Addiction is more than just an inability to stop abusing substances. It thrives on impulsiveness and actively seeking out chemicals that release dopamine in the brain. These “pleasure” chemicals give a user an overwhelming sense of euphoria. The impulses could be motivated to feed the pleasure or also be used as unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Every person uses coping skills to manage life’s stress and complications. The issue lies in when those skills and mechanisms lead a person to unhealthy means of doing so. Using substances can bring relief to a user so much so they get into a habit of seeking out substances at any inconvenience or stressor in life.
However, a key part of recovery is finding healthy means of coping. Rehabilitation treatment centers will aim to teach clients these skills. While relapse is not entirely avoidable, it can help teach the skills that will help in the long run with managing stress and triggers.
Struggling is Normal
There is no path to recovery that is free from struggles. Among those struggles is relapse. While every recovering addict should aim to avoid relapsing, they should also understand it is a natural process of recovery. While it may seem like a failure, it is truly only a minor setback. Recovering from addiction involves completely changing one’s life, the way one thinks, and responds to things. This is not an easy feat and certainly does not happen overnight. Once a person accepts that failure, struggling, and relapse are normal, they can work to change their lives through practice.
Addiction is a vicious cycle. An addict identifies the addiction, they endure the process of withdrawal, and then relapse occurs eventually. Then the cycle returns to managing the addiction and withdrawal. There is no timetable to this cycle and over time the number of relapses will become fewer. To achieve this, a person will need to learn new coping skills to help cope through relapse. It is also important to allow oneself a bit of forgiveness when it comes to changing their life entirely. Taking the first step towards learning healthy coping mechanisms is a good place to start, but the journey is far from over. For many, each day is a continual struggle to stay sober, but over time the struggle gets easier to manage.
What is Relapse?
Relapse can be seen as falling back into old, addictive habits, but not entirely limited to the act of drinking or using substances. In any case, it is a part of the recovery process. To relapse, a person has to be on the path of recovery in the first place and that is the most difficult part.
There are three stages of relapse known as relapse through thought, relapse through behavior, and relapse through controlled use. When relapsing through thoughts an addict might find that simply thinking about using is impacting their lives negatively. These negative emotions can push follow-through from the abuser.
In relapsing through behaviors, a user might think their good behaviors deserve a reward. If they have been clean for a long period they might reward themselves with a single drink or something of the sort. This is just a slippery slope of further abuse.
Relapse of controlled use means the user believes using substances in a controlled manner will help them cope and make their journey to recovery easier. If a user is new in the recovery journey, they cannot ensure a little use will not push them into full use again. It is safer to completely cut all substances from their life.
Triggers are what can cause sudden or gradual use for someone in recovery. Each person’s triggers are unique to their specific case but generally can be separated into emotional triggers or environmental triggers. Understanding which triggers influence a person can then help a user learn which skills are needed to cope with them.
Emotional triggers can be caused by frustrations, fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. These triggers cause normal reactions in people, even those who do suffer from addiction. The trends of stress and anxiety could be a cause for increased cases of addiction. On the other hand, there are several environmental triggers such as people or places that remind a person of using, attending social events where substances are present, and even some medication can trigger substance abuse.
A person needs to understand which of these triggers are present for them. If they continue through life without this understanding, they may never get to the root cause of their addiction and in turn, struggle to learn coping skills.
Finding Ways to Cope
Learning coping skills to help manage life triggers can mean the difference between successful recovery or an endless loop addiction. Treatment centers focus on teaching clients these skills for them to succeed outside of the center. This is an important part of any recovery process.
A person should have a support system in place as a means of coping. Whether it is family or through connections made in a recovery program, a support system can act as a check-in point to how to manage triggers. If a person has already relapsed, a support system could help them get back into the motions of recovery again. If a person feels the desire to use and relapse a support system could also act as a means of distracting them from the idea.
Attending meetings is another form of a support system. Not everyone has a supportive family in their lives, or if they do, they may find that family does not understand their struggles. Attending meetings can help recovery from a relapse or prevent one by offering a space for a person to feel heard and not alone.
If a person feels triggered or the urge to use, they should find ways to distract themselves. This can be done in a variety of ways and many treatment centers will encourage clients to start new hobbies as a means of distraction when needed. However, exercise, getting away from the situation, reading a book, or any other activity can help change their train of thought from using.
Another useful coping mechanism is using the negative consequences of a relapse as a reminder as to why using is bad. Perhaps a user found themselves in a dire situation through substance abuse. Remembering these consequences could prevent repeated abuse.
Many do not realize the importance of self-talk. This could mean talking oneself down from use or changing how a person talks about themselves. If a person is prone to negative speak this could wear a user down mentally to use again. Reapproaching how they speak and think about themselves can help prevent them from using. Instead, they could try focusing on the progress they have made.
In the end, seeking professional help can help any person who feels their triggers are outside of helping themselves. Professionals can help talk them down from circumstances and also help them manage high-risk situations.
Unhealthy Coping Skills
There are things a person should avoid doing when it comes to coping with addiction. These could be the result of being conditioned to respond to triggers in such a way or a person simply having difficulty opening up.
Being open and honest with what is happening is important to cope successfully. Bottling up feelings only leads to pressure building until something gives. This also sets a person up for failure. In turn, being dishonest about one’s journey could also lead to lying and hiding other things like eventual substance use. This breaks important bonds that can help a person recover. Keeping a journal can also be useful for those who do have trouble speaking out.
A person should also be mindful of who they are hanging out with. Community is important for any person on the road to recovery and true friends will understand the life changes. A person should be open and honest with friends, if they do not want to change their habits to help their friend’s recovery then there lies the problem. A recovering addict should be clear with their boundaries and if their friends are not responsive they may have to change their social circles.
Forgiveness is Key
Effective coping skills are just one of the many skills clients should expect to learn while in a treatment center. The time spent in recovery can be impactful for the rest of their lives so it is important clients practice these skills while in their recovery process. However, these skills take time to fully develop into everyday life.
Above all, an individual should understand that relapse is not failure. It is a natural progression of the recovery process. It takes continual practice and learning to have a long-lasting recovery journey. By learning coping skills the chances of success are much greater. That is why rehabilitation centers put so much focus on teaching these skills to clients. It will take practice and dedication to these skills for them to become second nature. In the end, through a little self-forgiveness and commitment, a long recovery is completely possible.
Coping Skills Development at NuView Treatment Center
NuView Treatment Center, West Los Angeles’ foremost treatment center, provides individuals and other members of the community with a wide variety of outpatient treatment programs. Our treatment programs help individuals escape from the vicious cycle of drug or alcohol dependence. Our modern facility, highly trained physicians and masters-level clinicians, and evidence-based treatment modalities can help anyone, regardless of the severity of their substance use disorder.
Our rehab includes every level of care, including:
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs)
- Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs)
- Outpatient programs (OPs)
- Aftercare planning
At NuView Treatment Center, we believe in approaching addiction treatment on a whole-person basis. Compassion is emphasized above all. We never utilize a one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. Rather, we understand that all of our clients are individuals with unique stories, underlying issues, and specific needs. Our team and staff members design individualized treatment plans for every client who walks into our facility so that they can develop the coping tools they need to stay sober and live lives that are joyful, meaningful, and drug and alcohol-free.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from a drug or alcohol problem, help is available. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.