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The road to addiction recovery is complex and requires time and effort. It will not happen all at once, and it’s crucial to have a plan for navigating the obstacles that will crop up along the way. Everyone’s journey to abstinence is unique, but some key coping skills can make the process easier during moments of difficulty, helping an individual stay on their path towards recovery.
What Are Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms?
Having strategies to cope with difficulties and stress is essential when recovering from addiction.
Healthy coping skills can help keep someone motivated and on track in their recovery journey, avoiding the risk of relapse. Coping methods such as taking walks, talking to therapists or friends, engaging in creative activities like art or physical activities, reading, travelling, and positive thinking help support a stronger sense of self and build resilience.
On the other hand, unhealthy coping mechanisms involve negative thinking and self-loathing, overeating, or worse – resorting back to addiction. Those in recovery should recognise harmful coping behaviours to avoid giving in to them and make progress in the healing process.
The Benefits of Healthy Coping Skills
When you decide to start your journey to addiction recovery, you need to find healthy ways of dealing with life’s stresses. Often people turn to drugs to escape reality and chase a sense of euphoria or relaxation.
Once in recovery, it is easy to fall back into old patterns and return to behaviours that lead to addiction, which will only impede your healing process and undermine your ability to stay in recovery.
Healthy coping mechanisms such as exercise, meditation, or being in nature can provide the right frame of mind and give you inner peace. This awareness will help you recognise your emotional needs and lead you to recovery.
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10 Key Coping Skills for Addiction Recovery
The recovery journey is easier and safer when you incorporate positive coping strategies into your daily life. They help you to stay on track and face the challenges of abstinence in a way that will not impede progress. Here are ten key coping skills.
1. Attend 1:1 Addiction Therapy Sessions
One-on-one therapy is individual therapy between the patient and their psychotherapist. It focuses on the emotional and psychological components contributing to addiction.
In this type of therapy, the patient can speak openly about their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours while addressing issues related to substance abuse. The therapist works alongside the patient to help them understand the root causes of their addiction, learn how to cope with these problems more effectively, and cultivate positive skills and strategies for overcoming addiction.
Individual counselling for addiction recovery offers many advantages. These include:
- A personalised treatment plan – the therapist and patient work together to determine the patient’s particular issues and struggles concerning addiction and develop a recovery plan tailored to the individual’s specific needs;
- Learning new skills and strategies to manage their issues – the therapist assists the patient in developing methods for handling stress and anxiety, learning how to think positively, and boosting their self-confidence;
- Learning how to handle triggers and cravings – some beneficial techniques could include deep breathing exercises, meditation, or other mental exercises to cultivate inner peace;
- Learning how to manage dual-diagnosis – substance abuse is often associated with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and difficulties with interpersonal relationships. The patient can address these concerns through one-on-one therapy to decrease their reliance on the substance or behaviour to which they were addicted;
- Confidentiality – helping the patient feel safer and more open to voicing their concerns.
2. Attend Group Therapy Sessions
Group therapy can solidify the positive gains from treatment, gives patients emotional support, and help them build responsibility and self-control. Attending group therapy sessions is often an essential part of addiction recovery.
There are several reasons why group therapy is so beneficial for those battling addiction, so let us look at a few.
- It provides patients with a supportive environment. Addiction can damage relationships and distance an individual from friends and family. Group therapy helps one learn how to communicate effectively and build healthy, sustainable relationships. The peers within this group serve as a form of social circle, which is different from the previous drug-using social setting that can lead to relapse;
- It helps patients understand their addiction. By talking to the other members, patients see that they are not the only ones going through these problems, which provides relief. In learning about how addiction ruins the lives of others in similar ways and hearing about their experiences, patients gain insight into their situation and develop better control over their habits. Sharing stories and discussing issues related to addiction helps patients learn more about themselves and their journey;
- Each patient puts in their best effort and works to set an example. Everyone strives to stay strong and avoid relapse to motivate group members and preserve their trust. Commitment to the collective helps promote better treatment results and ensures consistent progress.
3. Support Groups
Engaging in groups is a vital part of the rehabilitation process that can be useful at any stage of recovery.
Among the most popular and successful peer support groups are those that follow the 12-Step Tradition, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Gamblers Anonymous (GA). Many other local support groups exist. All support groups share the same objective – to start anew without the thing to which the individual is addicted (alcohol, drugs, gambling, the internet, etc.). Which type of group you choose is down to individual preference.
Support groups are successful because they give individuals a sense of community and belonging, allowing them to open up about their struggles and cravings. By talking through these issues, support group members can provide each other with the assistance that no other type of therapy can provide to prevent relapse.
4. Manage Strong Impulses and Emotions
The biggest precipitators for addiction and relapse are usually intense emotions and stress, so learning to manage them properly is essential to a successful recovery. Stress management includes recognising and removing the sources of your stress, developing better self-awareness during difficult experiences to control your emotions and reactions to avoid acting on impulse, and engaging in positive activities like exercise, deep breathing exercises, or relaxation techniques for coping with stress.
