4 Most Important Coping Skills to Learn in Recovery
Author: Justin Mckibben
Sobriety is about so much more than being able to stop drinking or using drugs. That is because addiction to drugs and alcohol itself is about so much more than the substances, and has a lot to do with the way we live our lives and perceive our world. Sobriety means knowing how to live beyond drugs and alcohol, and delves into what we contribute to life and how we grow and evolve with the world around us.
The truth is things happen in recovery. I insist on a regular basis that every day is not my favorite day by far. Life is not meant to be perfect when we become clean and sober, and it does not mean that things will not happen to us. What is DOES mean is that we have an opportunity to create coping skills in recovery to get us through those darker days and keep our perspective in check. Here are probably the 4 most important coping skills to learn in recovery.
Probably one of my favorite and most important coping skills is meditation. The reason I put so much stock in meditation is because not only is it something that is meant to integrate your mind, body, and soul to align and evolve in harmony by becoming open and present, it is also something that can be done at anytime, anywhere one so many levels.
Many people practice meditation in different ways. Truthfully there is no exact right or wrong way to meditate. It can be done during a walk, in a traditional seated pose, or even in the middle of an activity as long as the focus is put in the right place. They say the quality of a meditation is not in the time spent doing it, but in the amount of awareness to it. One minute of meditation is as good as one hour of meditation if it is experienced to the fullest potential of the present moment.
This practice is so helpful in recovery because it creates a calm and nurturing state from which an individual going through a situation or experiencing some feeling can separate from the negativity and allow themselves to find peace, and reassess their invested energy and perception.
Some people thrive on keeping a chronicle of their feelings and their lives. They feel most at ease when they are in the act of translating an emotion or a circumstance onto a piece of paper in their own words. For some of us writing makes it easier to express the feeling we are looking to understand and address because we identify it with our language in order to articulate it.
Keeping a journal, or writing letters or lists even can be a very constructive coping skill to learn in recovery for so many reasons. For one, in early recovery especially our memory is not in the best shape, so making a documented history of what has happened or what we are dealing with will help us to reconnect with what is going on later.
Another reason writing is so powerful is because it is a release of that energy. In a way writing is its own form of meditation, with a little bit of a creative edge. It helps us to examine what is going on, what we are going through, and gives us a moment to look at the words and see those feelings as tangible but not impossible to overcome.
- Sharing and Learning
Putting yourself in a position to share your experiences, you strengths and your weaknesses, gives you the ability to emphasize and maybe even revitalize your self-awareness, your hope and even the hope of others. In recovery when we open up honestly to others, and we express ourselves, especially to people who have been clean and sober and have seen and done much of what we have done or will do, we better equip ourselves by learning from them.
To share about a difficult feeling or situation openly and honestly without fear is an excellent coping skill, because it may very well remove a lot of the sting from the initial bite of the situation. And you may even surprise yourself by learning that other people have experienced or are currently dealing with the same problems.
The best way to cope when sharing and learning is to apply these new lessons or examples to the issues you face now, and know that there is always an opportunity for improvement. Sharing itself becomes an empowering form of contribution, and it gives us space to breathe once a burden of bad vibes has been lifted.
Contribution to others is probably one of the greatest things we as people in recovery have a chance at experiencing. As alcoholics and addicts actively using and drinking, we tend to hurt a lot of people. I know I personally did, and we take and take and take from the world and those who love us in order to keep getting what we want. We may even work hard, but we still take more than we give.
Giving back, providing service to others is incredible as a coping mechanism because during a situation that feels hopeless, we typically are focused on ourselves and what WE expect out of everything and why we are not getting it. With contribution, we also find humility and compassion.
Being selfish and ego-driven is more self-destructive in times of turmoil or despair because we are just magnifying the pain and not trying to step outside our expectations and allow perception to show us the true nature of the problem; us. So by helping others we can feel more useful, more appreciative of our gifts and our lives, and gain some happiness and serenity by helping others to find it as well.
“Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh-
Recovery gives addicts and alcoholics an opportunity to change not just the way we treat ourselves and others, recovery gives us a new perspective on life and equips us with the tools and the wisdom to appreciate and communicate our perspective in new and more fulfilling ways. Learning new coping skills allows us to face any issue put in front of us with faith and conviction, if we apply ourselves to these important techniques. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135