12 Coping Skills & Strategies For Addiction Recovery

Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS

on June 1, 2023

Coping skills are important tools for the addiction recovery process. These skills can help you stay away from triggers, manage stress, and maintain long-term recovery.

No one has ever said recovery is easy, but it can be less difficult with the help of a variety of coping skills for relapse prevention. With a number of coping skills and a strong support system, you’re on your way to achieving long-term sobriety.

Here are 12 coping skills and strategies that may work for you.

1. Do Something Relaxing

Finding ways to relax and destress can be a healthy coping skill for addiction recovery. 

Since stressors can trigger a relapse, having multiple ways to relax can reinforce some of the new habits you likely developed at an addiction treatment center. As you discover new and better ways to destress, it will become easier to overcome difficult moments.

Some relaxing activities include:

  • deep breathing
  • walking
  • listening to music
  • warm bath
  • yoga
  • reading

2. Wait To Respond

Drugs and alcohol use can often cause people to act impulsively. It’s common for those with substance use disorder to make rushed decisions, especially when stressed.

Learning to wait to make decisions can help you make the most informed choice possible. It’s especially helpful when the impulsive decision is relapsing. More often than not, if you wait long enough and fill your time with healthy activities, that craving will go away or lessen.

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3. Be Honest

When you’re dealing with drug addiction, lying can become an unfortunate habit. You may have lied to family members, friends, and even yourself.

As you start to recover, being honest with others and yourself is vital. If you’re dealing with cravings, be honest about it with your support system. Ask for help, and be honest with how you’re feeling. That can be one of the most useful coping skills for addiction recovery.

4. Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness meditation regularly can help you work through your thoughts and emotions and focus on the present moment. It can also help you accept yourself and your past.

Mindfulness meditation can also give you better self-control, increase your emotional intelligence, and reduce stress. The more you practice, the more easily you’ll be able to use these skills.

5. Keep Busy

When going through addiction recovery, having too much free time on your hands can be dangerous to your sobriety. That’s why keeping busy can be vital.

Use your time to develop new skills, travel to new places, play sports, or find a class you want to take. Keeping your schedule filled with positive activities helps to keep you busy, engaged, and away from alcohol or drug use.

6. Write A Daily Journal & Gratitude List

Writing is a great way to work through difficult thoughts, fears, and emotions. On top of that, seeing and reading back your thoughts can give you better insight into what’s going on in your head and life.

You can write out random thoughts, list things you’re grateful for, or write your thoughts as a letter to someone you love. There is no wrong way to journal. Just write.

7. Exercise Regularly

Exercise is not only good for the body, it’s good for the mind too. It can be a great coping mechanism and self-care activity when you’re going through recovery. 

When you perform any physical activity, your body releases endorphins which help you relieve anxiety and stress. It also helps improve your mental health.

Alcohol and drug abuse takes a toll on your body, but exercise can help improve your physical health too.

8. Build A Support Network

Having a support network is crucial to sticking to your recovery journey. You need friends and family to help you as you go. A strong support network can keep you accountable and help you stay on track.

Your support network can also include your sponsor or people at support group meetings. Anyone that will support and encourage you.

9. Avoid Triggers

Learning to avoid triggers is another important healthy coping strategy. The more you avoid triggers and stressful situations, the less difficult it becomes over time.

To avoid triggers, you may need to stay away from certain high-risk situations and people that remind you of your time abusing drugs.

10. Help Others

As you become stronger in your addiction recovery, you can start helping others with substance use disorder. Helping others will remind you how far you’ve come and also make you feel good about yourself.

Realizing you’re capable of helping people and doing good things can decrease your chances of relapse and even relieve anxiety and depression.

11. Talk To A Therapist

Coping skills aren’t always done on your own. Sometimes, you need help from other people. While friends and family are important parts of your support system, a therapist is often more qualified to help you work through difficult situations and difficult emotions.

While in a cognitive behavioral therapy session, for example, your therapist will listen to you, offer tips, and help you work through negative thoughts. Having a good relationship with a therapist you like can be a necessary part of any recovery toolkit.

12. Attend 12-Step Meetings

Going to 12-step support group meetings can be a great coping skill when you’re dealing with cravings or negative emotions. While there, you’re able to connect with people dealing with similar issues as you.

They also offer accountability and encouragement. For those who don’t have a bigger support system, these meetings can be very helpful.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, Ohio Recovery Center is here to help. We offer a variety of evidence-based treatment programs, including detox, inpatient drug rehab, group therapy, and aftercare support. To learn more, please contact us today.

  1. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs — Reducing Relapse Risk https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTHLIBRARY/tools/reducing-relapse-risk.asp
  2. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine — Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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