It’s an integral step in any successful substance use recovery plan: achieving sobriety, and staying sober. It’s one thing to reach the point where you’ve achieved distance from self-destructive substance use behaviors. However, it can oftentimes be more difficult to sustain sobriety than it is to reach it, especially after you’ve left a recovery clinic or facility, after substance use treatment subsides and you have fully resumed an active lifestyle.

Understanding your triggers: it’s one of the first steps in maintaining continued sobriety after achieving freedom from drug and alcohol use habits. Taking the time to better understand life events and circumstances that can cause or contribute to substance use regression is a critically important step, especially once it comes time to leave the sober living environment and/or conclude substance use treatment modalities.

If you’ve overcome or are actively overcoming substance use habits, you know that triggers are individually unique. The conditions that encourage you to fall back into drug and alcohol use are specific to you. The same events, settings and circumstances which can trigger your substance use habits might very well leave others struggling with similar issues unaffected.

Although your triggers are unique to you, it’s always a good idea to understand, and guard against, common triggers that can contribute to relapse. We’ve outlined a few of those common triggers below. Take note of the risks below, and make note of the ones which can particularly affect your own life.

Common substance use triggers and how to avoid them

It’s no secret that certain triggers can make it harder to say no to substance use. Understanding these triggers, along with common causes, can give you insight into how best to deal with triggers when they arise.

Boredom/Lack of Activity

Boredom in itself is often enough to lead to increased substance use rates. Especially with regard to periods of longer inactivity, boredom can provide your mind with an excuse to start entertaining thoughts of relapse. Because of this tendency, individuals struggling with substance use habits are encouraged to stay mentally and physically active. This means making sure that on a daily basis, you fill your time with productive, mentally engaging activities. Whether this means cooking yourself a meal, watching a favorite movie, reading a book, taking the time to visit with family members and friends, or simply listening to music, engaging the mind can help you stave off boredom and minimize trigger risk.

Stress & Anxiety

Stress and anxiety together represent two of the most common substance use habit triggers. And we understand that so often, it’s difficult to entirely avoid the situations during the day that can contribute to your stress. In fact, life’s most stressful events are often the ones that are required on a day-to-day basis. Given how often stress and anxiety directly contribute to substance use triggers becoming substance use habits, it’s important that we take steps – however small – in preserving mental health.

Even if you can’t entirely avoid many of your causes of stress and anxiety during the day, there are a number of small changes you can make to prioritize peace of mind. Find and take advantage of shortcuts during your normal routine, to minimize the effects that lasting stress and anxiety can impose.

If running late stresses you out, consider leaving the house 5-10 minutes earlier than normal. If a particular conversation typically causes you anxiety, review talking points beforehand to reinforce your confidence. If it’s simply the business of your schedule that’s stressing you out, make sure that you carve out time during the day specifically for some personal time. If you’re feeling the effects of stress and/or anxiety, it’s important that you take the necessary steps to prevent these triggers from leading to substance use habits.


This substance use trigger is fairly obvious, but it’s certainly worth mentioning: if you’re tired or fatigued, even if it’s because you’ve enjoyed a busy, productive day, don’t make the mistake of entertaining thoughts of substance use. Tiredness in itself can oftentimes contribute to substance use regression, simply because tired individuals don’t have the same mental fortitude at their disposal to continually say no to strong substance use urges.

If you’re feeling especially tired or without your usual energy, even if it’s the middle of the day, make the same decision to replenish your energy reserves. If this means taking a short nap to refresh yourself, do it. If this means clearing your mind with a quick shower or a walk outside, take the time to make it happen. Tiredness has never made it easier for anyone to say no to substance use.

Peer Pressure

The people you spend time with can serve as a massive influence on the decisions you make. Even more important for individuals who have struggled with substance use, your peers can make it easier or more difficult to avoid drug and alcohol use. No secret here: the best way to avoid peer pressure and its effect on your substance use tendencies is simply by surrounding yourself with friends, family members and coworkers who seek to build you up. Your peers should make it even easier for you to neglect substance use habits.

Even if you’ve avoided many of the other triggers that can derail sobriety, peer pressure can sometimes single-handedly cause regression. It’s so important to ensure that your friends care as much about your sobriety as you do; if the individuals surrounding you exhibit a callous attitude about drug and alcohol use tendencies, it’s likely time to re-evaluate your social setting if you’re concerned about peer pressure triggering a substance use episode.

Avoiding substance use triggers from day one

If you find yourself particularly susceptible to common substance use triggers, we understand how you feel. You deserve an advocate, one who looks out for your health and well-being to help you maintain distance from substance use tendencies. Real Recovery in Asheville, NC is that advocate, offering PHP, IOP and outpatient treatment for all men and women suffering from substance use disorders. Call 1 (855) 363-7325, or reach out to Real Recovery today for more information, and experience a valuable treatment that can help you avoid substance use triggers.