Developing Coping Skills for Substance Abuse Recovery

Completing drug addiction treatment does not always guarantee success. In fact, a large number of people who battle these problems suffer relapses. Indeed, this is a part of the cycle of addiction. Recovery is a life-long process and it’s important to know the proper coping skills for substance abuse. To gain the most success, it is vital to learn how to identify triggers and how to develop positive coping skills for substance abuse that help to overcome temptations of drugs or alcohol as a means to feel better.



Notably, triggers bring emotional, social, or environmental reactions that remind a person about his or her past substance misuse problems. Many times, a trigger delivers an urge that leads to relapse. A trigger can be external or internal. For example, a trigger may be a person, place, or smell that reminds someone of past negative behavior. In the end, it may lead a person to cope in an unhealthy manner.

Environmental Triggers

  • Spending time with a person who did drugs with an individual may cause triggers. For example, a drug dealer, friend, or coworker who has done drugs with a person may bring back negative feelings.
  • A place where a person once did drugs can lead to triggers. For example, a bar, club, restaurant, or friend’s house may remind a person of an old habit.
  • Attending events where people are drinking or using drugs may trigger an individual. For example, a wedding or a concert where alcohol or drugs are present may cause a person to crave the substances.
  • Hiding places where a person used to place drugs or alcohol may lead to triggers. For example, going through a particular drawer or a closet may stir emotions related to past drug use.
  • Objects may cause cravings. For example, an empty pill bottle or drug paraphernalia may trigger negative behavior.

Emotional Triggers

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Boredom

External triggers are extremely dangerous. They make a person develop a desire to use drugs subconsciously. On the other hand, internal triggers are even more challenging. They bring feelings associated with substance abuse and cause intensive cravings. Triggers are not always negative feelings or situations. For example, a person may get a promotion at work and reach for drugs or alcohol to celebrate. Recognizing these triggers is one of the essential coping skills for substance abuse recovery. 

Unhealthy Coping Skills

unhealthy coping skills

Specifically, coping skills are techniques used to deal with stress and difficult situations. Although they may not be long-term solutions, they help a person deal with painful experiences and things that may lead to negative behaviors. Unfortunately, many people develop unhealthy coping skills. Unhealthy coping skills for substance abuse can do more harm than good in the long run. 

Falling Back with People Who Abuse Drugs or Alcohol

During recovery, it is vital to stay away from old pals who have been involved with your previous using habits. It’s better to reflect on the people who are willing to help you remain sober. In other words, a person must focus on the people who offer positive support.

It is essential to set boundaries with old friends and former hangout locations. Therefore, if a certain bar reminds a person of old habits, it is wise to avoid that place. In the end, the smartest way to avoid triggers is to cut ties with individuals who use means of temptation or encouragement to keep old habits alive. This is one of the many coping skills for substance abuse recovery. 

Bottling Emotions

Oftentimes, a person thinks that bottling emotions makes the feelings disappear. However, keeping things hidden leads to poor behaviors. Bottling emotions makes people withdraw and seek other soothing mechanisms like taking drugs or alcohol. Instead of creating stress and anxiety, it is essential to keep lines of communication open.

Importance of Positive Coping Skills for Substance Abuse

After treatment for drug misuse, positive coping skills help a person remain on track so that relapse doesn’t occur. After identifying triggers, there are ways to adapt and to deal with social situations without turning to drugs or alcohol. During addiction treatment, counseling helps a person pinpoint patterns that lead to problems. To prevent relapse, it is important to recognize dangerous triggers. In fact, there are common triggers that affect many people in recovery such as:

  • Poor self-care
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Negative thoughts
  • Stress
  • Denial
  • Falling back into old habits

9 Healthy Coping Skills that Help Drug Recovery

As previously discussed, it’s easy for individuals to turn to negative coping strategies while in recovery. However, to maintain sobriety and to enjoy a happier life and better well-being, there are a few healthier coping skills for substance abuse.

1. Be Honest

Many people bottle emotions and hide the feeling of anxiety or stress. Instead, it is better to be honest when these types of feelings surface. When a person is open and accepting of these emotions, it is possible to stop, to take a breath, to realize it is normal, and to move on.

2. Meditate and Be Mindful

Many treatment facilities like The Owl’s Nest teach patients how to meditate and focus on the moment. Deep breathing techniques and various meditation exercises clear a person’s mind of distractions and allow them to observe internal experiences. When stress and anxiety are lowered, there is a lower chance for relapse. Mindfulness allows an individual to gain control as well. Mindfulness is one of the most effective coping skills for substance abuse. 

3. Attend Group Therapy Sessions

coping skills for substance abuse recovery

Being an active member in group therapy links a person with others who are suffering from the same cravings. Attending meetings or other individual therapy sessions keeps a person on track and helps him or her deal with negative feelings. If a person struggles with another mental health disorder at the same time, it is essential to meet with a medical health professional as well.

4. Organize a System of Support

It’s extremely important to have a system of support throughout recovery. The process never ends. Therefore, having healthy relationships with people who understand the needs of a person in recovery can help maintain sobriety in the long term. Besides friends and family, a network includes other people who are trying to avoid drugs and alcohol. A system of trustworthy individuals comes in handy when temptations arise.

5. Begin a Journal

Journaling is an excellent way to open up without fear of judgment or criticism. Putting words to paper allows a person to document emotions, fears, thoughts, and setbacks. In other words, a person can look back at good times and bad times so that he or she can move on from negative situations. Also, it is a good way to log how far a person has come on his or her journey to sobriety.

6. Self-Care

When a drug misuse problem takes hold of a person, he or she may begin ignoring his or her health. In fact, this worsens the cycle of addiction. What an individual does not eat properly, they will suffer from low levels of energy, which can lead to depression. Also, removing a regular exercise routine brings a person down. 

It’s vital to practice solid self-care as a way to maintain positive ways of coping. Ultimately, exercise helps to release endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that make a person feel good without synthetic means.

7. Maintain a Routine

Misusing drugs creates chaos in a person’s life. This often leads to high levels of stress and anxiety. Therefore, to cope with cravings, it is essential to create a regular daily routine and stick with it. Of course, it is impossible not to be bombarded with certain surprises or mishaps during the day. However, having a regular routine provides the necessary structure to life. This makes it easier to enjoy balance and to cope with minor troubles when they occur.

8. Participate in Enjoyable Activities

Uncovering activities and hobbies that make a person happy brings joy to his or her life. In fact, finishing a project delivers feelings of accomplishment. As a person’s brain concentrates on these activities, it becomes more difficult to dwell on drugs or alcohol. Eventually, a person realizes the important things in life.

9. Find Gratitude

One of the biggest and most effective coping mechanisms that a person can learn in recovery is gratitude. As an individual faces personal struggles, it is helpful to keep in mind that others struggle with the same demons. In fact, being thankful for what a person has makes it easier to turn away from drugs and alcohol.

The Owl’s Nest Is Here to Help

The Owl’s Nest in Florence, South Carolina is a treatment facility that takes pride in teaching patients coping skills for substance abuse recovery. We strive to help a person become sober for years to come. 

We realize the importance of being able to identify triggers and deal with them in healthy ways. Our dedicated staff is ready to support all patients throughout their recovery journeys. Let us provide a supportive and calm setting for your mind as it gets back on the right track. For more information, contact us today.


The Owls Nest


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