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  • Drug addiction (substance use disorder) is a chronic disease. That means that although it’s fully treatable, recovery is a lifelong process. In other words, you must learn how to cope with stressors that could cause you to relapse (start using drugs again). 

    Here are ten of the most effective coping skills

    1. Go To Therapy

    Therapy is often considered an essential part of addiction treatment. Once you exit an addiction treatment program, you might feel like you no longer need therapy. However, ongoing therapy can greatly reduce your risk of relapse. 

    Some of the most common types of therapy for addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). 

    All types of therapy can help you manage drug cravings and treat any underlying mental health concerns that may have led you to abuse drugs in the first place. Therapy sessions may be offered after addiction treatment as part of the treatment center aftercare program.

    2. Attend Support Groups

    Throughout your recovery, you must have a stable support system of people who accept your decision to become sober. This support network can definitely include friends and family members. 

    However, it should also include people in recovery from addiction who can truly understand your struggles. You can meet these individuals at peer support groups, such as:

    • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
    • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
    • LifeRing Secular Recovery
    • SMART Recovery
    • Women For Sobriety

    In these groups, members discuss their recovery experiences and share helpful coping strategies. 

    3. Practice Mindfulness

    At certain points in your recovery, you may experience a variety of unpleasant emotions and negative thoughts, including fear, sadness, guilt, and frustration. You can manage these feelings by practicing mindfulness.

    Mindfulness means observing your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgment. It can help you accept difficult emotions instead of trying to numb them with drug abuse. 

    Many people become more mindful by using guided mindfulness meditations online. You can also read books on the subject or take mindfulness classes.

    4. Exercise

    While regular exercise benefits everyone’s mental and physical health, it’s a particularly important coping mechanism for people recovering from addiction. That’s because physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, which are brain chemicals that promote a sense of well-being. 

    The better you feel, the less likely you are to crave drugs. 

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people should get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as walking) or 15 minutes of intense exercise (such as running) per day.

    5. Eat Right

    When you live with addiction, you may neglect your basic self-care needs, including your nutritional needs. As you recover, make sure you eat plenty of healthy foods, such as:

    • vegetables
    • fruits
    • whole grains
    • protein-rich foods like eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, seafood, and lean meats

    Like exercise, healthy eating can boost your mood, ease stress, and support your long-term recovery.

    6. Get Enough Sleep

    Recovering from addiction takes a significant amount of energy. That’s why it’s important to get a good amount of sleep. According to the CDC, the average adult needs at least seven hours of sleep per night

    If you struggle to fall or stay asleep, try:

    • keeping your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet
    • avoiding caffeine, sugar, and alcohol before bed
    • limiting technology before bed
    • going to bed at the same time every night

    7. Stay Busy

    Many people turn to drugs out of boredom. That’s why you should fill your free time with healthy, fulfilling activities. For example, you could start a garden, take a cooking class, or spend time with sober friends.

    Other healthy ways to stay busy include:

    • reading
    • writing
    • painting
    • drawing
    • sculpting
    • singing
    • dancing
    • playing an instrument 
    • hiking
    • yoga

    8. Journal

    Some people abuse drugs to ignore painful feelings. Unfortunately, bottling up your emotions only makes you feel worse in the long run. Instead, try expressing your emotions in a journal. 

    Writing your feelings down can make them much more manageable. You can also use your journal to record your recovery journey and celebrate milestones. 

    In addition, every day, you could write down one thing you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude can boost your overall mental health and make the recovery process much easier. 

    9. Avoid High-Risk Situations

    Most addiction relapses occur due to triggers. A trigger is anything that makes you want to abuse drugs. For example, many people get triggered in situations that feature alcohol use or drug use, such as parties, weddings, and other celebrations. They may also find bars and clubs highly triggering. 

    It’s best to avoid these situations and places, especially when you’re still new to recovery.

    10. Spend Time In Nature

    While it might seem simple, heading outdoors can significantly boost your health and lower your risk of relapse. 

    According to the United States Department of Agriculture, spending time outside reduces sadness and stress. It may also improve your focus, attention, and concentration. All of these effects can help you progress in your recovery. 

    If you or a loved one struggles with drugs, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our substance abuse treatment programs offer medical detox, mental health counseling, and a variety of other evidence-based services to help you manage addiction and stay drug-free.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Do You Get Enough Sleep?
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - How much physical activity do adults need?
    United States Department of Agriculture - The wellness benefits of the great outdoors
    National Institutes of Health - Mindfulness Matters

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on November 14, 2022
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