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Aftercare: Coping Skills for Addiction Treatment

Recovering from an addiction disorder is a long process – often a lifelong one. Many experts regard addiction as something that can’t be cured; rather, it is considered to be a mental illness or chronic brain disease. It can, however, be effectively managed on a lifelong basis. Those who suffer from it can learn how to cope with triggers and focus on building a life free of intoxicants.

Coping Skills for Addiction Treatment AftercareAftercare refers to all work done by an individual with an addiction disorder after a rehabilitation program has been completed that’s meant to keep that person on the path to recovery. Addiction recovery doesn’t end with rehab. It’s a continuous process of building a life in which intoxicants are not needed to get through each day. This is evidenced by the fact that so many recovering individuals suffer at least one relapse – 40 percent to 60 percent, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association– that some addiction experts consider to be just part of the recovery process.

Any drug rehabilitation program should include workshops that teach coping skills to be applied once the program is over. These are meant to address not only craving triggers and temptation, but also common and individual life stressors that can lead to substance abuse in the first place. People with addiction disorders often need to replace destructive coping mechanisms, such as abusing drugs or alcohol, with healthy ones.

Healthy Coping Skills

People aren’t often taught healthy coping mechanisms in school, and parents may not be available to do so or might not have been taught these mechanisms themselves. When this is combined with serious stress from financial troubles, mental illness, abuse, and other common issues, people turn to whatever they can to cope. Unfortunately, in some communities, drugs are readily available, and alcohol is available in most places.

Part of recovering from addiction is learning better coping skills than abusing drugs or alcohol. Any treatment program should include both counseling and various workshops designed to steer addicted individuals toward coping tactics that work for a variety of different personalities and situations. These can include simple positive thoughts, minor distractions, new hobbies, and healthy life habits.

Common coping skills taught in addiction recovery centers include:

  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Avoiding common triggers, such as hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness (HALT)
  • Attending therapy
  • Going to support group meetings
  • Maintaining healthy relationships
  • Practicing relaxation and stress management techniques
  • Practicing mindfulness meditation
  • Keeping a journal
  • Becoming a sponsor for other addicted individuals

There are many other coping skills that addicted individuals can use to make sober life easier; it all depends on what makes you happy and what works for your life. Maintaining good physical health is always important, and exercise and healthy eating are always part of that. It’s up to each individual to figure out what types of exercise and healthy foods they enjoy most and how to best pursue those options.

It can also help to prepare in advance for triggers and periods of high stress. Keep a list of things you can do to reduce stress immediately. Aim to revisit this list over time to make sure you are being kind to yourself and keeping stress levels in check. Keep necessary supplies handy. This could be your favorite food, bubble bath, a soothing playlist, or a punching bag. This kind of preparation is best to do while you’re doing well and is often referred to as “building up your defenses.”