5. Distracting Yourself From Triggers and Cravings
One of the difficulties a recovering individual may face is maintaining sobriety in the presence of triggers and cravings. Triggers can be anything linked to your past addictive behaviours, such as people, places, settings, music, emotions, and thoughts. Usually, when something triggers a person in recovery, an intense craving ensues, leading to relapse.
The most successful way to overcome addiction and break the cycle of triggers and cravings is to keep the mind busy with other activities that serve as health distractions and alternatives to old behaviours. You could go for a walk, work on a craft project, listen to music, read books, seek support from family members, or attend support groups.
Distracting and keeping yourself busy and active allows you to stop associating drug use with pleasure and concentrate on activities that provide joy without addiction.
6. Journaling for Emotional Clarity
Journaling is an effective tool for managing mental health and making sense of our emotions. It can be helpful when recovering from addiction since it allows you to document your experiences and feelings. Journaling is easy even if you are not accustomed to writing and does not take much time – usually only about 20 minutes daily.
Through journaling, you can break down fears and negative thoughts regarding recovery and stay on track with your progress. Seeing your story written out lets you feel like you are creating a new version of yourself right now. Keeping a journal will make your journey toward recovery more conscious and enjoyable.
7. Practicing Self-Care
Deciding to address your addiction is a crucial first investment in your well-being. You choose to value yourself, and with the help of individual and group therapy, you learn to love and care for yourself without relying on the activity to which you were addicted.
Loving yourself and practising self-care include making lifestyle changes, such as getting sufficient sleep, eating healthy meals, and exercising regularly. Finding new healthy ways to bring joy into your life is key to avoiding relapse while in recovery.
8. Exercise, Nutrition, and Regular Sleep
Once a person is stable in rehab, they can participate in activities such as outdoor sports, art therapy and have their diet tailored by a nutritionist. Adopting a new diet is crucial, as addiction hinders one’s ability to care for themselves, leading to poor eating habits and skipping meals.
For those addicted to substances, drugs also tend to be appetite suppressants. Wholesome meals and sufficient sleep are essential for restoring physical strength and mental health, allowing patients to rebuild themselves. After leaving inpatient rehab, individuals should maintain these new healthy habits and routines to remain abstinent in the long term and not revert to old destructive behaviours.
9. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques
Addressing addiction brings with it feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and intrusive thoughts. Moreover, addiction is often comorbid with deep-set psychological issues such as depression and other mental health conditions. Practising mindfulness, yoga, or meditation can help you through this challenging time. These relaxation techniques are beneficial in keeping yourself grounded in the present moment. They present an opportunity to show self-love and reaffirm your commitment to building a better life. Above all, these practices will alleviate your worries by clearing out those negative thoughts and providing a clearer perspective on what lies ahead.
10. Participate in Enjoyable Activities
Finding joy without the activity to which you were addicted is essential for a successful and long-term recovery. When you learn to appreciate your life, the pull of addiction naturally weakens.
Give yourself time and space to do things that make you happy on the road to recovery. It might be something you used to love but gave up due to addiction or something you have always dreamed of – now is the perfect time!
Falling Back With People Who Abuse Drugs or Alcohol
If your addiction is to drugs or alcohol, keeping contact with people that use substances is detrimental to your recovery.
Hanging around users will only ignite cravings and make you more likely to start using again. To recover, you need to stay away from your past addiction and the people associated with it. Connecting with new friends from support groups, group therapy, and individuals who have never taken any drugs can show you a new lifestyle.
We become like those with whom we choose to associate. If you choose recovery, you should associate with those who will be beneficial in your healing journey.
The road to recovery is long and hard. To keep yourself on track after treatment, you must plan for post-treatment care and continue with supportive programmes.
Castle Craig provides all patients with a continuing care programme after their stay to help them transition into a healthier lifestyle and reduce the risk of relapse.
We have partnered with London-based CATCH Recovery to offer individual, group, family, or gender-specific therapy options for individuals leaving residential treatment, those who cannot enter an inpatient rehab programme, and families that need assistance while supporting their loved one’s recovery.
CATCH Recovery provides behavioural therapy to help you get to the root of your addiction, rebuild damaged relationships, and learn coping skills.
The time to choose a better life is now.
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2. Mann, B. (2022, January 15). There is life after addiction. Most people recover. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2022/01/15/1071282194/addiction-substance-recovery-treatment
3. Baharudin, D. F., Zakaria, Z., Hussin, A. H. M., & Ahmad, Z. A. (2012). The Experiences of Family Support by People in Recovery from Drug Addiction. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280216298_The_Experiences_of_Family_Support_by_People_in_Recovery_from_Drug_Addiction