come up with stories for Alcohol in the News page, I am constantly running into those stories that say that "moderate" alcohol consumption is good for your health -- moderate how long does weed stay in your system meaning one drink a day, according to the health experts.

Since this is a site about Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, I have never used one of those stories on the daily news page, because one drink a day is not a option for alcoholics.

But I got to thinking. How do alcoholics trying to maintain sobriety handle it when they see these news stories about how they might live longer with one drink a day? How do they handle trying to watch a football game and get how long does pot stay in your system blasted with all the beer commercials?

Avoiding the Temptation

I started a discussion on our Forum Bulletin Board asking visitors to this site to share their experience with dealing with these "triggers" for drinking and received some very valuable responses.

The consensus seems to be that very early in sobriety, news articles, TV commercials, smells, songs and almost anything can be a threat to cause a relapse, and should be avoided at all costs. But the longer they are abstinent, the effect of these triggers diminish.

I have posted the highlights of some of the comments I receive below. You can click here to read their complete comments.

Resisting the Urge

In early sobriety, those things bothered me a lot. Just the thought of a nice cold beer - much less the picture of one - would drive me bananas. Finally, I started to actually listen to some of the things that people kept saying at meetings: The fact that I can't drink doesn't mean that nobody can.

A glass of red wine is very good for many things - heart, digestion, etc. That's A glass of red wine. For an alcoholic there ain't no such animal. A glass is good - a bottle is not! Today I don't have a problem with commercials, etc., but it was rough in the beginning.

** -- Jane **

Making Healthy Choices

In reply to your question: In early sobriety and for a couple of years after I quit drinking... those billboards with the icy cold beer made me froth at how long does marijuana stay in your system the mouth, especially on a hot summer day... those advertisements on TV kicked in my stinking thinking (boy, wouldn't it be nice...) and I had to turn the channel, and it seemed like every movie I watched people were just pouring down the alcohol... couldn't watch them either.

I avoided going down the aisle in the grocery store where "the alcohol" was shelved. Listening to those "cryin' in your beer, country music songs" got me started, too. Early on, just the smell of alcohol was enough to start my stinking thinking, so the actual image of it wreaked more havoc within my sick brain.

When faced with the image or smell of alcohol I would run off to a meeting... call other alcoholics... turn the channel... walk down a different street... find something else to do (crossword puzzles, crocheting)... stopped watching TV or listening to certain kinds of music and began to play games with my kids, play cards, walk around the block, bicycle across town, meet other people for coffee or lunch. These avoidance tactics were the only control for my obsession with alcohol. And they worked!

** -- Rhonda W.**

Fellowship Helps

I am fairly new in recovery but fortunately up to this point I have not had the cravings a lot of us have. I am sure I will at some point but for now I'm grateful I don't. I do know a lot of fellow alcoholics that have a compulsion to drink and things such as you mentioned are triggers for them and they have a hard time resisting that urge to drink. Thanks to the 12 steps and the fellowship many of us are relieved from taking that first drink.

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While searching the news headlines each day to come up with stories for Alcohol in the News page, I am constantly running into those stories that say that "moderate" alcohol consumption is good for your health -- moderate meaning one drink a day, according to the health experts.

Since this is a site about Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, I have never used one of those stories on the daily news page, because one drink a day is not a option for alcoholics.

But I got to thinking. How do alcoholics trying to maintain sobriety handle it when they see these news stories about how they might live longer with one drink a day? How do they handle trying to watch a football game and get blasted with all the beer commercials?

Avoiding the Temptation

I started a discussion on our Forum Bulletin Board asking visitors to this site to share their experience with dealing with these "triggers" for drinking and received some very valuable responses.

The consensus seems to be that very early in sobriety, news articles, TV commercials, smells, songs and almost anything can be a threat to cause a relapse, and should be avoided at all costs. But the longer they are abstinent, the effect of these triggers diminish.

I have posted the highlights of some of the comments I receive below. You can click here to read their complete comments.

Resisting the Urge

In early sobriety, those things bothered me a lot. Just the thought of a nice cold beer - much less the picture of one - would drive me bananas. Finally, I started to actually listen to some of the things that people kept saying at meetings: The fact that I can't drink doesn't mean that nobody can.

A glass of red wine is very good for many things - heart, digestion, etc. That's A glass of red wine. For an alcoholic there ain't no such animal. A glass is good - a bottle is not! Today I don't have a problem with commercials, etc., but it was rough in the beginning.

** -- Jane **

Making Healthy Choices

In reply to your question: In early sobriety and for a couple of years after I quit drinking... those billboards with the icy cold beer made me froth at the mouth, especially on a hot summer day... those advertisements on TV kicked in my stinking thinking (boy, wouldn't it be nice...) and I had to turn the channel, and it seemed like every movie I watched people were just pouring down the alcohol... couldn't watch them either.

I avoided going down the aisle in the grocery store where "the alcohol" was shelved. Listening to those "cryin' in your beer, country music songs" got me started, too. Early on, just the smell of alcohol was enough to start my stinking thinking, so the actual image of it wreaked more havoc within my sick brain.

When faced with the image or smell of alcohol I would run off to a meeting... call other alcoholics... turn the channel... walk down a different street... find something else to do (crossword puzzles, crocheting)... stopped watching TV or listening to certain kinds of music and began to play games with my kids, play cards, walk around the block, bicycle across town, meet other people for coffee or lunch. These avoidance tactics were the only control for my obsession with alcohol. And they worked!

** -- Rhonda W.**

Fellowship Helps

I am fairly new in recovery but fortunately up to this point I have not had the cravings a lot of us have. I am sure I will at some point but for now I'm grateful I don't. I do know a lot of fellow alcoholics that have a compulsion to drink and things such as you mentioned are triggers for them and they have a hard time resisting that urge to drink. Thanks to the 12 steps and the fellowship many of us are relieved from taking that first drink.

** -- Sheri**