Coping Skills For Addiction Recovery


Published On: November 29, 2023

If you’re struggling to cope in the early stages of addiction recovery, or even years down the line, you’re not alone. It is commonly accepted that recovering from addiction is exceptionally challenging, which is why there is such a high chance of relapse.

The overarching challenge of addiction recovery is staying sober in every setting. This is evident when we look at the average rate of relapse in addiction recovery, which is 40-60% (1).

Even if someone manages to stay away from drugs in their own home, they have to learn how to cope with temptation at work, with friends, and when consuming media that promotes addictive behaviours.

One specific struggle that many people deal with is knowing who to trust as they transition to sober life. Friends that were once a good time may now be bad influences, and it is often necessary to cut people off when they are threatening your addiction recovery.

This can even extend to family members who are getting in the way of recovery. It can be difficult for people to know when cutting off is a drastic option that would prevent a healthy family dynamic, and when it is the only option that will reduce the risk of relapse.

Another common struggle is building an enjoyable life without the presence of alcohol or drugs.

Many people with addiction associate addictive substances with fun times, and it can be difficult for them to navigate a new social life that does not centre around drinking and drugs.

On this same topic, if people in recovery keep the same friends, they may have to deal with temptation in social settings. It can be extremely difficult to stick with sobriety when the people around you are prioritising substance use.

You may look back at your addiction with rose-tinted glasses, remembering the good times with friends and forgetting the trauma it put you through.

Coping Skills For Addiction Recovery: Things to Avoid

A person with clasped hands, thinking

Everyone deals with addiction recovery differently, so we cannot categorise all coping skills as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

For example, we generally look at family time as a positive thing, but if someone is co-dependent with their family members, spending time with them would no longer be a positive coping skill.

That being said, there are certainly coping skills that should always be avoided in the addiction recovery journey. Here are our suggestions:

1. Avoidance

If you went to drug and alcohol rehab, you will have been taught about the dangers of avoiding your emotions in addiction recovery. Avoidance does not make the pain go away; it delays it for another time.

The sooner you face the difficult emotions and tackle the hardest parts of recovery, the more settled you will be in the long term.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend every second of the day thinking about difficult topics; it simply means that you shouldn’t push down a negative feeling when it arises, and you should be thinking about how you can stay sober on a regular basis.

It may seem unnatural to do this, but most people don’t have to put effort into thinking about sobriety, as it is often on their mind due to the constant decisions they have to make to avoid drugs and alcohol.

If you go to therapy and fellowship groups, it will be much easier to address your problems, as you can’t avoid the challenges of sobriety when you’re discussing them on a weekly basis.

2. New addictive behaviours

It’s extremely common for people to recover from one addiction, and fall straight into another. Though drug and alcohol addiction is more dangerous than some other addictions, any type of dependency puts your mental health at risk and should be avoided.

What’s more, some addictions are just as risky as drug addiction, so don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve already hit rock bottom, as there is always a new low when it comes to the disease of addiction.

Some examples of new addictive behaviours people may turn to after substance use are: binge eating, workaholism, sex addiction, overeating, gambling, and compulsive exercising.

To avoid this, make sure you are always learning more about addiction as an illness, and that the coping mechanisms you are acquiring apply to any type of addiction. Again, the best way to do this is to stay in therapy, and to attend self-help groups regularly.

3. Isolation

With the threat of relapse looming, some people end up isolating themselves, as this is a surefire way to avoid developing another addiction. Despite the fact that this isn’t true (you can develop an addiction without leaving the house), it leads to other dangerous problems.

When you are isolated from your loved ones, you have to deal with all of your issues alone.

While co-dependency is unhealthy as it prevents you from facing your problems independently, isolation has the opposite problem; it removes the possibility for any emotional support.

Sitting alone with our problems often makes them feel much more severe, whereas offloading to a loved one can ground us in reality, and bring us a sense of peace.

When you isolate yourself, you are also missing out on interactions you would have had with strangers.

You mustn’t downplay the importance of a casual conversation with a stranger, as it can create a sense of belonging that would not develop if we spent most of our life alone.

4. Moderation

This may be our most controversial suggestion, as moderation does work for some people. However, at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we believe that moderation is an unhealthy coping skill for the majority of people in addiction recovery. Even if it does work occasionally, the risks are not worth it.

When people are tempted to relapse, the easiest solution may be to advise them to have a glass of wine, or to smoke a cigarette. This will ease their cravings, and help them to feel more relaxed. What could go wrong?

The answer is that it is very unusual for someone with addiction to use substances moderately over a long period of time. There is an extremely high chance that they will eventually relapse into severe addiction, even if they have pursued harm reduction for years.

We would love to say that moderation has no flaws, as it would be much less challenging than giving up substances completely. However, realistically, abstinence is the only way to stay sober long-term.

As difficult as it may be, it’s worth it for patients who never fall back into their previous habits.

Coping Skills For Addiction Recovery: Our Top Tips

Two women talking

In terms of healthy coping skills for addiction recovery, our recommendations could go on forever.

However, you will need to decide for yourself which suggestions are suitable, as it depends on your personal preferences, your history with certain coping skills, and your lifestyle.

Overall, we recommend:

1. Therapy

You will not see us talking about coping skills without mentioning the best coping skill of all: therapy. There’s a reason rehab programmes prioritise daily therapy, and often include therapy in their relapse prevention plan.

Therapy is an evidence-based coping skill that is proven to work for people from all backgrounds.

As there are so many different types of addiction therapy, you can tailor your experience to ensure you are getting the most out of it.

For example, you could try out holistic therapies, group therapy, contingency management, addiction counselling, and more.

