5 Relapse Triggers That Cause People in Early Recovery To Relapse Instantly

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white background with BD hat, striped shirt, cell phone, quotes, glasses. white overlay on left with the text, 5 Deadliest and most common relapse triggers for people new to sobriety.

You learn about relapse triggers in rehab. Yet, no one mentions the triggers that cause people fresh out of rehab to relapse almost instantly.

The highest relapse rate and deadliest relapses happen to people in early recovery who enter the real world after being sober in rehab, other treatment programs, or jail.

It boggles my mind because that is when recovering addicts are the most vulnerable and they need help/support.

Welcome To The World

The opiate epidemic is crushing our nation. It is happening everywhere. No one is immune from addiction.

Addicts are forced into jail, prison, rehabs, and other treatment programs or sober living homes.

People that don’t know about addiction recovery think that once a recovering addict is done with rehab, the hard part is over. That is so wrong…

Walking out the doors of a safe place into “freedom” is a life-changing event for a recovering addict. Often times, the relapse has already happened in the mind of the addict. Now, they are physically capable of making it happen.

Knowing Your Triggers

Any addiction is hard to quit, from drug addictions to smoking cigarettes.  If you are on this blog, chances are you were a heroin addict.

People like me have tried to quit using heroin time and time again, for years and years. Most of us have fell off the wagon more than once.

The truth is everyone recovers in their own way. There is no one fits all treatment for addiction. But, there is one thing that all addicts must do in order to be successful in recovery.

You must be able to IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS. Once you know what your main relapse triggers are, you can work on preventing a potential relapse. Instead of walking into one with open arms.

You will learn relapse triggers in any drug or alcohol program that you attend. Yet, talking about it and being faced with it are two completely different things.

RELATED POST: 6 Crucial Tips For Preventing A Relapse

As a recovering addict, you KNOW what is going to cause you to use again. The goal is to know how to cope with the trigger so it doesn’t become a relapse or your last fix.

It’s time to get straight to it and identify the 5 most common and deadliest triggers for people new to sobriety.

Before I start, I would appreciate it if you would pin the image below. Share the knowledge. It could save a life.

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The 5 Deadliest + Most Common Relapse Triggers


This sounds ridiculous to some people but, it is the absolute truth.  In my first year of recovery, boredom was a major issue for me.

If an addict early in recovery has one second to think about stuff, his or her mind begins to wonder.  As heroin addicts, there is one thing that our mind wanders to automatically.  Using heroin.

A woman's legs in black jeans and black Converse shoes resting on a coffee table

Quick Jail Story

If you read about me, you know that I transitioned to methadone in jail while pregnant.  When I was first taken to the hospital, I had two prison guards with me.  I was laying in a hospital bed constantly vomiting and had severe stomach pain.  I had the runs, hot and cold flashes, all of the typical withdrawal symptoms.  The guards and I were waiting for my urine test results to come back to “verify” that I was pregnant and that there was heroin in my system.  The male guard looked at me in disgust but, he was curious.

He asked me why I did this to myself.  Since I have been incarcerated numerous times, why didn’t I just stay clean?  Why would I relapse?

My answer was I get bored.  The look on his face was astonishment. He told me to get a job, work, take a nap.  How could boredom cause you to relapse?  There are ways to keep yourself busy.

I had to explain to him that getting and using heroin was a non-stop job.  You thought about it and put in work to get it 24/7.  There was no stopping, no slowing down.

If you are clean and you have a moment to sit down and take a breath. Instantly, your mind wanders to heroin. It’s like your brain and body are so used to having heroin that you don’t know how to function without it.  You honestly do not know what else to do with yourself.

It’s not like he understood. He just shook his head in disbelief.

They Just Don’t Understand

People that are not addicts will never understand how our mind works.  At least, there are some people such as counselors or therapists who try to understand how an addict’s mind works.

Although, if you have not been in our shoes, you will never truly get it.

When I got out of jail, the first year was the hardest.  I did have a full-time job and a new baby.

a female prisoner in an orange jumpsuit, talking on the phone in the visitor room to a man

Staying Busy

At the time, we just got a new apartment but I just couldn’t stay busy 100% of the time.  I thought about relapsing constantly.  I thought about taking benzos with my methadone. There are plenty of people who get high by doing that.

