Recovery Skills and Tools of Recovery
The First Rule of Recovery
You don’t recover from an addiction by stopping using. You recover by creating a new life where it is easier to not use. If you don’t create a new life, then all the factors that brought you to your addiction will eventually catch up with you again.
You don’t have to change everything in your life. But there are a few things and behaviors that have been getting you into trouble, and they will continue to get you into trouble until you let them go. The more you try to hold onto your old life in recovery, the less well you will do.
Here are some common things that people need to change in order to achieve recovery.
Avoid High-Risk Situations
Some common high-risk situations are described by the acronym, HALT:
How do you feel at the end of the day? You’re probably hungry because you haven’t eaten well. You’re probably angry because you’ve had a tough day at work or a tough commute home. You may feel lonely because you’re isolated. You don’t have to be physically alone to feel lonely. And you’re tired. That’s why your strongest cravings usually occur at the end of the day. Here’s another way of looking at high-risk situations:
- People. (People who you use with or who are related to your use. People who you have conflicts with, and who make you want to use. People who you celebrate with by using. People who encourage you to use either directly or indirectly.)
- Places. (Places where you use or where you get your drugs or alcohol.)
- Things. (Things that remind you of your using.)
How can you avoid high-risk situations? Of course, you can’t always avoid these situations. But if you’re aware of them, they won’t catch you off guard, and you can prevent little craving from turning into major urges.
Take better care of yourself. Eat a healthier lunch so you’re not as hungry at the end of the day. Join a 12 step group so that you don’t feel isolated. Learn how to relax so that you can let go of your anger and resentments. Develop better sleep habits so that you’re less tired.
Avoid your drinking friends, your favorite bar, and having alcohol in the house. Avoid people who you used cocaine with, driving by your dealer’s neighborhood, and cocaine paraphernalia.
Recovery isn’t about one big change. It’s about lots of little changes. Avoiding those high-risk situations helps you create a new life where it’s easier to not use.
Make a list of your high-risk situations. Addiction is sneaky. Sometimes you won’t see your high-risk situations until you’re right in the middle of one. That’s why it’s important that you learn to look for them. Make a list of your high-risk situations and keep it with you. Go over the list with someone in recovery so that you can spot any situations that you might have missed. Make the list and keep it with you. Some day that list may save your life.
Learn to Relax
There are only a few reasons why people use drugs and alcohol. They use to escape, relax, and reward themselves. In other words, people use drugs and alcohol to relieve tension.
The first rule of recovery is that you must change your life. What do you need to change? If you understood the previous paragraph, then you need to change the way you relieve tension. Everyone needs to escape, relax, and reward themselves. Those are essential coping skills for a happy life. But addicts don’t know how to do those things without using.
If you manage to stop using for a while, but don’t learn how to relax, your tension will build until you’ll have to relapse just to escape again. Tension and the inability to relax are the most common causes of relapse.
I know relaxation will help. I have treated thousands of patients. Many of them have told me that relaxation has changed their life. There is only one reason why people don’t relax – because they think they’re too busy to relax. It goes something like this, “I know it makes sense, but I’ve got so many other things I have to do.”
Ask yourself how much time you spend on your addiction. If you add up all the time it takes to get your drug, use it, deal with its consequences, and plan your next relapse, you’ll realize that relaxing for twenty to forty minutes a day is a bargain.
Relaxation is not an optional part of recovery. It’s essential to recovery. There are many ways to relax. They range from simple techniques like going for a walk, to more structured techniques like meditation. Meditation is an important part of that mix because the simple techniques don’t always work. If you’re under a lot of stress, you may need something more reliable like meditation. Use any of these techniques, or any combination. But do something everyday to relax, escape, reward yourself, and turn off the chatter in your mind.
Numerous studies have proven that relaxation reduces the use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.(1, 2)
Two important coping skills for recovery are the ability to relax and manage stress, and the ability to change negative thinking.
Stress management and meditation are now being used regularly in medicine. The evidence is overwhelming that they are effective in treating anxiety, depression, and addiction. When you’re tense you tend to do what’s familiar and wrong instead of what’s new and right. When you’re tense, you’re not open to change.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is important because negative thinking is a major cause of anxiety and depression which often underlie addiction. If you can change your thinking, you will improve your life.
For More Detailed Information …
Learn how to overcome anxiety, depression, and addiction. Learn recovery skills such as stress management, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Visit IWantToChangeMyLife.org the companion website for more detailed information.
An addiction requires lying. You have to lie about getting your drug, using it, hiding its consequences, and planning your next relapse. An addiction is full of lying. By the time you’ve developed an addiction, lying comes easily to you. After a while you get so good at lying that you end up lying to yourself. That’s why addicts don’t know who they are or what they believe in.
The other problem with lying is that you can’t like yourself when you lie. You can’t look yourself in the mirror. Lying traps you in your addiction. The more you lie, the less you like yourself, which makes you want to escape, which leads to more using and more lying.
Nothing changes, if nothing changes. Ask yourself this: will more lying, more isolating, and more of the same make you feel better? The expression in AA is – nothing changes if nothing changes. If you don’t change your life, then why would this time be any different? You need to create a new life where it’s easier to not use.
