Learning New Coping Skills in Recovery
Breaking old habits is only half the battle in recovery. The habits that addicts in recovery seek to break are more accurately coping mechanisms. When these coping mechanisms are removed, it is absolutely integral to their continued sobriety that healthy and effective habits replace drugs and alcohol as seamlessly as possible. An addict who is new to recovery may find that they no longer have an outlet, healthy or unhealthy to cope with the aspects of their life that create stress. This undirected energy will often cause anxiety, and an addict will often seek the easiest, most available and most effective fix, their drug of choice. Planning, executing and establishing good habits is the best defense when bouts of nervous energy strike.
Unfortunately for many addicts, sobriety requires them to be present and aware during these moments of stress, anxiety and discomfort. It can be an unsettling feeling after being numb to these events for an extended period of time. However, there are several tools and other coping methods that can make the process not as unbearable as we are led to believe.
Meditation has become increasingly popular not only in the recovery community, but in western society as a whole. It has been applauded for it’s versatility and anxiety-reducing qualities. It is a stunning antithesis to the rough-and tumble individualism that the Western world is known for. Instead of medicating, or distracting or actively seeking a solution to the stress, simply don’t do anything, and observe your thoughts. Any time you catch yourself thinking about something, bring your attention back to thinking about nothing, absolutely nothing. A simple 15 minutes of meditation can do wonders for stress and anxiety.
Find a Repetitive Zen-like Hobby
This can be very difficult for those with low attention spans. Studies have shown that people who engage in repetitive activities (such as knitting) show markedly lower levels of stress than people who do not. Other activities include collecting sea-shells / rocks, fishing, or hiking. These activities can be as relaxed or as active as the participant wants them to be. Remember, the point of the activity is to get lost in it.
Being Productive Elsewhere
Sometimes when there is little left to do in a given situation but wait, shifting focus to another activity that requires attention is a good way to let go of the strain and anxiety that may be intrinsically tied to a situation or project. Activities that can motivate a sense of productivity such as writing or reading are good places to start. Exploring alternative hobbies is also a good way to distract oneself from current issues or situations.
Nervous energy can quickly compound if not dealt with, leading to anxiety and insomnia. One of the most effective ways in dealing with this excess of newfound energy in sobriety is through exercise. If there is no access to weights, most can still jog a few laps around the block, or to a designated location and back. Regular exercise is proven to assist in mood regulation, better sleep and more energy during the day.
Solving the Issue
If emotions aren’t impairing a recovering addict’s judgement, then the best scenario in some cases may be to brainstorm solutions. Part of coping is living comfortably with what is out of one’s control, but that is no excuse to shun proactivity. If there is a way to fix or optimize solutions for a current issue, then the healthiest thing may be to focus on the problem from a solution-oriented mindset.
While this list is far from exhaustive, it does provide a couple different solutions for coping with issues while still being present. Being present when times are tough are more important than ever in early recovery. Over time, habits have dictated that medicating problems is the best solution, that doesn’t get undone in a day. In order to be successful in recovery, a recovering addict must learn how to be comfortable and present for the less comfortable situations so that they are prepared for whatever the future may have in store.