When my baby was napping and I sat down. Bam! Automatically, heroin would enter my thoughts.

Instead, I picked up some extra shifts at work and got pets.  With work, a new baby, a new house, and 2 new ducks, I was able to stay completely busy.  I was moving until the moment I laid my head down to sleep.

And guess what?  It really did work.  I did not have ANY time to spare.  A moment to be bored and think about the past or drugs.

New Lifestyle

It’s not that I was bored with my life.  The way I was living was different from what I was accustomed to. For me, not living a fast lifestyle was boring.

Remember, humans are animals of habit.  We always adapt to our environment.  If you settle down and don’t live the crazy life anymore.  You will eventually adapt to your new lifestyle.  In time, it will not seem boring to you anymore.

Actually, in a few years, you will begin to wonder how you ever thought this could be boring.  Kids alone keep you busy.  You will wish you had a moment to catch your breath and just relax.

After the first year and seeing the improvement in my life. Everything that I was able to accomplish.  I couldn’t even imagine relapsing. Giving up everything that I honestly worked so damn hard for.

Don’t let your mind wander and boredom take control!  Boredom truly is one of the biggest relapse triggers for many of us!

RELATED POST: 10 Small Changes That Will Make A Huge Difference To Your Sober Life

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2.  Money

This is a no brainer.  Most likely, the biggest trigger for people new to sobriety. Once you get your hands on some money, you want to buy dope.

In early recovery, most people are most likely completely broke.  One reason we got clean was because our life was spiraling out of control.  In rehab and institutions, it’s easy to stay clean.  Once we hit the streets. Watch out!

The newer you are in recovery, the harder it is to fight relapse triggers.  Especially when you get some cash in your pocket.  I mean, you are still accustomed to spending all of your money on drugs. So the first time you get money, buying dope will be your first thought.

Money Stays A Trigger Throughout Addiction Recovery

You have a job.  The money starts to stack up.  You actually have a nice little savings.

What is going to hurt to spend a few bucks?  I’ve been clean for months now, I can get high just this once.  Ummm.NO!

Money is a trigger.  We are accustomed to spending every cent we have on our addiction.  Not doing that is just out of the ordinary.

A man in early recovery holding four $50 bills in his hand, one of the worst relapse triggers there is. His body language shows his mind is in relapse mode.

So, how do you fix it?

Truthfully, it is going to take some time.  If you have someone hold money for you, it might work.  Yet, it could cause resentment towards the person when you want money and they won’t give it to you.  Think about your baby, think about everything he/she needs.  You have to concentrate on your future.

If you are serious about recovery, this is an easy trigger to get past.  There are so many things that you need money for other than drugs.

Once, you see how easy it is to save.  You will continue doing it.

Make a list of how much money you need to save to do this or for something you want.  Create an emergency fund for well, emergencies. Start a savings account for your baby.  There are millions of positive things you can do with your money.

Once you get so far, you will never look back.  Now, you are accomplishing your goals!  Don’t let money be one of your relapse triggers.

A man in active addict in a volatile relationship (relapse triggers) resting his hand on the shoulder of a woman who just relapsed who was new to recovery who is visible upset

3.  Relationships

The relationships you have are a major trigger for people in early recovery. Automatically, you think of your “friends” who are still getting high.  But that is just hitting the tip of the iceberg. You will be surprised by all the people who easily trigger a person in recovery to relapse.

My guess is that in addiction, you had NO healthy relationship. I’m not only talking about romantic or intimate relationships but, ALL of your relationships.

Your family dynamic isn’t healthy. Do you even have any sober friends? Anyone who wants the best for you? (which doesn’t involve getting high)

Toxic People

Here is a shortlist to give you an idea of all the relationships in your life that are instant relapse triggers.

