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Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

Coping Skills for Addiction: Healthy Coping Skills in Recovery

Table of Contents

Addiction is a complex and challenging condition that can impact a person’s everyday life. The road to recovery can be long and difficult. However, with the right tools and support, anyone can overcome addiction and lead a fulfilling life.

This article will discuss 15 coping skills that can aid in your addiction recovery. From mindfulness and exercise to creative expression and social support, these evidence-based strategies offer alternative ways of managing stress and emotions to prevent relapse triggers.

How do People Cope with Addiction?

Many people who struggle with addiction use unhealthy coping skills, including self-medication, avoidance, and denial. While these may help in the short term, they only make the symptoms of addiction that much harder to manage in the long term.

To break this cycle, developing healthy coping skills to help manage stress, regulate emotions, and maintain sobriety is essential.

Studies have shown that combining psychological and behavioral therapies for addiction treatment can effectively help individuals in recovery develop healthy coping skills.

By incorporating these healthy coping skills into your daily routines, you can build resilience, manage cravings, and achieve long-term sobriety.

What is the Importance of Coping Skills in Addiction Recovery?

Coping skills play a crucial role in addiction recovery because they help individuals manage the stressors, triggers, and emotional challenges that can come up in the recovery journey.

Without a healthy coping mechanism, people with addiction may resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms that can worsen their addiction symptoms and make a recovery more challenging.

Research has shown that having good coping skills can make long-term recovery more likely and reduce the chance of relapse.

Here are a few ways that coping skills can help people in recovery:

  • Managing stress. Stress can promote relapse, but one can lessen the likelihood of relapse with the right coping mechanisms in place.
  • Regulating emotions. Healthy coping skills can help individuals regulate their emotions and manage feelings of anxiety, depression, and other emotional challenges that may arise during recovery.
  • Maintaining sobriety. Strong coping skills can increase resilience and help individuals maintain sobriety in the face of cravings and other challenges.
  • Increasing confidence. Coping skills can help people in recovery develop a sense of mastery and control over their lives. This can lead to higher confidence and self-esteem.

15 Coping Skills for Addiction Recovery

People with addiction disorders can build a foundation for successful and long-term recovery by developing healthy coping skills.

Here are 15 effective coping skills for addiction recovery:

1. Practicing Mindfulness & Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation can help with addiction recovery by allowing individuals to focus on the present moment and calm their minds.

Evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation improves emotion regulation and reduces drug abuse. Regular practice has also reduced stress and anxiety and improved overall mental health.

Mindfulness and meditation can also help you achieve better self-control and improve your mental clarity and concentration. Practicing mindfulness can also increase your kindness and compassion, helping you manage and balance negative feelings and behaviors.

2. Practicing Non-Judgment

People with addiction often experience negative thoughts and emotions that can worsen their addiction symptoms. These negative self-talk and self-criticisms can damage their mental health and hinder their recovery process.

To counteract this, practicing non-judgment and being kinder to oneself is crucial. This can help reduce stress, alleviate anxiety, and prevent other negative behaviors from taking hold. Practicing non-judgment also promotes better communication skills and trust with others.

By shifting your focus from negative thoughts about others to a more positive and supportive outlook, you can create an environment that helps you stay sober and progress in your recovery journey. Embracing non-judgment is a key step toward a happier and healthier life.

3. Learning to Relax in Any Situation

Many people first experiment with drugs and alcohol to calm their nerves and unwind from stressful situations. If you learn to manage your stressors effectively, you can prevent relapse by keeping your calm in any situation.

In fact, mind-body relaxation is one of the main tools of relapse prevention. Therapeutic treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy can teach you techniques that can help you maintain self-control regardless of the circumstances.

Here are some typical relaxation techniques that may help you:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Walking
  • Listening to soothing music
  • A warm shower or bath
  • Drinking herbal tea or green tea
  • Reading
  • Laughing
  • Going outside and enjoying nature
  • Yoga

4. Being Honest with Yourself & Others

Lying may seem the easiest option when you’re struggling with addiction. For instance, you may have lied about how often you used your substance of choice prior to committing to addiction treatment. To keep using, you may have deceived yourself and others.

As part of your effort to overcome your addiction, you must be completely open and honest with yourself. Honesty plays a big role in addiction treatment.

Honesty about your internal experiences, outward actions, and difficulties is a powerful tool in fostering trust and enhancing connections with others.

Be honest to yourself and others about whatever you’re feeling or experiencing, even if they’re difficult emotions. Seek the help of your sponsor, therapist, or sober group if you’re struggling to resist strong urges. Choosing to be truthful will aid in your sobriety regardless of the circumstances. Honesty will enable you to face your addiction head-on and make progress toward sobriety.

5. Being Patient

The process of overcoming an addiction is often long and arduous. There is no fixed timeline that works for everyone, so it’s important to be patient and give yourself time to recover.

You may also encounter ups and downs in your progress; this is normal. It may be frustrating, but keep in mind that healing is a process, not a destination.

Patience can also be beneficial in developing new routines and new relationships. Being patient when doing things that take time and effort, such as building a solid support system, practicing self-care, and establishing new routines, can lead to greater results.

Patience will help you keep things in perspective, deal with setbacks, and keep long-term motivation high.

6. Eating Healthy

Aside from your emotional and mental health, it’s also vital that you take care of your physical health when overcoming substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can have dangerous health consequences, so part of your journey needs to focus on nursing your body back to health and maintaining healthy ways.

