Learning to Cope: Strategies to Help Your Addiction Recovery

Posted on: August 8th, 2017 by Tom Knapp |

JournalIf you are struggling with addiction, you might have a hard time seeing a path forward that will allow you to live drug free. An essential part of gaining this vision is not just stopping yourself from using again but also changing your life so you can more easily confront your tough emotions without resorting to drugs or alcohol.

As you develop new coping strategies, you will increase in emotional intelligence that will support you as you experience sadness, stress, anxiety, or anger. Coping strategies can come in many forms, and as you learn to help yourself feel better without drugs and alcohol, you’ll have more tools for overcoming addiction in your belt.

Changing Your Thinking

One of the most effective coping methods is actively making a choice to change your thoughts before your emotions start to escalate. This change takes some coaching and introspection, especially at first. Usually, changing your thinking means working against how you’ve learned to respond to things in the past.

For example, almost every person (whether struggling with addiction or not) has trouble with cognitive distortions. These are patterns of thinking that lead to uncontrolled emotional responses, which cause you to perceive things differently than they are. Some examples of cognitive distortions include:

  • All-or-nothing thinking. If you can’t do everything right all the time, you might just give up trying all together because you feel like you always fail. In reality, there are usually more than two possible outcomes. Most people don’t win, but most people also don’t lose. Instead, choices leave people on various forms of middle ground.
  • Taking things personally. A person who personalizes statements and situations will often view even kind comments as criticisms. With this type of distortion, you can experience increased negativity that leaves you angry and frustrated.
  • Catastrophizing. People who use this cognitive distortion might start to panic or feel a sense of doom at the slightest sign of trouble, feeling like everything will turn out badly just because one thing went wrong.
  • Denial. This distortion occurs when someone believes they can’t ever change or don’t really have a problem.

There are several types of distortions, and identifying them in your own life helps you to change your thinking. You might even have to start by saying something aloud, such as, “There are more than two outcomes. I am not a winner, but I am not a failure. I do not always fail.”

Soon, overcoming your cognitive distortions won’t take as much work, and you’ll be able to change your response entirely, establishing much better management of your emotions.

Filling Your Time

After rehabilitation, you might not be able to do the same things, hang out with the same friends, or even have the same job you had before. To recover, you need to fill your time with things that bring you pleasure and fulfillment.

Instead of turning to drugs during periods of weakness, you can rely on new pursuits to fill the void. Every person will discover different physical coping methods, but common ones include:

  • Working out. Exercise provides amazing physical benefits, and it provides natural endorphins that can improve your mood without drugs. Set a fitness goal for yourself to help you keep your eye on progress.
  • Journaling. Instead of avoiding your problems so they eventually overwhelm you and drive you to seek release through addiction, try writing your thoughts down in a journal on a daily basis. Writing is a form of gradual release.
  • Volunteering or serving. Doing something for somebody else is a great way to channel negativity. You might consider crocheting hats for infants at a local hospital, putting packages of food together for the homeless, or even pulling weeds for an elderly neighbor.

Your rehabilitation center will help you discover physical ways to release stress and confront your emotions in meaningful ways.

Settling Your Mind

The final set of coping methods deal with calming your mind. If you’re working out and actively trying to change your thoughts, the last thing to do is learn how to provide some rest and peace for yourself.

Often, people turn to drug and alcohol use as a means of coping with trauma and stress. Those who experience loss, abuse, anger, major life changes, bullying, or other trials can turn to substances as a way to handle their emotions. Instead of relying on these substances, you can learn to:

  • Meditate. Guided meditation might help you get the hang of meditation at first, but over time, you can use meditation on your own while listening to music, sitting in nature, or breathing deeply. Studies show that meditation improves your ability to handle stress by changing the way your brain responds to outside triggers.
  • Practice gratitude. Counting your blessings can help calm your mind. You might find five things each day to be thankful for, or you might start listing things you are thankful for when you experience disappointment to help keep negativity at bay.
  • Keep talking. You might not consider yourself to be a talkative person, but while you are in recovery, you’ll have access to counselors who can show you ways to open up to those you trust. Talking can be a great way to release tension and build peace, especially if you have support.

As you calm your mind, you’ll have a greater ability to reason, think positively, and engage in activities that are meaningful to you.

Of course, every person is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.  At Pacific Ridge we can help you learn and use coping mechanisms that will work for you.  If you are looking for a place to start (or re-start) your recovery, please give us a call at Pacific Ridge. We look forward to helping you.

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