  • Old acquaintances that you got high with
  • People you don’t like, the irritation causes you to want to use
  • Family constantly nagging you and not trusting you.  Always bringing up the hurt you have caused and damage that you have done.
  • New people in recovery.  They are very vulnerable and can easily relapse, taking you with them.
  • Another former heroin addict.  Even if you both been in recovery for years, two recovering addicts can prey off of each other.  It’s sad but true.  Misery loves company.
  • Wanting to fit in with a clique.  People start using just so they can associate with a specific group of people.
  •         How about your boss. Or someone belittling you?

If you are thinking, how can every single relationship in my life be potential relapse triggers?

The answer is simple, every relationship in your life, even crossing paths with a total stranger evokes some type of emotion. When you “feel” something (good or bad), you must cope with it in a healthy manner. For “normal” people, this is no problem.

For people in early recovery, this is difficult. Because the ONLY coping skill a newcomer has is making that feeling go away by using drugs.  Learning healthy coping skills is going to take some practice.

4. Feeling Hopeless

This is a biggie.

As recovering addicts, you and I both are still hooked on that “instant gratification”. I mean, that’s why we took to the needle. #amiright?

The thing about sobriety and your recovery is that there is NO instant gratification. 

You think that just because you quit doing drugs that life will magically be better. Sad to say, it doesn’t happen like that. It takes time, work, dedication, and resilience.

First, you have to work on yourself. I got this really cool FREE addiction recovery journal that you can get right HERE if you want to start now.


Then, you have to lay the foundation and start building the life you want. That includes overcoming your past, eliminating the bullshit, and adopting a sober lifestyle that you love.

People in early recovery have the misconception that it happens instantly which obviously doesn’t happen. It easily leads them to develop a case of the “fuck its”. Ultimately, leading to a relapse because they somehow reason with themselves saying that their life was better in addiction.

All I can say about that is WTF?!

Black and white image of a thin punk woman succumbing to her relapse triggers, laying on the floor, overdosing.

5. Refusal to Change

Then, there are those who refuse to give up the lifestyle.

I’m sure you’ve have heard the saying…If you do what you always did – you will get what you always got. How can you expect your life to change for the better if you are not willing to make any type of change?

You may have taken the drugs out of the scenario but, what about the rest of the toxicity floating around?

For instance, while in rehab you are told to change people, places, and things.  Many clients will argue saying, “I can’t change where I come from” or  “I can’t leave my friends.  They are my boys.  We’ve been friends forever”.

Well, let’s get real for a moment.  If you aren’t using dope or going to cop or committing crimes to get money.  Do you still think your “partner in crime” will be your bestie?  A true friend would support you in recovery.

Even though it is hard to change people, places, and things, therapists recommend doing it for a reason. If you are serious about improving yourself and your life, it’s something that must be done.

If you want help to plan your future, build a kick-ass sober life, and love every second of it, then become part of our online family.

You will get emails, freebies, giveaways, and exclusive access to the Sober Living Toolkit (resource library). Sign up below.

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Coping With Your Relapse Triggers

The truth is early recovery is difficult once you leave your safe haven and enter society.

As recovering addicts, we have an excuse for everything and can justify our wrongdoings, no matter what they may be. It’s something that comes naturally.

When you have coped with everything in your life by using drugs, it will be a process to develop the necessary coping mechanisms and life skills needed to maintain your sobriety. Plus, have a successful life on top of that. Including, career, education, parenting, relationships, family, financial, legal, and on and on and on.

Just remember, the longer you are clean, the easier it is for you to cope in a healthy way.

  • You aren’t going to want to hang around people who are still using.
  • You will learn not to let the little things bother you.
  • Every time you get upset, mad, or something devastating happens.  You will be level-headed and not jump the gun and go use dope.
  • You will have healthy relationships.
  • Not want the chaos because you are busy making something of yourself.

To put it simply, once you LEARN TO COPE WITHOUT USING DOPE, life does get better. Your life will improve drastically.

If life gets rough, you will be able to handle it and move forward. Piece by piece, goal by goal, you will be able to build the life you want. The life you didn’t think possible in addiction. That is #soberbadassery.

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I am NOT a licensed therapist. For immediate help call the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Adminstration’s 1-800-662-HELP. It's a free 24/7 service for ppl facing mental +/or substance use disorders.Or you can use the online treatment locator HERE.

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