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Triggers: how to avoid them

Triggers are things that make you want to use alcohol or drugs.

They can be just about anything, including:

  • people
  • objects
  • moods and feelings
  • places
  • times of the day or week

Say you regularly use cocaine when you drink in your local pub on a Friday.

The fact that it’s a Friday can become a trigger. So can drinking alcohol or even just walking past the pub.

Triggers cause cravings

It’s important to get to know your triggers because triggers can make you crave the thing you want to stop or cut down.

When you’re exposed to a trigger your brain releases a tiny amount of the happy hormones you get when you drink or use drugs. Then you crave more.

Get to know your triggers

To manage your triggers you first need to know what they are. It can help if you:

Write a list

Try to think of all the things that tend to happen before you drink or use.

For example, if you always find yourself taking cocaine after arguments with your partner, this is probably an important trigger for your cocaine use.

If you find yourself drinking more when you’re stressed at work, stress is likely to be a trigger for you.

Keep a trigger diary

This is a great way to get to know your triggers and understand why and when you drink or use.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just keep a few notes on your phone or carry a small notebook with you.

Note down when and where your triggers happen.

Your notes could look something like this:

Thursday

1pm - went to supermarket in lunch hour and wanted to buy wine

5.30pm - started thinking about having a glass of wine going home on the bus

Avoid your triggers

Once you get to know your triggers you can start trying to avoid them.

Realistically this isn’t always going to be possible so you also need to plan for when triggers pop up out of the blue and cravings hit.

How to handle cravings

Change your routine

Triggers are often part of our daily routines, whether that’s going past the pub on your way home from work or spending time with friends who use.

Try to organise your life so that you’re less likely to get exposed to your triggers.

Go a different way home from work. Hang out with non-using friends and family more often.