Recovery Messages & News

Dealing with triggers in recovery

By Paige Abbott, Registered Psychologist


We associate with summer with the sun, heat, fun, leisure activities and good times. Within this, however, lurk a lot of potential dangers for people in recovery like women in short skirts, parties filled with alcohol, and the association that a fun-filled atmosphere needs to be accentuated by substances or problem behaviours. One trigger that us healthcare professionals hear about consistently year after year is that of Stampede. A big claim to fame is the Stampede’s association with drinking, adultery and debauchery which are not conducive to the sober, serene life of people in recovery. Yet it is hard to escape the atmosphere and messages of Stampede, even if you do not plan on going down to the grounds yourself. So how does someone deal with the Calgary Stampede from a recovery perspective? Here are some ideas:

  • Have other activities planned that do fit your recovery. For example, plan to go camping, ask friends out for a walk in the park, take yourself for a tea, and have events in your calendar (not just in your mind) that benefit your health. Lots of free time can lead to ideas that may not be helpful for you
  • Talk to others. If you find Stampede difficult, or even if you don’t, talk about this with people in your support network and have their numbers handy in case you are having a particularly bad moment or day. Never underestimate the power and value of people
  • Minimize exposure. For work functions related to Stampede that you feel you cannot avoid, have a plan. Go with a buddy who knows you are in recovery, go early and leave early, and have an escape plan if things get too intense for you. Minimizing exposure may also mean not going down to the Stampede at all, especially if you do not have a safety plan or safe people to go with in place
  • Continue your recovery plan as usual. Now is the time when you may need meetings, meditation, journaling time, and quiet time more than ever so make sure these are given priority in your calendar
  • Say No. You can turn down invitations to events and no excuses are needed, just say ‘no.’ This is especially important if these events conflict with your own recovery priorities and/or do not benefit your recovery
  • Be proactive! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of thinking and planning ahead. Even if Stampede has not been a trigger for you in the past, you never know with the disease of Addiction. It is important to be thinking ahead starting now about what your recovery and life will look during this period of time and how you will be taking care of yourself.

It is important not to beat yourself up or get caught in shame-based thinking that you are somehow different because you are not participating in the Stampede in the same ways you used to or believe others do. There are many others in Calgary, including myself, who have minimal exposure and interaction with the Stampede each year. Your health and recovery need to be the priority, everything else is secondary.


So you can be proactive and celebrate safely, but you can also give yourself permission to not celebrate at all. Take care of you first and foremost.