A common misconception about addiction therapy is that you simply attend the therapy sessions, and the work is done for you. Most of the investment into therapy takes place outside of sessions when you’re putting coping skills into practice.

However, as you have the support of a mental health professional, you are provided with structure and accountability that reduces your risk of relapse more than most other coping skills.

2. Self-help groups

We cannot pretend that self-help groups are always as successful as therapy, as they can sometimes be hit or miss.

However, a huge amount of people in recovery have self-help groups to thank for offering a supportive community, creating space for vulnerability, and establishing structure in the lives of people who have only ever known chaos.

Fellowship groups encourage group members to be as open as they want to be about their addiction recovery.

This means that even after the worst day of your addiction recovery, you can rely on venting about your problems to a supportive group, and getting advice from a therapist on how to cling to sobriety in spite of the challenges you are facing.

These groups are extremely reliable, as they take place every single day in different areas of the country.

There are even meetings online held by SMART Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous, so there is always a community for you to reach out to when you’re going through a hard time.

Many people use these groups for accountability, so they attend sessions regularly, regardless of how they are coping with recovery.

This is strongly advised, as you could end up hitting rock bottom suddenly, and if you are already regularly using self-help groups, you will know exactly where to go for support.

3. Community

You can build a community in many different ways – including going to a fellowship group for addiction recovery.

Some other ways to reach out to people who are in a similar situation are: go to a sober living house, find online forums discussing addiction recovery, and connect with old friends who faced this challenge.

As well as immersing yourself in the sober community, we advise you to work on building friendships with people who do not have an issue with drugs and alcohol.

This will provide you with a good balance of people who directly relate to your experience, and people who are so far removed from it that they are unlikely to trigger you.

4. The avoidance of triggers

Being triggered in addiction recovery is unavoidable. There is always going to be something that gives you pause, whether it’s watching someone use drugs on TV, experiencing stress, or being contacted by an old friend who used to binge with you.

Even though these triggers are inevitable, you should still practise avoiding them, as they could easily become the cause of your relapse.

Do whatever you need to do to avoid drug use, whether that’s re-evaluating your inner circle, avoiding certain media, or changing jobs to ensure you are not constantly under stress.

For the triggers that can’t be avoided, make sure you’re relying on the other coping skills we have recommended.

For example, when you’re experiencing high levels of stress, put yourself in regular therapy, go to self-help groups, and reach out to loved ones that you trust.

5. Honesty

With chronic drug use comes a great deal of dishonesty. People with addiction get used to lying to their loved ones to keep the peace, concealing secrets from their boss to avoid being sacked, and even lying to themselves about how serious their issue is.

This means it can be a challenge to pursue honesty. However, the reason we recommend doing this is that it is the most productive attitude to have with your new sober lifestyle.

If you pretend you don’t want to use drugs, you may put yourself in risky situations that lead to relapse.

On the other hand, if you are honest with yourself and others about feeling tempted to relapse, struggling with your mental health, and anything else that affects your addiction, you can get the help you need before it’s too late.

6. Distraction

When someone goes through a breakup, we often advise them to distract themselves by starting a new hobby, spending time with friends, and working on themselves. The same advice applies to addiction recovery.

Instead of honing in on your addiction and nothing else, we encourage you to distract yourself by engaging with things that you enjoy, and that are in line with sobriety.

The temptations and cravings will generally lessen over time, but the early stages of the recovery process are the worst for this, so distraction can carry you through those times.

Make sure distraction does not morph into avoidance by checking in with yourself regularly, both in formal settings (e.g., therapy), and informal settings (e.g., with friends, or by yourself).

You should be able to enjoy yourself without constantly thinking about sobriety, but equally, it should never be so far from your mind that you are close to relapse.

7. Sobriety tracking

Lots of people with addiction find that tracking their sobriety is a great coping skill for addiction recovery, as it motivates them to keep going. At first, you may be discouraged, as you will have only been sober for a short period of time.

However, if you have been to private rehab (which we recommend), you can already start your sobriety calculator at 28 days!

If you follow your rehab’s aftercare plan, and you adopt the effective coping skills we have recommended, this number will shoot up in no time.

Sometimes, people experience stumbling blocks when they pass a recovery milestone. They may feel as though staying sober for such a long period of time was just a fluke, and therefore they cannot continue to stay sober.

This is an example of impostor syndrome, which is reassuringly common for people in long-term recovery.

If you’re feeling like this, we strongly recommend speaking to your therapist, or reaching out to your rehab centre if you are still in the aftercare period.

Please remember that you once saw sobriety in general as impossible, or at least extremely difficult, and you made it through that period. Everyone is capable of staying sober for the rest of their life, but it is a matter of taking it day by day rather than dwelling on the practicalities of avoiding drugs for the rest of your life.

Can Rehab 4 Addiction Help Me With Coping Skills?

We have a variety of articles on the theme of sobriety, to help you to manage your addiction. See our posts on how to stop drinking alcohol, the power of self-forgiveness in addiction recovery, and four relapse prevention theories.

That being said, first and foremost, we are a referral service. We are here to educate you about addiction, promote recovery, and ultimately offer you the opportunity to give up drink and drugs in favour of lifelong sobriety.

This means we cannot help you with coping skills in the same way that a therapist could. However, what we can do is refer you to an addiction treatment centre that will equip you with all the coping skills you need to get sober from a substance use disorder, or a behavioural addiction.

Reach out to us for free advice on 0800 140 4690, or by email at info@rehab4addiction.co.uk. Whether you are completely new to addiction recovery, or you have relapsed several times, we are more than happy to help you find the right treatment for you.

References

[1] Why do so many drug and alcohol addicts relapse? The answers are complex https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/dec/11/connection-and-support-are-key-for-serial-relapsers-to-break-the-addiction-cycle

 

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