One of the ways that an addiction develops is the continued reliance upon drugs or alcohol as a way to feel better or avoid pain. Slowly, there’s an association that gets developed between a substance and positive feelings. For instance, whenever you feel anxious, you turn to alcohol to calm you down. Or whenever you feel depressed, you turn to prescription drugs to feel good again. Another example is relying upon drugs or alcohol to escape physical, emotional, or psychological pain.
When a person continues to rely upon a substance, the brain also learns to need it. In fact, the brain stops producing certain neurotransmitters because it learns that it’s going to be provided externally. Over time, a person begins to believe that he or she needs to have a substance in order to survive. And this creates the situation in which a person may want to stop using drug or drinking but can’t.
Learning to Cope with New Challenges
Part of addiction treatment is first ending the dependence upon the substance, while also learning to cope with life’s challenges through different means. If a person goes through detox and gets sober without learning new coping skills, he or she is likely to end up with an addiction again. Addiction treatment needs to include learning new ways to manage physical pain, intense emotions, and troubling moods.
Although it sounds so simple, essentially a person needs to learn to do other forms of behavior when stressed instead of getting drunk or high. For instance, here are some examples of coping tools to use when you’re tense, anxious, depressed, lonely, or angry:
- Walk in the fresh air.
- Call a friend.
- Use a relaxation tape to calm your thoughts and feelings.
- Practice yoga.
- Take a warm bath.
- Call your sponsor or therapist.
- Write down your negative thoughts and then rip the paper in shreds.
- Attend a recovery group.
- Watch television.
- Get into your favorite hobby.
- Play a computer game.
- Do something you’ve never done before.
- Take a walk in nature.
- Go swimming at the beach.
- Go hiking in the woods.
- Do a crossword puzzle to occupy your mind.
- Use a voice diary and catalog your thoughts and feelings.
Finding Help During Recovery
If you or someone you know is struggling in their recovery, perhaps there is a need to learn new coping skills. You might join a support group, attend more 12-step meetings, or search for new sober friendships online. You might also research about coping tools so that you can find some that will work for you. Of course, you can choose from the list above. However, you may need to find some that work best for you. Not all coping tools work for everyone. For instance, you might love to run but maybe you have bad knees. Instead, you may need to do yoga or walk to get the exercise you need to stay healthy.
If you know how to cope with the challenges in your life, you’re more likely to stay sober and avoid relapse.