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Coping Skills in Addiction Recovery

Why is addiction treatment so important for long-term recovery? The simple answer is that going to treatment allows individuals in recovery to get to the root of their addiction and understand why they turned to substances. The lessons learned and skills developed in treatment provide a foundation for lifelong sobriety.

According to a 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), one out of every twelve adults in the United States experiences addiction. Addiction is a brain disease that alters the brain function of many individuals, plaguing them with compulsions to fulfill their cravings and desires. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction is a “brain disease indicated by cravings, an inability to abstain from the behavior or substance, dysfunctional emotional responses, and a loss of behavioral control.” The reasons people seek drugs vary from person to person, but in most cases, there is an underlying issue that, once treated, alleviates the compulsion to use drugs to some extent.

One of the primary reasons people turn to drug use and become addicted is that they lack healthy coping mechanisms to face troubling life circumstances. Individuals turn to mind-altering substances to manage stress, sadness, illness, and unfortunate life circumstances. For those struggling with everyday stressors, drugs and alcohol help to numb the situation, remove the individual from their reality, increase pleasure, and decrease their anxiety. Using substances as a coping mechanism is not sustainable and will eventually catch up with the user.

Importance of Developing Healthy Coping Skills

Developing healthy coping mechanisms is critical to maintaining abstinence from drugs and alcohol. No matter what healthy coping mechanism individuals in recovery rely on, the goal is the same and the neuro processing is similar. Like using drugs and alcohol, healthy coping mechanisms are “habits formed over time, that serve to help a person manage with particular situations or stress levels.” It is essential to understand while not all coping mechanisms are destructive or maladaptive, addiction is both.

Healthy coping skills help people deal with stress and sadness in a way that allows them to succeed in society despite their debilitating feelings. A coping skill allows a person to engage in an activity that strengthens their mental health when experiencing negativity in their life. When stress levels rise, people excessively rely on their chosen compulsive behavior to remove discomfort, be that drug abuse or gambling. This provides only temporary relief and leads to a struggle with addiction. Some coping methods become compulsive, such as binge eating, shopping, gambling, sex, and video games. If a person relies on these maladaptive behaviors to cope, they may become addicted to them because they trigger the same “pleasure-inducing brain chemicals that drugs and alcohol do and lead to addiction with prolonged repetition.” Any addiction can become destructive, so it is important to develop healthy coping skills in addiction recovery that make you feel better without depending on them to function.

How Treatment Can Help

Because addiction is a brain disease with elevated chemical imbalances, professional help is required for recovery. Health professionals help to reestablish neurological homeostasis and end addictive tendencies by replacing maladaptive behaviors with positive coping skills. At Boardwalk Recovery Center, we have psychiatrists on staff to assist with chemical imbalances and skilled therapists who provide group therapy, process groups, and support with individual issues. Our psychiatrists will evaluate our clients and intentionally prescribe medication that will work to regulate their unique brain chemistry to create a safe, stable space to develop healthy life skills.

At Boardwalk Recovery Center, we believe our clients need to develop healthy stress, anger management, and communication skills to apply when faced with a difficult situation. The risk of relapse is exponentially reduced by having a toolbox of coping skills. During addiction treatment, we guide our clients through the activation of skills to manage cravings and triggers when they arise.

Healthy Coping Strategies For Recovery

Using the healthy alternatives below can help minimize relapse and set up a foundation for lifelong abstinence.

1. Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins and provides an outlet to release tension, and improve mood, self-image, and quality of sleep. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “…staying physically active can boost both emotional and physical health and manage stress, therefore helping to control cravings and prevent relapse.”

2. Mindfulness Meditation

To be active in your recovery, you must create a space for yourself to reflect. Yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises help people ground themselves and reconnect with their authentic selves and the things they want to manifest in their lives.

3. Spirituality

In recovery, individuals are encouraged to find inner strength and admit that they are powerless in certain situations. Developing a spiritual practice is excellent for connecting to a higher power. Individuals in 12-Step recovery programs frequently focus on admitting powerlessness over their addiction and surrendering their lives to a higher power. Individuals in recovery who practice spirituality can easily access faith-based skills and maintain a stable and grateful mindset.

4. Positive Reframing

At Boardwalk Recovery Center, we help our clients to reframe their negative thought patterns and establish a positive framework through which to view their life circumstances. We believe every challenging experience is a lesson and an opportunity for growth. With a positive perspective, no situation is hopeless, and choices become clear.

5. Finding Humor in Situations

While some people use humor to hide behind in a maladaptive way, humor can be a healthy coping mechanism when used with the goal of not taking yourself so seriously.

6. Problem-Solving

Learning how to approach challenging issues is something that individuals in recovery need to relearn. By developing problem-solving skills, an individual in recovery can avoid being overwhelmed or triggered by stress.

7. Creative Expression

Having an outlet to express yourself is helpful to everyone. Some people may express themselves through fashion or by creating art. Journaling is a great way to express yourself without having to explain or justify your feelings to anybody. Music is also an outlet that helps people unwind and reconnect to their experiences and emotions.

8. Communication

At Boardwalk Recovery Center we treat clients with the foundational belief that the healthiest way to communicate is to “tell not show.” Communicating with someone you trust is necessary to relieve painful emotions. It is often difficult to provide support to someone who only shows their anger or frustration and does not express it in a healthy way. In our support groups, we set aside time to process feelings by communicating them to the counselor and the group of clients who can sympathize and provide support. A person in recovery may benefit from having a sponsor, someone they can reach out to and share their deepest thoughts and feelings with whenever they need it, whether it’s daily check-ins or in times of crisis.

9. Being of Service

A huge aspect of the recovery community is giving back. Many 12-Step programs have services built into the program. Being a sponsor, speaking up at meetings, sharing about your recovery journey, lending an ear, or volunteering with local charities are all positive ways to transform energy in your recovery.

10. Quality Sleep and a Healthy Diet

Sleep is essential for overall well-being. When a person is recovering and re-calibrating their central nervous system and brain chemicals, sleep is even more important to allow the body time to restore itself. Having a healthy diet and nourishing the body will give individuals in recovery the energy they need to work through their issues and devote time to process what they have been through. Eating well goes hand in hand with brain performance and being able to think through your behaviors and act with intention.

Recovery is never over; it is an ongoing practice that requires effort. Individuals in recovery must foster their coping skills by continuing to attend groups, reaching out for support, and applying coping mechanisms. The skills learned at Boardwalk Recovery Center become ingrained in our clients, and living a life in recovery becomes fulfilling and sustainable.

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