coping skills for addiction

Sober Living: 10 Valuable Coping Skills for Addiction Recovery

After 5 years of abstinence from drugs or alcohol, people with addictive disorders rarely relapse. 

Yet that can seem like a long time when you’re struggling with cravings and withdrawals. With the modern understanding that addiction is a disorder and not a failing of a person’s will, experts have discovered coping skills for addiction that can help people recover– and recover for good.

Sounds too good to be true? It’s not. And I’ll prove it to you with these 10 coping skills for substance abuse disorders. 

Want to know some addiction recovery tools for your journey toward abstinence? Keep reading and learn how to change your life.

10 Coping Skills for Addiction Recovery

Triggers are things that lead to thoughts about using. Triggers can be emotional or external.

Emotional triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Meanwhile, external triggers are often environmental. These include people you used with, places where you used, and paraphernalia that remind you of using. 

Learning to cope with triggers like these is essential to your successful recovery. And one way to combat the feeling that you need to use associated with these triggers is to reduce the stress and tension associated with them. 

Here are 10 ways to help you cope with the struggles of your journey toward recovery. 

1. Relax

Learn how to cope with cravings, temptations, and stress with a toolbox of things you can do when you’re feeling the need to use. Skills that help with relaxation are excellent devices to combat stress and tension.

Things that help you relax include:

  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Hobbies

Make a routine and try to stick with it. But if it isn’t working, try a new routine until you find your go-to relaxation method.

2. Change Your Life

Addiction relapse is highly correlated with rituals. When you were a user, there was a certain place where you used, people you used with, and items you had to support the experience. 

One of the first things you should do during recovery is to change your life. 

Get rid of the couch you used to sit on when you used. Stop hanging out with the people you used to get high with, especially if they are still using themselves. And most importantly, get rid of paraphernalia that reminds you of using.

3. Build up Your Defenses

If stress and tension are unavoidable in your life, make a list of things you can do or bring with you to help you relax in any situation. 

This could be a yummy snack, tranquil music, or even a stress ball.

Keep these things available while you’re at work or in other stressful situations so that, if a craving strikes, you can deal with the stress that led to that craving. 

4. Go to Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an excellent tool for fighting negative thoughts. 

Negative thinking is highly associated with addiction since thoughts lead to feelings of low self-worth. But CBT helps you reform your thinking processes.

A therapist can help you learn how to restructure negativity into more rational thought patterns through support and mental exercises. 

5. Form Support Systems

Seeing a therapist is part of a support system. But make sure you surround yourself with others who support your journey.

These can be family members, friends, or other individuals recovering from addiction. 

Many individuals with addictive disorders find relief in group meetings. You can also find a sponsor who has been through what you’re going through and came out on top of their addiction.

6. Be Honest

Addiction often leads to lying. Lying about where you’re going, what you’re doing, and especially whether or not you’re using.

But lies often lead to negative self-thoughts or poor self-esteem. And when you feel bad about yourself, this often leads to relapse.

Instead, be honest with others and, more importantly, yourself. Combined with CBT, honesty during your journey to recovery can help you cope with tension and stress.

7. Avoid High-Risk Situations

High-risk situations are those that bring up feelings of wanting to drink or use. 

These include:

  • Going to bars, clubs, and parties where there is social drinking and/or drug use
  • Hanging around people that emotionally trigger you
  • Exposing yourself to environmental triggers 

Instead of attending a party, go see a movie or hang out with supportive friends or family instead. You can also organize activities with your sponsor or other members of your support team during the times you used to use. 

8. HALT

In addition to avoiding situations that may present a risk for relapse, remember HALT– hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. 

When you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, you’re more likely to feel tense and stressed. And as we already know, tension and stress may lead to relapse. 

To combat these triggers, use the defenses you’ve built up and try to relax.

9. Help Other Addicts  

Studies show that helping others makes you happier. 

In fact, helping others is associated with lower blood pressure, fewer feelings of depression and anxiety, and can lengthen your life. Not only will you aid your recovery process but you’ll also set yourself up for lifelong health and wellness. 

A great way to do this is to become a sponsor yourself. Helping someone else on their journey toward recovery can help you feel more fulfilled. Just make sure you’re ready to be a positive example for your sponsee. 

10. Be Patient with Yourself

Addiction recovery is a life-long process. So be patient with yourself during your recovery. 

Part of being a healthier, happier you is learning to accept and love yourself even if that takes time. 

Your feelings and experiences are unique. Make sure your coping skills fit your journey and lifestyle. And if they don’t, never be afraid to change things up or try something new. 

When to Seek Professional Help

All these methods are excellent tools to have in your recovery kit. But what happens when these coping skills aren’t enough?

Part of being honest with yourself is to recognize when your efforts to combat relapse aren’t enough. Because when you recognize when you need help, you’re one step closer to lifelong recovery. 

Do you need help developing coping skills for addiction or assistance with your recovery process? The Discovery House can help. Call us now for immediate help because you don’t have to do this alone. 

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.