11 May Healthy Coping Skills for Addiction Recovery
After you go through treatment for addiction, you might think you’re free and clear in terms of recovery. However, addiction recovery can be a long process, even after formal treatment. Your therapists and treatment staff probably told you about how common relapse is during recovery. Relapse is when you return to using drugs or alcohol. In order to prevent relapse, it’s important to have healthy coping skills in recovery. Developing coping skills involves recognizing relapse triggers and then learning how to deal with them.
Triggers that have the potential to lead to relapse are usually things that remind you of your previous drug or alcohol use. They can be people, places, feelings or things. Triggers make you think about your previous substance abuse and may lead to cravings for your substance of choice. If you used drugs or alcohol for a long time, you likely associate it with feeling good. These associations can stay with you long into recovery. When you encounter triggers, you might be motivated to start using again. There are two types of triggers in external triggers and internal triggers.
Examples of External Triggers
As you might expect, external triggers are tangible things that remind you of substance abuse. People such as your friends, drug dealers or other family members with substance abuse problems can all work as external triggers. You should generally avoid contact with these people during recovery. Places where you used to drink or use drugs can also function as external triggers. These might include bars, hotels, bathrooms, neighborhoods or specific houses. Avoid these areas during recovery.
Objects, activities and situations can function as external triggers as well. Some examples of these include the following:
• Drug paraphernalia
• Empty pill bottles
• Being home alone
• Talking on the phone
Any type of stressful situation also has the potential to become a trigger for relapse.
Examples of Internal Triggers
Internal triggers for relapse are the opposite of external triggers in that they are not tangible. Instead, these are certain emotions and thoughts that remind you of substance use. The most difficult part about internal triggers is that dealing with them isn’t as simple as just avoiding them. Internal triggers may lead to problematic behavior, which can then lead to relapse. What are some internal triggers?
• Negative feelings
• Normal feelings
• Positive feelings
In other words, it’s possible for nearly every type of feeling or emotion to trigger you into a relapse situation. How do you identify these triggers in recovery? The key is to ask yourself the following three questions:
1. How do you feel right before you use a substance?
2. How do you want to feel before using?
3. The last time you wanted to use a substance or did use a substance, how did you feel?
Unhealthy Coping Skills In Addiction Recovery
Before we discuss how to develop healthy coping skills in recovery, let’s take a look at the unhealthy coping skills that can get you into trouble. One of the big ones is bottling up or repressing your emotions. This happens when you’re afraid of showing vulnerability in recovery. Unfortunately, when you do this, it can lead you to act out in other ways, which can include using drugs or alcohol. Take the following steps to avoid this behavior:
• Communicate and recognize your emotions constantly
• Think about why you repress your feelings
• Accept your feelings
• Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal
• Talk to someone when you need to
• Release your feelings
Another unhealthy coping behavior is hanging out with people who are still using drugs or alcohol. This might include friends, family or coworkers. In the early stages of recovery, it’s important to avoid these people. Instead, find people who will help you transition to a sober lifestyle. If seeing alcohol use triggers you, it’s also important to avoid places that serve alcohol. Consider meeting your friends at a coffee shop instead of a restaurant.
Healthy Coping Skills To Practice In Addiction Recovery
Instead of engaging in unhealthy coping behaviors, it’s important to work on some healthy coping skills in addiction recovery. Let’s take a look at 10 skills to work on in recovery.
1. Being Honest With Yourself
As previously mentioned, repressing your negative feelings like depression and anxiety is unhealthy and can lead to problematic behavior. The better path is to acknowledge when you’re feeling anxious or depressed.
2. Practicing Gratitude
As you move through recovery, it’s important to remind yourself what you’re grateful for. Make a list every day for the things you’re thankful for. This could include your job, your recovery progress, your living space, your family, or your friends. It can also be helpful to keep a journal and highlight these moments throughout the day.
Meditation is one of the healthy coping skills often taught in addiction treatment programs. It’s a useful skill in recovery as it helps you stay in the moment and become more self-aware. Being more self-aware helps you react appropriately to triggers and cravings.
4. Attending Therapy
It’s important to keep attending therapy sessions in addiction recovery. Ongoing therapy can help you with your struggles during recovery, and it can also help you work on those healthy coping skills.
5. Finding a Support System
Another invaluable tool in recovery is a strong support system. Friends and family who support your path to sobriety can help you in numerous ways. You may also consider joining addiction support groups in your community as well.
6. Learning To Relax
Knowing how to relax in any situation is an important coping skill as well. It can also counter bad coping behaviors like thinking about substance use after a high-stress day or event. Explore different ways to relax like listening to calm music, taking a bath, practicing yoga or meditation, taking a walk or unwinding in front of your favorite TV show.
7. Eating Right and Exercising
Eating nutritiously and exercising regularly are healthy coping skills that will significantly improve your mental health on a daily basis.
8. Doing Activities You Enjoy
Find the things you love to do and do them as much as possible during recovery. Throwing yourself into the things you love can help you stay engaged away from drugs or alcohol.
9. Learning to Recognize HALT Symptoms
When you have a craving, ask yourself if you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired. These are common triggers for cravings. Recognize the symptoms and then find ways to combat them like getting something to eat, relaxing, talking to a friend, or taking a nap.
10. Staying Positive
If you do end up relapsing, it’s important to stay positive and don’t call yourself a failure.