What are they and why they are important

By Jack Petti

Being in the field of addiction treatment for many years, we have heard thousands of stories from our patients. While it is true many factors can lead to substance use or addiction, in most cases it’s the result of a person’s attempt to deal with some aspect(s) of life.
Life can be overwhelming at times. Problems related to the emotional state of mind, finances, family life, work-life, social life, etc., can take a major toll on the way you live. In essence, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, and more can pour gas on the fire of life’s struggles. As a result, people often count on substances like drugs or alcohol for self-medication. Over time, this pattern grows and gives rise to addiction.

Now, here comes the real story
Many believe addiction can be defeated by just going to treatment. That’s not true. No treatment facility can guarantee you will live a completely substance-free, sober life once you complete treatment. According to data from The National Institute of Drug Abuse, (NIDA) around 40 to 60 percent of people who were in active addiction experience several levels of relapse and find themselves back to square one in their journey towards lasting recovery.
In short, the struggle to remain sober is pretty common. If you want to be out of this statistic, it is crucial to understand how to cope with the triggers of relapse and what strategies prevent you from relapsing.
First the basics. If you want to be successful in recovery, it is important to find out the root cause of it. Is it trauma from the past, emotional struggles, or a certain situation that pushed you towards alcohol or drugs? In recovery, you cannot rely on the same coping mechanisms that involved substances to avoid stress. Developing healthy coping strategies will help prevent a relapse.

The cycle
In many cases of addiction, a person’s instincts and desires are the culprits. In fact, these are the most prominent reasons for establishing a solid foundation for recovery. Addiction is more complex to understand than one can anticipate. While it varies from person to person, it normally occurs in three stages — known as the addiction cycle. The three stages are: addiction, withdrawal and relapse. Over the years, medical professionals have viewed the addiction cycle in different ways. However, the problem of addiction has not been always treated as a medical disorder.

Why a multidimensional approach is necessary for coping
One answer to achieving a healthy life, is adapting powerful coping strategies. You might be thinking if you have to practice all coping strategies at once, well…NO. Don’t even try to use all such techniques once. The journey towards recovery is not the same for all. Therefore, you should count on reputable addiction treatment programs in order to adapt a perfect combination of coping techniques that will specifically work best for you.
It is important to get acquainted with the different types of coping strategies, because life changes with time and you may need more techniques that works the best for your situation.

What are some coping strategies for recovery?
Before we discuss various types of addiction coping techniques, consider this as your toolkit for battle with addiction. Educate yourself about each one and explore all of the options.

Reconsider your decisions
It is important to focus on all of your actions so you can evaluate your choices. Being attentive towards your actions helps to anticipate the potential self-harm or triggering cues, to keep you away from hazardous consequences.
Here is an example: Suppose the house of your old drug dealer falls on the way to your favorite restaurant. What would you do? It’s best to find another route to reach the restaurant to avoid unnecessary temptation you may get after seeing the dealer’s house.

Try spiritual practices
While working with patients, we have noticed the amazing benefits of spiritual and religious practices. This technique not only helps by making you feel accountable, but it is a great source of empowerment, motivation, and hope. It can introduce you to several other faith-based support programs such as bible study and church support. For this reason, many professional facilities recommend spiritual practices for patients during and after addiction treatments. Find what works for you.

Find a support group
There are various support groups to help you cope with your addiction-related problems. Consider getting engaged in such faith-based or secular support programs. Look into non-12-step and 12-step programs in your area. With the help of peer-to-peer support, these support programs can inspire you to remain sober through shared experiences. You have the opportunity meet people with similar experiences and be more encouraged, accountable, and supported, and you’ll learn new ways to cope from your fellows. And, get lots of phone numbers!

Try mindfulness practices
It is vital to accept reality and live in the present. For this reason, mindfulness can be one of the most effective ways to deal with substance use. In most cases, addicted individuals find themselves thinking too much about their past or keep worrying about the future. This can lead to significant distraction from some incredible abilities of the present. Practicing mindfulness throughout the recovery process helps to focus on the present and face the surroundings as they are.

Improve your social skills
You are far more likely to isolate yourself from social life when you are deep into alcohol or drug addiction. To hide their secrets, people struggling with substances often push away friends and family members. Moreover, their relationships with spouse, children, siblings, co-workers, etc., can be under tremendous tension under the weight of their substance addiction.
Improving your interpersonal skills can play a big role in your attempt to cope. It has the power to make you aware of the importance of honoring the boundaries of the people around you, and how to behave in social gatherings. It introduces you to effective ways to realize the benefits of healthy intimacy and discover new ways of expressing your needs.
With communication skills, you can learn how to sum up things and express them conveniently to others and understand what they have to say. Enhanced interpersonal skills have other benefits too, such as improved listening skills, accountability, and a better understanding of the others views.
All such aspects of great social skills lead to healthy relationships. When you feel overwhelmed about the thoughts of your substance use or addiction, you can communicate your feelings with these people and let them know you need support and care.

