Increasing Self-Awareness Of Triggers in Addiction Recovery

An article with 5 practical tips to getting started towards improved self-awareness. Learn how to identify and prevent relapse triggers with these beginning steps.

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What is Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness is an important skill for everyone to master. What does it really mean to be self-aware? Those who have mastered self-awareness have a clear and realistic perception of who they are, including:

  • personal habits
  • behaviors
  • strengths
  • weaknesses
  • mental tendencies

In particular, self-awareness is central to addiction recovery.

As anyone trying to get clean soon learns, recovery from an addiction takes loads of effort and determination. Recovery also requires a hefty dose of self-awareness to help you learn more about yourself so you can understand your addiction, its root causes as well as the triggers that can be stumbling blocks to your addiction recovery.

Self-Awareness And Recovering From Addiction

In most cases, an alcohol or drug addiction takes away your self-awareness. You drink to dull strong emotions or get high to avoid certain people, situations and places. Eventually, the addiction blurs your ability to control and evaluate your own behavior and the motivation behind them.

During the recovery process, you re-develop self-awareness. The more you learn about yourself, the easier it becomes to understand your actions. This, in turn, helps you to take responsibility for your actions. And once you own your mistakes, you can make better choices in the future. In the process, you become a more confident person. Most importantly, self-awareness empowers you to recognize and avoid relapse triggers.

Developing Self-Awareness of Your Triggers

Becoming more self-aware is a challenging process. Its success depends on your willingness and receptiveness to change. How can get you get started? Improving your self-awareness in order to identify and prevent relapse triggers can involve these beginning steps:

1. Put in the time. Spending time in self-reflection or asking introspective questions can help you notice your behavior patterns. For example, you can discover that you tend to use your drug-of-choice around certain people and places or in specific situations. Knowing this can help you identify your triggers and you realize that you have to avoid certain relationships and settings.

2. Pay attention to your physical reactions and responses. Physical reactions such as a rapid heartbeat, stomachache, tensed shoulders and muscles or a headache can be early clues indicating an emotional reaction to a situation you find stressful. You can use these symptoms as an early warning system to avoid relapse.

3. Understand your emotions. Identifying and labeling your emotions and recognizing their source is a crucial part of addiction recovery. Instead of running from your emotions, befriend them and take in what they are telling you. Is your anger a response to stress? Are you feeling sad because you’ve just got some unsettling news? Whatever you’re feeling … know that it will pass…and that your feeling has a source. That way, you can put in strategies to come up with a healthy response.

4. Reflect on your thoughts. Thoughts often precede actions. So if you pay attention to your thoughts, you’ll recognize negative thought patterns. What do you consistently tell yourself in your own mind? Are you telling yourself internally that you are not good enough (this is very common)? Do you repeat to yourself that you are stupid? Lazy? Worthless? Don’t believe this thinking! Negative thinking is actually a pattern – a script – created and reinforced by environment. When you detach and begin to take control over your thoughts, you can make it easier to forestall any destructive actions. In fact, you can CHANGE your thinking and CREATE a new outcome!

5. Ask for feedback. Feedback from others can help you identify your blind spots and can serve to improve your future actions. You can receive feedback from loved ones during family therapy sessions or from others in group counseling sessions. Or, ask a close friend or partner to say a “safe word” when they notice you spiraling down. Often, perspective can really help!

Additionally, therapeutic exercises can help you cultivate self-awareness. Therapies that are used in inpatient and outpatient clinics include:

As a final thought, self-awareness can empower you to recognize and avoid your “use” triggers. However, you must be willing to learn more about yourself and to make the effort to change for the better. What will you do today to become more self-aware?

About the author
Tyler is a freelance writer/journalist, with past experience as the head content writer and outreach coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow. His areas of focus include: parenting, education, social media, addiction, and issues facing teenagers today.
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