A treatment program will often introduce a variety of coping methods. Everyone is different, so it is important for an addict to find certain skills that work for him or her. By learning to implement these coping skills, a person can reduce their risk of relapse. During early sobriety, it is even more important to learn how to utilize these essential coping skills.
Replacing Negative Coping Mechanisms
Human beings are complex creatures that have learned to naturally cope with negative emotions and trauma. Although many people learn positive coping strategies and never fall into risky behavior patterns that lead to addiction and abuse, some people rely upon escapism, alcohol or drugs, denial, and repression to cope with negative experiences. Although these tactics may work in the short term, in the long run, they only lead to increasingly difficult problems. If an addict is used to relying upon these negative coping mechanisms to deal with trauma, depression, stress, another mental illness, or strong negative emotions, then it is even more essential that he or she learns healthy coping mechanisms during early sobriety.
One important skill to learn during early recovery is self-awareness. It may take a long time for a person to become completely emotionally aware; however, an addict can take the initial steps to recognize certain emotions and behaviors. By acknowledging the emotional states that increase a person's cravings, then a person can more easily manage them, and learn to prevent them from occurring. Self-awareness can be created through journaling, talk therapy, or mindfulness techniques such as meditation. It takes practice, but even learning to recognize basic changes in mood and how certain experiences affect a person can help, even if he or she cannot yet express exactly what the feelings are.
Find Supportive Outlets
One easy coping skill to implement during the early stages of recovery is to create a supportive outlet in which to discuss the frustrations, cravings, difficulties, and other hurdles one faces. For some people, this outlet will include close friends and family. However, because many of these relationships become damaged due to drugs and alcohol, many addicts in early recovery find that group support meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide a better outlet in which to share.
Avoid High Risk Situations
Another easy coping mechanism to introduce during early sobriety is avoidance. By not visiting the environments where a person used to drink or use drugs, certain cravings and habits will be more easily broken. A recovering alcoholic should not visit a bar, go to a party where there will be alcohol, or otherwise visit areas where the temptation will be present. The same goes for recovery drug addicts. By avoiding being in an area where the substance of choice will be, it is easier to say no and continue to be abstinent.
Just being present with drugs and alcohol are not the only high-risk situation that a recovering addict should avoid. Any sort of trigger, including emotional triggers, should be avoided as much as possible. This might be a particular person or situation that provides undue stress. It might include the emotions known as HALT: hunger, anger, lonely and tired.
Although there are many more coping skills one can learn to remain strong during early sobriety, these skills provide a foundation on which to begin to build a new life without drugs and alcohol. Once these skills are mastered, then a person can move on to learning even more healthy coping methods to further reduce the risk of relapse.