Managing Triggers

The Best Strategy for Dealing with Them is to Avoid Them Altogether

When you get a craving to use, there is usually some identifiable trigger. A trigger is any person, place, thing, or situation that brings on that unwanted urge to smoke. These are entirely different for each individual and some may be more powerful than others.

Take a minute to think about some of your triggers—maybe you’ve already experienced some and maybe you can anticipate others. Write them down if it helps. Usually seeing or smelling weed is the most powerful trigger, but triggers can also be a place that reminds you of somewhere you used to get high or an activity during which you used to smoke. Triggers can also be whole emotional states like anxiety or boredom.

No matter what your triggers are, the best strategy for dealing with them is to avoid them altogether. Don’t buy weed or have it easily accessible. If you know it will be at a party, don’t go (at least in the beginning). The emotional triggers or unexpected situations can be a bit trickier. You can’t plan for everything, and you can’t prevent an emotion in the first place. What you can do, though, is try out new strategies to deal with those emotions or unexpected events. Maybe it’s meditating or taking a walk that helps with anxiety, or a new hobby or project that helps with boredom. When all else fails, fall back on what motivated you to quit in the first place. If you wrote the reasons down, revisit them.

There is no way around temptation and there will undoubtedly be times when you start to convince yourself why it’s okay to use again. The best you can do is be prepared to ignore or redirect those thoughts. If you can get yourself through those few minutes or hours of intense cravings, that is success. Take note of what works and stay strong.

Plan Ahead

Everyone knows that it’s incredibly hard to quit using any substance on which there is a dependence. The difficulties of the first few days, weeks, and months are expected, and there’s generally an established timeline of what you may or may not experience. You can brace yourself for these challenges, and in being here, you have clearly found a way to effectively do so. Congrats to you again.

As time continues on, there may be periods in which staying clean is easy and others that are not. Without a doubt, new triggers will arise when you least expect it. An old friend comes to town and wants to smoke with you. A loved one becomes sick and the stress weighs on you. How will you react? What can you do to avoid using again?

The key here is in the cliché, “expect the unexpected”. Though you may not be able to predict which trigger will appear at what time, you can plan for them in general. Start to think about what has worked for you so far and what hasn’t. For instance, do you need to be completely removed from a situation to abstain or do you prefer to have a friend hold you accountable? How do you feel comfortable saying no? What has provided stress relief? You don’t need all the answers or solutions now. Simply take the time to reflect throughout your recovery journey and start to plan for what comes next.

Sleep disturbance is one of the most common withdrawal symptoms associated with cannabis cessation, occurring in up to 70% of individuals who experience withdrawal1.