Once you’ve finished addiction treatment and you’re sober, you might think you’re in the clear. However, the work of recovery has only just begun. As your counselors and treatment center staff have told you, there is a chance of relapse, which is a return to drug and alcohol use. Fortunately, using healthy coping skills can help you on your journey to recovery. We’ll discover triggers and how you can handle them using said healthy coping skills.
What Is a Coping Mechanism?
Let’s start with a basic definition of “coping mechanism.” Since we all experience some degree of stress, we all develop our own strategies for dealing with that discomfort. These habits are referred to as coping mechanisms. They can be positive or negative, healthy or unhealthy, depending on the action and how often you use it. Sometimes, coping mechanisms give us a reason to avoid stressors and deal with what’s really bothering us. Often, these mechanisms serve as a distraction, keeping us from taking stress head-on. However, not all coping mechanisms are bad. With the proper techniques, you can develop coping strategies that allow you to address the cause of your stress without being overwhelmed.
What Are Relapse Triggers vs Coping Skills?
Understanding what might trigger you to relapse as well as having a plan in the place for these triggers are the first steps toward prevention. Here are some triggers you need to consider when developing your coping skills and talk to your therapist or counselor about.
Stress is the top cause of relapse. And, many people who struggle with addiction turn to their substance or activity of choice as a maladaptive way of coping with it. In fact, research indicates that there is an increased “wanting” for the drug, alcohol, or addictive activity during stressful situations—especially if the substance or activity was the person’s primary coping mechanism. By making changes in your lifestyle, relationships, and priorities, you may be able to reduce the number of stressful situations in your life. And, when you do that, you will be reducing the likelihood that stress will trigger a relapse.
Negative or Challenging Emotions
People who struggle with addiction need effective ways of tolerating, managing, and making sense of the negative feelings encountered in daily life. Alcohol, drugs, or addictive behaviors used to provide temporary relief from those feelings, but you can’t rely on them anymore. Realize that those negative feelings you’re having don’t have to be a sign of an impending setback. View these emotions as an opportunity for growth and understanding. You can learn a lot about yourself by taking an inventory of what you’re feeling and asking yourself why. In fact, learning how to face your emotions without escaping into addiction is invaluable. Everyone feels negative or challenging emotions. The key is how you deal with them. Aim to learn how to get comfortable with uncomfortable feelings and emotions.
Seeing or Sensing the Object of Your Addiction
Reminders of your addiction can trigger relapse during recovery. A whiff of cigarette smoke, watching people sip cocktails in a bar or restaurant. Wanting to fall back into your addiction is normal. After all, it’s a familiar place for you. But, recovery is not just about “quitting” and “abstaining” as much as it’s about building a new life in which it is easier—and more desirable—not to use. Use your coping skills to embrace the idea that you’re creating a new, healthier version of yourself with no room for the things of the past.
Addressing mental urges can be an effective tool for preventing relapse, at least on a short-term basis. Speaking to someone about the urge to use can often help to reduce that urge and bring rational thinking to the forefront of the equation. This is a reason that a lot of support programs employ the use of a sponsor; it can be critical to have someone to talk to when the urge to use arises.
Thinking about the full scenario after romanticizing substance abuse can also help. When a person in recovery is romanticizing their past use of a drug, they are often simply thinking of the early stages – the consumption of the drug. It can be helpful for an individual to continue to “play the tape through” and think about everything else that accompanies using, specifically all the consequences that come along with it. This can help an individual remember why they sought recovery in the first place.
Coping Skills for Addiction Recovery
How Do You Gain Healthier Coping Skills?
It can be hard to gain healthier coping skills if an individual is unaware of their own healthy coping strategies to begin with. The first step in gaining new coping skills is identifying the already existing ones. Next, one can assess how effective those strategies are and if they actually work in the long run. Individuals can stop and think before they react to their stressor. Oftentimes the ways in which we cope are reactive and instinctual. For example, some people will overeat or reach for comfort food to cope with stress without even thinking. It may be a good idea to list personal stressors and then list the ways in which you cope. From there, you can assess which coping strategies are healthy or unhealthy. Individuals can find healthy coping skills by researching on the internet, talking with a mental health professional or loved ones.
In the past, you likely spent your time seeking out, using, or recovering from drugs. Now, you have to replace those old actions with positive ones. Check things off of your to-do list. Do things you’ve been putting off. Watch TV, dance, play music, read a book, do what will make you feel good at the end of the day, and the morning after, too.
Gratitude isn’t just a nice thing to practice — it’s essential for long-term recovery. Being grateful reminds us that even when things go wrong, there are still plenty of things to be thankful for. Having a grateful mindset allows us to take on challenges with a positive mindset and instead of seeing relapse as a failure, we can see it as an opportunity to improve. Practicing gratitude also teaches us how to love and respect ourselves, which enables us to love and respect others as well. Developing a mindset and behaviors that reflect gratitude is a skill, and it will take time to grow.
Build A Support Network
Recovery is not easy, and is important to know that you are never alone in the process. Be open to new relationships that will support your recovery, and build a sober network of reliable, trustworthy peers who you can call at any time of need. Talk to a therapist, counselor, or your sponsor – Are you internalizing feelings, or feeling alone in your sobriety? Your sponsor or your counselor/therapist are there to listen to you, to keep you from relapsing, and to keep you from negative thoughts. They can also help you work through difficult emotions or situations, and interpret situations appropriately building your coping skills.
Helping Others Can Help You Cope
If you’re recovering from addiction, you might enjoy helping others recover as well. Not only does being of assistance increase your self-esteem and sense of self-worth, but it can also bolster your support network. When you have reliable friends and a strong sense of confidence, your chances of relapse are minimized. Some sources even suggest helping others can lower your blood pressure and reduce chronic pain. If you’re interested in helping other people struggling with similar issues to yours, ask us about how you can get involved.
Addiction Recovery with Daylight Recovery Center
Learning to recognize triggers, getting help from a counselor, and building a support network are all useful tools in preventing a relapse. Do everything you can to protect yourself, but don’t beat yourself up if you do slip. Prompt action is the best way to address relapse. The individual must recognize that a relapse, while not a failure, is a serious thing. Each relapse presents the potential to fall back into continuous abuse, which can lead to serious health problems and even death. Our goal at Daylight Recovery Center is for every patient to enjoy a life free from the shackles of drug or alcohol addiction. After completing your treatment at Daylight Recovery Center, rest easy knowing that you will always be part of the Daylight Family. When our patients succeed, we succeed. Contact our team today to learn more!