Learn to say No
Even though this is one of the most obvious coping strategies, it has great power to prevent a relapse and avoid a dent in your recovery. However, saying no to things is not always easy, especially temptations and trigger cues.
For this reason, it is crucial to work on your refusal skills and learn to say no. This may sound a bit weird and silly, but practicing to say NO, out loud, to drugs and alcohol, and even practicing it in front of the mirror can offer a lot of benefits. Avoid people, places and things that are unhealthy for your recovery.

Learn to manage anger
The impact of anger is more than you know on your mind and psychological state as it is one of the strongest emotions. Anger can fuel your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature and make you feel things are out of control. In short, such situations can provoke you to pick up drugs or alcohol in order to manage feelings and outer situations.
With proper anger management skills, you can learn to express your anger in the best way and without being confrontational or aggressive. It significantly reduces the harmful and negative consequences of anger and aggressiveness. It teaches you to indulge your mind in other activities such as physical exercises, music, etc. to help to calm down your mind and relieve stress. Seek out a professional who specializes in anger management if needed.

Get involved in activities you love
Being a person who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, you are more likely to invest time in arranging or taking the substance. Ultimately, things once you used to like are sidelined. But now, as you are trying to lead a lasting sober life, get those things back into your life. If there are none, find new activities and hobbies.
Apart from fostering your sense of well-being, accomplishment, and fulfillment, hobbies and activities play a big role in your way to recovery. If you are wondering what things can spark interest in you, you can consider several options such as learning a new musical instrument, learning a new language, cooking, listening to music, reading, sports, crafting, gardening, and more. You can also try volunteering as it can take you out of your regular concerns and worries by offering you a chance to help others.

Enhance your problem solving skills
Sometimes, it is very difficult to avoid problematic situations. During hard times, being proactive and stopping yourself from turning to alcohol or drugs is key. However, it is not always easy, which is why you have to work on it daily. You have to learn how you can deliberately and mindfully plan out your actions and behaviors to get the best results in the end.
Make sure that you do not get easily overwhelmed by the outcomes and instead, find the root of the problem and do something about it to overcome the issue.

Stay away from high-risk situations
When you strategize your behaviors in the best way, it helps you avoid potentially risky situations and eventually keeping the triggers at bay. There is one common term you will hear in recovery — H.A.L.T. which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. This is one of the best ways to remind you of the most common situations that can provoke you to use substances during your recovery period.
For example, suppose you have a pile of work from the office and you are feeling stressed out and tired, you have to try your best to remain calm and focus on the things that you can accomplish. To do that try contacting your near and dear ones to get some mental support. Talking to them can function as a motivation to you and help boost your mood and reassert your intentions to be sober.

Keep negativity at bay
Negativity can make you more susceptible to substances and wreaks havoc in your life by causing more chances of imbalance in your mental state.
But remember, there are some negative situations we cannot avoid. For this reason, you have to learn how to be calm and work positively during tedious times in order to cultivate positive thinking. Become aware of coping strategies to deal with negative thoughts and let them go — so you can move on without damaging your recovery process.

Improve your social support network
Needless to say, most people struggling with addiction withdraw themselves from engaging in healthy relationships. Instead, they get more acquainted with people who share similar self-destructive habits and behaviors. However, if you are serious about living a sober life, you must work on reshaping your social network.
Remember, self-acceptance in recovery is very important in order to maintain your recovery process and it needs you to develop supportive and negative relationships. No matter if it is about making a new friend or repairing a damaged relationship with someone you know, maintaining positive relationships with people is so important for long-lasting recovery. It not only helps you to defeat loneliness but provides you with much-needed support when you need it the most.

Learn to manage stress
Stress is one of the biggest triggers of addiction. Even though stress is a part of every normal life, sometimes, people fail to handle it in an effective way or simply encounter situations with enormous amounts of stress.
Learning the right ways of stress management can help you handle stressful situations and reduce the chances of falling for triggers that can lead to drug or alcohol use. A few ways to manage stress are exercising, counseling, working on communication skills, friend and family support, and having a sponsor. Such activities can be helpful for you to express your feelings and prevent negativity from building piles of stress and pushing things out of control.

Create healthy habits
Addiction to drugs and alcohol takes a major toll on our physical and mental well-being. It often makes you avoid even the normal aspects of self-care such as exercising, healthy eating, and self-grooming. When you lack such positive activities, you end up feeling sick and depressed.
You can consider developing healthy habits in order to counter this negativity related to substance addiction. Plus, you should learn to take good care of yourself, your mind, and your body. When you choose good dietary habits, it helps you avoid triggers associated with hunger and provide you with proper nutrition that helps your body to recover. Exercising releases endorphins (a chemical that causes happiness) and keeps you distracted from temptations.

Final thoughts
No matter if you are trying to live a sober life or are already on your recovery process, it’s necessary to be involved and invested in effective coping techniques. If your drug or alcohol addiction is something you are worried about, it is recommended you contact a trusted treatment center today.

Jack Petti is passionate about helping people struggling with addiction and mental health problems. Apart from being the Chief Executive Officer of Renaissance Recovery, he plays multiple other roles at Renaissance Recovery. With proper support and knowledge, he focuses on establishing a solid foundation for his clients’ recovery. Visit www.renaissancerecovery.com or call 866-330-9449.