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10 Coping Skills for Substance Abuse & Addiction

how to cope with addiction

There are many causes that can lead a person into drug and alcohol use – stressful situations, external pressures, difficult emotions, and trauma are just a few. When a person does not know how to cope with these feelings or situations in a healthy way, he or she may use drugs to feel some relief or to escape. Hence the phrase, “drowning our sorrows” – or, taking to the bottle when things get tough.

Drugs are addictive chemicals that activate our brain’s “pleasure circuit,” releasing excessive amounts of dopamine and making users experience an overwhelming sense of euphoria. When these addictive substances are used as a means to cope or to escape complex emotions, a person can become reliant on them to function and feel okay. Too often, this is where the addiction cycle starts.

In order to cope with drug addiction, a person needs to first understand the root of their problem – which emotions, which situations, which traumas drive him or her towards drinking and drugs? Then, he or she must relearn how to handle these stressors without the once-known blanket of drugs and alcohol. Those in recovery must develop healthy coping skills to prevent substance use and relapse.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, is an evidence-based addiction treatment method that focuses on these very two steps. CBT helps to uncover the negative thought patterns influencing a user’s drug use, and further, to address those thoughts and feelings head-on. A CBT therapist will help the person in recovery change their ways of thinking, foster alternative, positive reactions, and teach them how to cope with any distressing emotions, cravings, or relapse triggers.

The coping skills taught in this addiction therapy are skills that a person can use throughout his or her recovery journey. These skills – healthy and positive for mind, body, and soul – can be used to get through the bad days, the stressful days, and the days when a person just wants to take a sip or a hit. In many ways, coping skills for substance abuse are a saving grace for those navigating the recovery process.

If you or a loved one is battling a drug problem, know that it can be very difficult to effectively handle stresses on one’s own. Drugs, as chemicals, have more power over a person’s body or brain that we often realize. However, by taking a step back, and getting the addiction therapy you need, you can get through this. By understanding how to respond and work through stresses, you can overcome them.

In part of our article about “Addiction Recovery Tools,” we discussed the importance of coping skills for substance abuse and throughout the recovery process. Below, we breakdown examples of the types of coping skills that can help you truly conquer substance abuse and addiction.

  1. Wait to Respond – When something stressful happens to you, take a moment to breathe deeply and clear your mind. Rushed decisions are often irrational reactions. By thinking and breathing before you react, you can address the situation with a level-head.
  2. Mindfulness & Meditation – Use mindfulness and meditation techniques to help you work through difficult thoughts and emotions. It can allow you to focus on the present moment, to observe your internal experiences, and to accept them without judgment or negativity.
  3. Keep busy – In the past, you likely spent your time seeking out, using, or recovering from drugs. Now, you have to replace those old actions with positive ones. Check things off of your to-do list. Do things you’ve been putting off. Watch TV, dance, play music, read a book, do what will make you feel good at the end of the day, and the morning after, too.
  4. Stay healthy – Part of the recovery process means getting healthy physically – the drugs, without a doubt, took a toll on your physical health. Treat yourself to nutritious, satisfying meals and nourish your body with vitamins and nutrients.
  5. Exercise – Part of getting healthy involves exercise, too. Due to the endorphins released during physical activity, exercise is a great way to relieve anxiety, stresses, and feelings of depression. It also helps rid the chemicals and toxins that were put into your body from drug abuse.
  6. Journal – Rather than internalizing your feelings, your demons, your fears and your thoughts, put them down on paper. Get them out. Writing can be a great way to release and work out any thoughts that you are struggling with.
  7. Talk to a therapist, counselor, or your sponsor – Are you internalizing feelings, or feeling alone in your sobriety? Your sponsor or your counselor/therapist are there to listen to you, to keep you from relapsing, and to keep you from negative thoughts. They can also help you work through difficult emotions or situations, and interpret situations appropriately.
  8. Build a sober support network – Recovery is not easy, and is important to know that you are never alone in the process. Be open to new relationships that will support your recovery, and build a sober network of reliable, trustworthy peers who you can call at any time of need.
  9. Go to 12-step meetings – Being an active part of a 12-step program can offer you a guided means of reducing or stopping drug use. By going to 12-step meetings, you can also meet other people in recovery, who can become a part of your sober network.
  10. Find gratitude – Gratitude in recovery is one of the most important and empowering coping skills you can have. As you work through your struggles, remember others who are struggling. Remember who supports you, remember what makes you feel good, and be grateful.

Coping skills can help you healthily confront and overcome the very things that led to your substance abuse – negative emotions, stressful situations, peer-pressuring relationships, past traumatic experiences, mental illness, or other struggles. Coping skills for substance abuse differ for everyone. Everyone’s addiction story is unique, and everyone has different histories of drug and alcohol use. That said, different coping skills will work for different people. It’s all about finding the addiction coping skills that work best for you and your recovery journey.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, do not hesitate to ask for help. This is not a journey you have to walk alone. Contact Turnbridge at 877-581-1793 to learn more about our addiction therapy and drug treatment programs for young men and women.