6 Essential Coping Skills For Recovery
Being sober requires learning to cope with the situations and intimacy with people that we used to avoid through the use of drugs or alcohol. Long-lasting sobriety can only be achieved when one can learn and employ healthier ways to deal with unpleasant circumstances. Dodging triggers is not enough – you must develop a new way of life for handling the tough stuff.
As such, we have compiled the following five essential coping skills needed for long-term recovery.
1. Stop being a victim.
Substance abusers tend to blame their problems on external, rather than internal factors. It is infinitely easier to justify our behaviors when we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions. We can examine our childhood or point the finger at others, but ultimately, we alone are in control of our own fate. When we shift the blame elsewhere, we can rationalize our decisions and remain on the same self-destructive path without internalizing guilt or remorse.
Maintaining a victim mentality means that we trap ourselves within ourselves, and are powerless to change our circumstances. When we let go of this self-conception, however, we obtain the ability to make changes. We cannot control everything – but we do have some control over our behaviors – and thus, the results. Exerting control means learning to cope with the fact that we have to hold ourselves accountable for our actions.
2. Let go of resentments.
Once you no longer consider yourself a victim, you have to let go of resentment. Anger towards personal injustices, real or not, only perpetuates the need to self-medicate and not own up to our faults. We expend an enormous amount of emotional energy thinking about others, when really, everything is all about US, who we are, and how we react to every person and situation.
Recovery is, for the most part, about forgiveness. Forgiving ourselves, forgiving others, and forgiving God or the universe or whatever our personal higher power may be. Forgive, let go, and let it be. That is the only way to recover.
3. Own your mistakes.
Mistakes are inevitable for everyone. But substance abusers are notorious for extremes – both taking one for the team and refusing to acknowledge that it is, indeed, our fault. We are either blameless or the worst person in the world. There’s almost no in-between.
When you accept your mistakes rationally, however, you start to heal. You begin to see the person you are – flawed, but not horrible – just like everyone else does. You can’t change the past, but you can affect the future. Indeed, you are the one factor that influences the future more than any other.
Moreover, shame and guilt are nearly useless emotions. But you can acknowledge your failings and your imperfectness and gain insight into how to be a better person.
4. Stop lying and start being honest.
Honesty is essential to sobriety. It breaks down walls and let you be your authentic self. With dishonesty, there is always pain and a palpable feeling that you are untrue to yourself and others. Reality is not the same without honesty. A large part of recovery is embracing the facts instead of avoiding them, having integrity and accountability for one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
People who self-medicate are lying to themselves and everyone around them. People in long-term recovery are being honest about who they were, who they are, and who they want to be.
5. Learn to deal with triggers.
It’s okay to try to avoid triggers, but no one lives in a vacuum. Just because you have changed doesn’t mean the world around is going to fall in line. Eventually, you will have to be around people and situations that invoke thoughts of substance use.
Learning to deal with triggers without suffering a relapse is a huge part of recovery, and perhaps, one of the hardest. But if you are doing everything else right – being honest, letting go of resentments and owning up to your own mistakes and behaviors – you will likely find that triggers aren’t really your biggest demon after all.
6. Be grateful – all the time.
You have to be thankful for every moment of sobriety and every single support you’ve had along the way. Be grateful for life, for love, and for everything you’ve accomplished. But most importantly, congratulate yourself on the changes you’ve made, and indulge in every little imperfection along the way.
Life is a journey – and not just for the sober person – it’s for everyone. If you appreciate the journey and respect where you’ve come from and where you are going, you have essentially become unstoppable.
Get Help Today
If you or someone you love is abusing substances, please seek treatment as soon as possible. There are many resources available to help you or your loved one.
Please call us today at 888-380-0342 for a free consultation.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology