At Recovery Cove, we work with our clients from day one to develop the coping skills that make recovery sustainable. Rehab not only can help you become sober but can also teach you the skills you need to deal with negative experiences in a healthy manner so you can enjoy your future.
Finding recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD) can be a challenging process, but it’s essential to know that it is achievable with treatment and the right set of skills. By developing coping mechanisms, individuals in recovery can become better at handling the triggers and situations that once led to substance use. It may be difficult at first to employ other tools to relieve stress without the use of substances, but it is possible with the right help.
Underlying Causes of Addiction
As you begin learning the coping skills you need to stay in recovery, it’s important to understand the issues behind substance use as well. People with substance use disorder have a variety of underlying issues that can lead to use—and there’s often no single identifying cause among all people with SUD. However, there are some commonalities many share.
Mental Health Issues
Many people with SUD also struggle with other mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and many others. Some people turn to substance use in an attempt to feel better and mitigate the symptoms, but prolonged substance use comes with its own mental and physical health concerns. If a person experiences both SUD and a mental health disorder, this is known as a comorbid condition. Dual diagnosis treatment, which treats both conditions at once, is essential for finding recovery.
Research shows that people whose parents have SUD are eight times more likely than others to develop SUD themselves. This accounts for roughly half of the children who have at least one parent with SUD. This is not to say that everyone whose parents have SUD will also develop the condition, but it is a significant risk factor.
Growing Up Around Substances
Frequent exposure to substance use and SUD in youth increases the risk that a person will develop SUD as a teen or adult. Since children are very impressionable and not fully aware of the consequences of their actions, they can become curious about substances from an early age. Even exposure to substance use by adults who do not have SUD can serve to desensitize children to substance use as they mature. Educating youth about substances and how harmful they can be is crucial for preventing children and teens from developing SUD.
Benefits of Learning Coping Skills for Rehabilitation
Once you’ve assessed the potential roots of your SUD, it’s important to learn how to replace negative behaviors—particularly reactions to stress and other triggers—with positive ones. This is not an easy process for anyone, which is why so many people can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy and other professional interventions. By consistently working to improve how you react to the stressors around you, you can regain control of your life and prevent relapse.
If learning coping skills to replace your negative habits seems daunting, consider the following benefits:
Stress can not only put a strain on your mental health, but it can make you physically ill as well. You may start to feel the tension in your body, exhibit an increased heart rate, or experience difficulty sleeping. The reason people are so affected by stress is that it is a natural response to what the brain finds threatening. When your brain feels you’re in danger, stress hormones activate, which elevates your heart rate and boosts adrenaline.
As you have experienced, even non-life-threatening situations can cause stress. By utilizing healthy coping skills to manage your stress, you’ll feel a reduction in the physical and mental health consequences of that stress. You’ll also be able to deal with stress without worsening your health with substance use.
Using coping skills to manage your issues allows you to address challenges with a positive mindset. For example, if you struggle with social anxiety disorder and you’ve previously used substances to cope, you can replace the need for the substance with a healthy coping mechanism. Whether you find yourself more able to deal with situations you once found triggering, or you’ve learned a new life skill while developing your coping skills, you are now much more adaptable than you were before.
Another way coping skills can increase versatility is that the coping skills themselves are incredibly versatile tools. They can be used in any situation where you find yourself struggling. Any time you begin to feel overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, or even just sad, your coping skills can help you address the situation in a healthy way.
In addition to becoming more adaptable, coping skills help you become more resilient. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable or stressful situation, you can use your skills to manage your thoughts and actions while in the situation. You’ll also build a wall of coping skills that can prevent you from falling back on substance use to mitigate stress. Building resilience takes time and effort, and you can’t do it overnight. However, with practice and the right set of skills, you can build tolerance against what causes you stress and begin to enjoy more of what life has to offer.
Coping Skills Learned in Rehab
There are several coping skills you can learn in a quality rehab program.
If you’re looking for healthy ways to manage your emotions and respond to triggers, consider these skills:
Communicate Your Feelings Consistently
This is arguably one of the hardest steps to take during the recovery process. Many people struggle to open up about their experiences during individual or group therapy, whether it’s due to fear of being dismissed, shamed, or criticized. While this is a challenging step, we encourage you to do your best to communicate your feelings when asked about them—even after completing a program. If you’re struggling, speak with a counselor so they can be prepared to assist you if needed.
Determine Why You Keep Your Feelings Contained
Sometimes, people in recovery know they should explain why they feel negative, depressed, or anxious but are unsure what prevents them from doing so. As previously mentioned, some people fear they’ll be dismissed or judged for how they feel. Others may feel they can’t be helped and don’t see the point in sharing their thoughts.
If you’re working with a therapist or counselor and you’re unsure why you struggle to discuss your feelings, communicate this to them. Your therapist can begin asking questions to determine why you may have kept your feelings bottled up. This can be an intimidating step to take, especially if you’re not used to opening up, but gaining insight into why you react the way you do can be the key to changing your behavior.
Accept and Own Your Feelings
Once you’ve uncovered your true feelings and learned to communicate them, it’s crucial to accept and own your feelings. This may not be as simple as it seems, especially if you also have a mental health disorder that causes you to have trouble accepting your emotions. Still, acceptance of your feelings—and recognizing which ones may have led you to substance use—is the first step in determining whether you need to embrace or address them.
It’s key to improved emotional regulation and changing the negative thought-emotion-behavior patterns that are behind substance use disorder. Better emotional balance can mean you address intense emotions in healthy ways instead of suppressing them with substance use.
Write In a Journal
Making an effort to write in a daily journal can help you review, analyze, and understand your thoughts. Journaling can help you track your thoughts and feelings daily so you can better identify triggers, assess your reactions, and plan healthier ones for next time. It can also help you identify negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations that can improve your mood and boost your confidence that you can continue in recovery without relapse. If you’re currently enrolled in therapy, you can ask your therapist to help you spot patterns in your thinking, identify potential triggers, and assess your reactions.
Talk When You Need To
We’ve highlighted the importance of talking about your feelings with a counselor or in a therapy group, but it’s also important to talk to other people in your support network when you feel you need to. Shame, anxiety, and even fear can prevent you from discussing your stresses, triggers, and emotions with friends, family, other loved ones, and other members of your support network—but it’s crucial to talk to them when you feel you need to. Don’t be ashamed to let those close to you know what you’re experiencing. This way, they’ll be there to provide a listening ear, support, or even urgent help when you need it the most.
Release Your Bottled Feelings
Rather than keep your thoughts and feelings bottled up, find a way to release them. The most obvious way to do this is to communicate your feelings. Talk to friends and family, speak with a professional, attend a therapy group, or write down your thoughts, so they don’t have to fully occupy your mind.
However, not all releases must be in verbal or written form. Rather than ruminating, enjoy activities you like, such as going for a walk or playing a game. Find a physical outlet like hiking or running and release emotions that way. Releasing your bottled feelings can also release the stress, negative emotions, and even physical consequences that come with them.
Participate in Mindfulness Activities
It’s common for individuals to worry about the future or relive negative experiences from the past. By using mindfulness techniques, you can help yourself remain in the present and focus on triggers and stressors happening now—and plan to deal with them in a healthy way. Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, anywhere. Rather than focusing on the stressors, you may stop to think about how objects feel, what color they are, and more. Mindfulness can help us refrain from worrying about the past or future and keep us in the present.
Improving Relationships with Family and Friends
Another wonderful aspect of learning coping skills is that you can not only share yourself with your friends and family, but you can share your coping skills as well. You can begin to help others—both with and without SUD—by sharing the coping skills that worked for you. By helping others with their struggles, you will feel good about yourself and the progress you made during rehab. Then, by using healthier coping skills and improving the way you view yourself, you can improve your relationships with your loved ones.
Using coping skills such as improving your self-worth, opening up about your struggles, and journaling can help you discuss stressors, situations, and emotions with your loved ones. This enables you and your family to better understand one another’s feelings, experiences, and needs. By doing so for and with one another, you can begin to mend relationships that may have become damaged while you were in the depths of SUD.
Understanding the Importance of Aftercare
Graduating from a rehab program for SUD is a phenomenal achievement, and it is one you should be proud of. However, your journey through recovery is not over at this point. It’s important to recognize that your life ahead of you will present new challenges, and this comes with taking care of yourself in new ways.
As you exit a rehab program, it is essential to participate in aftercare so you can continue managing your response to the things that once caused you to use substances. Consider attending recovery meetings, such as a 12-step program, to discuss how things are going and what you intend to do to remain sober. Many facilities host alumni events, where you can go to meet people with similar struggles and build your support network.
While aftercare is not mandatory, it is an effective tool for preventing relapse. By consistently using the coping skills you've learned after you're finished with rehab, you can better handle the increased stress and triggering situations that come with your return to "the real world." Rather than turning to a substance to manage stress, aftercare can help you reinforce your coping skills and maintain recovery.
Recovery Cove Helps You Learn Coping Skills for Rehabilitation
By learning healthy coping skills to manage your stress and deal with your emotions, you can manage the situations you’ll experience once you leave treatment. However, it’s critical to build a toolkit of coping skills during your time in treatment, and that requires a variety of strategies developed with attention to your physical, mental, and emotional needs.
Recovery Cove’s whole-person-focused treatment program begins assessing and addressing your individual needs the moment you cross our threshold. Together, we can create a personalized recovery plan for you so you will be prepared to handle life after rehab.
Christine Todd is a Licensed Professional Counselor and an Advanced Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor who enjoys working directly with a population that struggles with addiction and mental health disorders. Christine brings many years of clinical experience to the team at Recovery Cove, where she is currently the Clinical Director. In her role, she oversees the clinical department as a leader, educator and mentor, designing programming and protocols for a diverse client population.
Learn More About Christone Todd, MS, LPC, CAADC