7 Essential Life Skills for Addiction Recovery

Life skills are an essential element of addiction treatment and recovery. This is especially true for young adults, who may have been preoccupied with drugs or alcohol at a time when their peers were learning to live on their own, starting college, or starting work. People leaving treatment without having already developed these basic life skills face a big challenge in learning all of these skills quickly. This is crucial, because you can’t get very far in recovery without meeting basic needs like having a safe place to live and access to transportation.

It’s also hard to learn these skills in a classroom. It might help to have a class in which an instructor tells you about what you need to do and how to go about doing it, but actually doing it is a different matter. Developing life skills takes time and practice. For that reason, many people leaving treatment need an extended period of support so they can practice new skills in an environment less structured than treatment, but more structured than being completely on their own. That’s why aftercare, sober living environments, and intensive outpatient programs are great resources for younger adults in recovery. The following are some of the most important life skills you need to succeed in recovery.

Finding a place to live

Knowing how to find a safe, clean place to live is absolutely essential to recovery. Nothing in your recovery plan can work unless you have that basic level of stability and security. Otherwise, you are more or less at the mercy of old friends and associates, who may not have your best interests at heart. Many people leaving treatment will move in with their families or other sober living environments. Sober living environments are good options because they offer some support and structure while requiring you to pitch in with chores, work, look for work, or start taking college classes. They’re also an easy way to find a sober roommate for when you do decide to live on your own.

Finding work

It’s often hard for young adults to find good jobs. That’s especially true if you have a history of addiction or possibly a felony drug conviction. Finding a good job is a skill that takes practice and dedication. What’s more, not every job is good for recovery. Many common jobs, including food service, manual labor, and medical professions are high stress and have easy access to drugs and alcohol. Getting a suitable job requires patience and it often requires additional training. Finding work isn’t just a practical necessity- it also gives your life structure and bolsters your self-worth, both of which strengthen your recovery.


Very few people learn to take care of themselves properly. If you’ve struggled with drug or alcohol addiction, taking care of yourself may have been the furthest thing from your mind. Furthermore, if you grew up in a household devastated by addiction, you may not even be aware that you’ve been neglecting to take care of yourself. You may have a lot to learn about basic things like what kinds of food are healthy and what kinds of food are terrible for you. Many people don’t realize how important sleep and exercise are for your health and wellbeing, and many people who do know still don’t make time for them. Taking care of your body and mind are skills you need to develop intentionally.

Having a daily routine

Having a daily routine makes many aspects of recovery much easier. It makes it easier to get to work on time, easier to get enough sleep, easier to get enough exercise, and easier to maintain parts of your recovery plan like meditation, prayer, and journaling that might otherwise be pushed aside for lack of time. As with self-care, a daily routine won’t create itself. You have to actively build it a little at a time. A gradual transition from inpatient treatment, to a sober living environment, to regular life with social support can give you the basic structure of a healthy routine. From there, you have to consciously build habits that fit your circumstances and continue to strengthen your recovery.

Basic personal finance

People recovering from addiction can often be rather ingenious with their finances, but ingenuity is not really what you’re looking for in a financial situation that will support recovery. What you really want is stability and reliability. You don’t want to be selling plasma to get through the last week of every month. Money is the number one source of stress for most people, and many, if not most financial problems can be avoided by following a few basic principles. Learning the basics of personal finance, such as choosing a bank and opening an account, automating savings and bill paying, and sticking to a budget will help you avoid a lot of stress. As with most skills, getting your finances under control is pretty simple in the abstract, but takes some work in real life.

Managing stress

Most of us are never really taught how to manage our own emotions, much less how to manage stress. In fact, we’re mostly taught from a young age to stress about things that don’t really matter. Managing stress is one of the most valuable skills you can learn in addiction recovery because most people recovery from addiction have only used drugs and alcohol to cope with stress. Learning to handle stress more productively can keep a difficult situation from spiraling into relapse. Managing stress ranges from organizational skills, such as managing your schedule, to using emotional regulation skills, to adopting positive coping strategies, such as spending time with sober friends.


Most of us assume we are good communicators, but few people actually communicate effectively. Poor communication leads to more pointless disagreements, frustration, inefficiency, and, in the worse cases, more anger and resentment. Good communication skills help you solve problems while they’re still small and generally grease the wheels of life.



Burning Tree West is a transitional college program dedicated to helping adults between the ages of 18 and 29 recover from addiction. Our campus is located in Tucson, Arizona, near the campuses of the University of Arizona and Pima Community College. Our program is designed to help young adults overcome addiction, build foundational life skills, and pursue their educational and career goals. Contact us today for more information.