Coping Skills

Discontinuing the use of alcohol or drugs is only the first step in addiction recovery. To stay clean, it’s important to create a life that doesn’t involve substances. But drugs are usually a method of coping with intense emotions and triggers. Therefore, to avoid relapse and give yourself the best chance of success, you have to adopt other coping skills. You’ll learn some of these coping skills during addiction treatment, and it’s vital to practice them throughout your life.

10 Coping Skills for Addiction Recovery

1. Mindfulness

Addiction often leads you to escape the present moment. When your life presents you with triggers, such as distressing thoughts or emotional reactions, you can get wrapped up in your perception of a situation. Your self-judgment can trap you in a cycle of using to escape your negative perspective.

But our minds are tricky, and they don’t always tell us the truth. In fact, anxiety, fear and sadness stem from focusing on the past or the future.

Mindfulness is one of the coping skills that involve concentrating on the present moment instead of getting lost in past traumas or future uncertainty. It also allows you to sit with the sensations that are happening right now rather than those that are dredged up by your fears and apprehensions.

Mindfulness is one of the best coping skills for addiction recovery because it’s involved in almost every other coping skill. It sets the stage for awareness and non-judgment.

2. Practice Non-Judgment

Even if you are having distressing emotions, you can recognize them without judgment. Some ways to do this include:

  • Identifying one thing that you can see, touch, taste, smell or hear
  • Describing how an emotion affects your body, such as recognizing tightness in your chest as a physical manifestation of an emotion like anxiety
  • Focusing on your breathing, which shifts your focus away from judgments and emotions and anchors you into the present

This is one of the coping skills for addiction recovery that can help you move forward even in times of extreme emotion.

3. Meditation

Meditation is a practice that helps you achieve mindfulness and relaxation. When you meditate, your brain waves change, producing feelings of calm and acceptance.

Meditation goes hand in hand with mindfulness because it encourages your mind to wander without trying to control or evaluate your thoughts. As this happens, your brain processes your thoughts and makes connections. You learn that you can have intense and triggering thoughts without latching on to them. This acknowledgment makes it easier to manage distressing emotions even when you’re not meditating.

4. Be Patient

Addiction can make you impulsive. While you’re using, cravings and negative reactions can be resolved quickly by reaching for your drug of choice. Certain drugs muffle your inhibitions, making you more likely to engage in risky, reckless behavior.

This sets your body up for an instantaneous reward cycle. Like the addiction, your actions offer a quick way of achieving a release of feel-good chemicals, and you become accustomed to feeding the fire impulsively. But this also makes you quick to react in many situations, and you might have a short fuse or make rash decisions.

Meditation and mindfulness can help you be more intentional about your reactions and behaviors. So can simply taking a moment before you respond to intense situations. Taking deep breaths before you answer a question or make a decision allows you to clear your head. Patience is one of the coping skills that help you manage your emotions, maintain healthy relationships and live a more balanced life.

5. Honesty

Addiction clouds your ability to honestly assess your life. You might lie to yourself about the negative effects of your addiction. You may also lie to others about your addiction.

Working with an objective, trusted counselor teaches you how to be honest with yourself and others. You’ll explore deeply rooted emotions and traumas together, uncovering some of the factors that have triggered your drug use. You’ll get to practice coping skills for addiction recovery. You’ll also learn how to have honest, straightforward conversations, which enhance interpersonal relations and help you access long-term support.

6. Exercise

Moving your body helps to redirect trauma. Your central nervous system needs to complete its cycle after it has gone into a fight, flight or freeze state. This entails moving stress hormones out of the muscles. You can release stress by going for a walk, dancing or just getting up and shaking your hands and body after experiencing strong or scary emotions.

Moreover, exercise releases hormones that elevate your mood. A regular exercise regimen can keep your mood stable and prevent intense emotional swings. Knowing that you can achieve this balance on your own can help you overcome the addiction for good and avoid relapse.

7. Stay Busy

Boredom can spark a relapse in someone who has struggled with addiction. Without honing some of the other coping skills in this article, you could become distressed by the feelings and thoughts that boredom dredges up. Preventing the boredom from sneaking in is one way to fight addiction successfully.

When you’re feeling good, make a list of activities that elicit positive emotions, such as motivation, curiosity, passion and inspiration. Some may only take a few minutes to accomplish. Others could capture your interest for hours. When you’re bored, encourage yourself to do one of the activities on the list. Post the list where you see it regularly, and feel free to adjust it as you move through your addiction recovery.

8. Journal

Journaling is an effective way to express emotions and access mental clarity when you’re struggling with addiction. But this is one of the coping skills that many people avoid because they don’t know where to start.

One of the easiest ways to begin a journaling habit is to use a stream-of-consciousness method for your writing. Just start writing anything that comes to your mind. It doesn’t have to be clear or grammatically correct. Your thoughts don’t even have to make sense. As you become more comfortable putting your pen to the paper, you may find that this coping skill provides you with an outlet that prevents boredom, clarifies confusion, helps you practice mindfulness and encourages you to be more honest with yourself.

9. Restructure Your Social Life

If you continue to spend time with the people you hung out with while you were in active addiction, you will probably struggle to avoid triggers. Stay away from people and places who remind you of your addiction. Focus on building a strong support network of people with constructive attitudes toward addiction recovery.

10. Nourish Yourself

This is not the time to deprive yourself. Nourish yourself with beneficial foods, activities, surroundings, and people so that you can replace the cravings that developed during your addiction with healthy alternatives.

Treat yourself to nutritious and delicious foods. Enjoy relaxing showers and baths. Nourish your mind with the type of content that you consume. Read interesting books and watch uplifting movies. You deserve to enjoy every aspect of your life, and you deserve to be well.

At Burning Tree West, we place a lot of emphasis on building and practicing coping skills throughout your recovery. We provide a structured environment that allows you to take hold of your independence while developing supportive routines and social structures. It’s not enough to simply go through addiction detox and head back out in the world. Coping skills provide a lifelong framework to remain free from addiction and live a fulfilling, purposeful life.