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Drugs and alcohol are a form of coping. They are far from a healthy form of coping, but they do allow the user to forget about problems and not face strong emotions. This is the draw to drinking in excess and using drugs, for the time that you are drunk or high or passed out, nothing matters. The larger issue is that the amount of alcohol or drugs needed to continue to forget grows as the body learn s to adapt. This forces the user to need more and more to gain that same feeling. This vicious cycle is damaging to the user physically, mentally, and emotionally. As a person enters recovery they must learn new ways to cope with everything that was once buried by drug and alcohol abuse.
Recovery can be a stressful time. Life itself is filled with challenges, interpersonal conflict, physical and emotional pain, loss, and stress. For the addict, these things were all dealt with in the same way, numbing through addiction. Life does not discriminate in these areas, no one gets out unscathed or untouched by both good and bad. Regardless of what your story is up to this point, what matters at this moment and in the future is how you cope. All of us learn and are taught various coping mechanisms in life. Some of these are healthy, some are not. For those in recovery, drugs and alcohol were likely a form of coping mechanism, one that is and was very unhealthy. In fact, substance abuse is one of the most common and destructive forms of coping.
Now that you are in recovery you must replace these old, unhealthy coping mechanisms for new, healthy versions to deal with unwanted feelings. Discussed below are some of the healthy versus unhealthy forms of coping.
For many the choices to deal with unpleasant feelings are denial, avoidance, displacement, passive-aggressiveness, or even procrastination. None of these are healthy choices and can lead to a relapse. In fact, an important part of recovery is to accept and surrender to these feelings so that you may deal with them in appropriate ways.
Healthier choices include exercise, focusing on the positive, practicing gratitude, journaling, meditation, deep breathing, and finding alternate sources. Each of these will be briefly explained. Not every coping technique will work for every person, find what works best for you and stay strong. Exercise is a go to for many because the body releases endorphin’s that offer a natural ‘high’. This also helps the body release the toxins left behind by your addiction. So take a walk, ride a bike, or join a gym. Focusing on the positive, journaling, and practicing gratitude all go hand in hand. In recovery, especially early in recovery, it can seem as if everything is going wrong or is out of control.
Take time to find the positive in each situation and celebrating that. Take a minute out of each hour to say one thing you are grateful for in that hour. Share these out loud and record in a journal to review these thoughts on rough days. Meditation and deep breathing can be beneficial when panic sets in or better yet, before stress hits panic levels. Another option is to take the anger and pain you will likely feel and turn it into something useful. Create a garden, build something, clean your home, get the energy out in a way that is not destructive, but helpful.
As long as you choose a healthy form of coping away from drugs and alcohol you should be safe. The point is to stay strong and start changing the behaviors that led to addiction, this will help prevent a relapse and you can move forward to a better life.
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