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This is the 2nd lesson of our three part Relapse Prevention Series.  Our last lesson talked about “Recognizing the Warning Signs” and this article is about “Knowing and Avoiding Triggers.”

A trigger can be anything that brings back thoughts, feelings, or memories that have to do with our addiction. Think about how a gun works. It is the first cause of the bullet to fire out of the barrel.  In other words, triggers set in motion the dangerous process of relapse. There are two types of triggers: external (occurs outside of us) & internal (occurs within us).

[Related Topic: Recognizing Warning Signs]

External triggers

These include people, places, things, and situations that spark a desire for us to use after a period of abstinence.

For people this could be running into a friend who’s still in active addiction.  A place could be a location in your home you regularly used in.  Things could be finding items used for your addiction or things that remind you of your addiction. These are only a few examples to get you thinking about what people, places, things and situations could potentially be a trigger for you.

Internal triggers

These involve our emotions, thoughts, or physical sensations.

For emotions it could be worries about financial struggles, a divorce, or criminal charges.  Maybe it is loss of a loved one, or feelings of anger, depression or anxiety. Thoughts can be another trigger.  We may start to think things like, “My using wasn’t that bad.  If I don’t drink, I won’t be able to fit in. I can handle it this time.  I don’t want to feel sad anymore.  I just need to relax.” Another internal trigger could be physical sensations such as dealing with physical pain, anxiety, no energy, pain or sickness due to withdrawal.

While not all triggers are avoidable, there are things you can put in place in your life to ease the difficulty when facing a trigger or sudden temptation.

Part of our recovery is living life a new way, God’s way!  We no longer have to turn to our addiction to help us cope.

#1 Pray!

Matthew 26:41 NIV  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 Prayer helps us to stay on God’s path and not fall into temptation. The Bible also tells us to pray without ceasing. God is with us always! We have direct access to him at all times of the day or night. The bible is clear that He cares about us and wants to help us with our struggles. So talk to Him!

#2 Submit to God

James 4:7 NIV “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Successful recovery requires submitting to God and resisting the devil. To submit to God you need to be making an effort to find out God’s will for your life and do it. (We find out God’s will by reading the Bible). Part of God’s will for our lives is purging habitual sin from your life. If you are giving room for sin in other areas, you won’t be able to effectively resist the Devil.

#3 Stay accountable to a sponsor or Godly mentor

Proverbs 11:14 NASB ”Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.”

Being accountable to a sponsor or Godly mentor is crucial to our recovery because we can’t do this alone. Call your mentor when you encounter a trigger or temptation. Call them to help process emotions or get advice. This person can share truth with you, help guide you, pray for you and more.

#4 Change your lifestyle

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Old habits are like a comfortable bed.  Easy to get into, hard to get out of. To avoid or cope with triggers, you’ll need to replace some old habits and activities with new ones. This includes avoiding circumstances that have proven to be hazards. The most important way to change your lifestyle is growing your relationship with God. This is done by devoting time daily to prayer, reading the Bible and staying in fellowship with other Christians.

Be encouraged and understand that:

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  

 Knowing what your personal triggers are and finding ways to cope with them or avoid them is the best line of defense to guard your recovery.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Warm up question: Has anyone shot a gun before?  Can you explain what the steps are leading up to the shot being fired?
  4. How does it make you feel that God wants a personal relationship with you and cares about the intimate details of your life?
  5. Why do you think it would be important to get rid of sin in other areas of your life in order to help you stay abstinent from your addiction?
  6. Read Proverbs 11:14 NASB Do you have someone to help with guidance in your life?
  7. Can you think of a personal internal trigger you are facing or have faced in the past? What is a way you can cope with or avoid this trigger?
  8. Can you think of a personal external trigger you are facing or have faced in the past? What is a way you can cope with or avoid this trigger?
  9. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV.  How is being tempted different than hardships and struggle?
  10. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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