Eating the right meals can help you achieve nutritional balance, which is essential in repairing the harmful effects of past drug use. Eat healthy and filling food to stoke up your metabolism and maintain your energy throughout the day.

You can also have fun with it. Having a healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to consume boring and unplayable food. Find healthy recipes online that suits your taste and contain the right nutrition balance you need.

7. Living an Active Lifestyle

Physical activity is essential for overcoming the addiction because it has positive effects on both the body and the mind. Stress, worry, and despair are prevalent throughout the healing process, but studies show regular exercise can help alleviate these symptoms.

When you engage in physical activity, your body releases endorphins as a response. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, so exercise can often boost your mood and sense of well-being.

Regular exercise can also be useful as a welcome diversion and a beneficial way to release pent-up tension and emotion. If you’re struggling with poor self-worth as a result of your addiction, you may find that exercise can help you feel more accomplished and boost your self-esteem.

8. Doing Activities You Enjoy

While recovering from substance abuse is often difficult, this doesn’t mean you have to be miserable throughout the process.

In fact, you would do well to prioritize engaging in activities that bring you joy, as doing so has been shown to have a positive effect on both people’s health and sense of fulfillment.

It’s not uncommon for people in recovery to feel that their addiction has taken over every aspect of their lives, including their ability to reconnect with their interests and passions.

You might reawaken your sense of purpose and revitalize your enthusiasm for life by partaking in pursuits that provide you pleasure.

9. Staying Busy

Feelings of boredom or emptiness are common among those in recovery and can serve as catalysts for a relapse. Keeping yourself actively engaged is one way to divert your attention away from negative emotions and toward more constructive pursuits.

Keeping active can also be a beneficial distraction and release for pent-up emotions and tension. This can be a healthy way to release pent-up emotions and boost mood.

Keeping your schedule filled with healthy and positive activities will aid in the formation of new, more conducive habits, routines, and interests, all of which can play a role in the success of long-term sobriety and recovery efforts.

10. Keeping a Daily Journal and Gratitude List

Keeping a daily journal and gratitude list is an important coping skill for people in recovery from addiction. It can help with emotional regulation, encourage gratitude, and help people think about themselves.

Writing in a journal can provide a safe and private space to process your thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to your addiction and recovery.

On the other hand, maintaining a list of things you’re grateful for can help you shift focus away from negative experiences and promote a positive outlook. This can be especially important if you struggle with shame, guilt, or self-doubt.

Fostering gratitude can help improve mood, increase positivity, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Self-reflection through journaling and gratitude practices can help you gain insight into your behavior, motivations, and thought patterns.

This can promote personal growth and develop a greater understanding of yourself.

11. Restructuring Your Social Life 

People recovering from addiction or substance abuse often need to stay away from people or social situations that may have contributed to their condition.

For example, friends who use drugs and alcohol may have been a part of the problem. By changing how you spend your time with friends and family members, you can build a network of people who will help you stay on track with your healing.

Getting involved in good social activities and making new friends can also help you feel like you belong and improve your overall health.

At the same time, reorganizing your social life can help promote healthy habits and behaviors. This is because people are more likely to do good things and pick up healthy habits when they are around people who support them.

12. Building a Sober Support Network

Having an addiction can be isolating. However, you don’t need to do everything by yourself.

Surrounding yourself with a strong network of individuals who have similar experiences and are committed to sobriety can be incredibly beneficial for your sobriety journey.

Having a sober network like friends, family, or a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or narcotics anonymous, can help you by providing encouragement, motivation, and a way to be held accountable.

13. Avoiding Triggers

Recovering from substance abuse involves starting fresh and forming new habits and routines. Think of it as starting a new life.

Recovering people need to learn to recognize and avoid triggers. With the help of your sponsor, therapist, or your support network, figure out your internal triggers and external triggers. Doing so will help you limit potential relapse points so you won’t be tempted to go back to old habits of drug and alcohol use.

Stay far away from anything or anyone that brings up negative emotions, including sadness, anger, or fear. Avoid similarly hazardous situations to safeguard your sobriety. If you have unhealthy coping skills that are keeping you from staying sober, do your best to stop.

Instead, adopt new habits and new skills in place of your old ones.

14. Improving Sleep Quality

Being active is an important coping skill, but adequate rest is also necessary to stay sober and avoid negative behavior.

Sleep is a very important part of physical health, and it can help you heal your body from the consequences of substance use. Sleep helps fix and refresh the body which makes you feel less tired and improves your overall health and well-being.

It is also essential for emotional and mental health. You may often feel tired, stressed, and anxious while undergoing rehab or treatment. Getting enough sleep can help ease the effects of withdrawal or rehab.

15. Attending Therapy Sessions

Therapy plays a critical role in addiction treatment. Attending individual and group therapy sessions can provide numerous benefits to individuals in recovery, including:

  • Processing trauma and addressing emotional issues
  • Improving relationships
  • Addressing co-occurring disorders
  • Building effective coping skills and strategies

At Nuview Treatment Center, we know the problems people in recovery face and are committed to giving them the support and tools they need to beat addiction.

Our skilled and caring therapists help people in recovery figure out why they used drugs in the first place, learn new ways to deal with problems, and build a strong foundation for long-term recovery.

Our goal is to give people the tools and support they need to get and stay sober. We do this through individual therapy, group therapy, or a combination of the two.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, we invite you to learn more about the services and resources we offer at Nuview Treatment Center.

Our caring and committed team is here to help you on your path to recovery and give you the coping skills and strength you need for a brighter, drug-free future.

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Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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