Recovery requires complete honesty. You must be one-hundred percent completely honest with the people who are your supports: your family, your doctor, your therapist, the people in your 12 step group, and your sponsor. If you can’t be completely honest with them, you won’t do well in recovery.
When you’re completely honest you don’t give your addiction room to hide. When you lie you leave the door open to relapse.
One mistake people make in the early stages of recovery is they think that honesty means being honest about other people. They think they should share what’s “wrong” with other people. But recovery isn’t about fixing other people. It’s about fixing yourself. Stick with your own recovery. Focusing on what you don’t like about others is easy because it deflects attention from yourself.
Honesty won’t come naturally in the beginning. You’ve spent so much time learning how to lie that telling the truth, no matter how good it is for you, won’t feel natural. You’ll have to practice telling the truth a few hundred times before it comes a little easier. In the beginning, you’ll have to stop yourself as you’re telling a story, and say, “now that I think about it, it was more like this…”
Show common sense. Not everybody is your best friend. And not everybody will be glad to know that you have an addiction or that you’re doing something about it. There may be some people who you don’t want to tell about your recovery. But don’t be reluctant to tell the people close to you about your recovery. You should never feel ashamed that you’re doing something about your addiction.
The Chance to Change Your Life
Your addiction has given you the opportunity to change your life. Changing your life is what makes recovery both difficult and rewarding. Recovery is difficult because you have to change your life, and all change is difficult, even good change. Recovery is rewarding because you get the chance to change your life. Most people sleepwalk through life. They don’t think about who they are or what they want to be, and then one day they wake up and wonder why they aren’t happy.
If you use this opportunity for change, you’ll look back and think of your addiction as one of the best things that ever happened to you. People in recovery often describe themselves as grateful addicts. Why would someone be grateful to have an addiction? Because their addiction helped them find an inner peace and tranquility that most people crave. Recovery can help you change your life.
After 5 years of abstinence relapse is rare. A study followed 268 Harvard University undergraduates, and 456 non-delinquent inner-city adolescents. About 20 percent of the undergraduates and 30 percent of the inner-city adolescents were alcoholics in recovery. The men were followed until the age of 60, every two years by questionnaire, and every 5 years by physical examination. The study concluded that after 5 years of abstinence relapse is rare.(3)
10 Coping Skills For Addiction Recovery
Addiction recovery is not easy. But there are things you can do to make it a more positive and relaxing experience. Here are 10 coping skills to help you through your recovery and healing process:
Be honest with yourself and others
An addiction requires lying by default. You have to lie about getting it and using it and you have to hide the effect it has on you. Then you have to do it all over again as you plan your next hit or drink. The more you lie to others, the better you get at it, and the easier it becomes to lie to yourself. This creates a horrible cycle because the more you lie, the more you hate yourself, and the more you feel the need to use drugs and/or alcohol to escape your self hatred. Being rigorously honest is one of the most powerful skills to have to immerse yourself fully into successful addiction recovery.
Learn to relax in any situation
One of the main reasons people start using drugs and alcohol is to relax and reward themselves. Learning new skills to relieve tension is an essential part of long-term sobriety. If you are able to calm down on your own, then you won’t need to use to escape. You may think you’re too busy to relax, but that is a lie! Your addiction recovery has to become the most important thing in your life, so taking plenty of time for yourself has to become the most important too.
Keep a daily journal and gratitude list
Seeing your thoughts and emotions on paper can help you to deal with them quicker and more efficiently. It can take away some of their sting and power if they are negative. This is also a way to take your daily inventory and see where you can continue to improve, and a gratitude list can help you to relax and stay positive.
Develop a strong support network with other recovering addicts
These are the people you can call and meet up with when the going gets tough! Peer support is an essential aspect of addiction treatment. You can’t do this alone, and you don’t have to. Having a strong network of sober friends will be the net to catch you when you fall and also help you stay on track with your addiction recovery.
Avoid high-risk situations where you are likely to relapse
This includes avoiding all bars and clubs! It would also be best to stop hanging out with the people you used to drink or use with as well, since they could trigger or pressure you into relapsing. Sobriety is all about building a new life and making new habits. Creativity and imagination are both skills, and recovery is a great way to start developing them!
Help other addicts
It is scientifically proven that helping others helps you. It will make you feel good about yourself, which is the first line of defense against a relapse. It will also help you develop a bigger and stronger network of people you can call if you need help in your recovery. Not to mention helping others lowers blood pressure and chronic pain and can even lengthen your life!
Exercise naturally releases feel-good hormones and it helps you to stay healthy and happy. Studies have shown that health is actually one of the strongest predictors of happiness! We also strongly believe that good health is an essential aspect of addiction treatment, which is why our program includes fitness and health along with more traditional addiction treatment methods!
Work with a sponsor and attend support group meetings
Working through the 12 Steps with a sponsor is a common and often highly effective way of coping with addiction. A sponsor is someone who you can confide in and turn to for guidance, honesty and compassion, same as with support group meetings.
Avoid the H.A.L.T. symptoms
Being hungry, angry, lonely and tired can be a swift gateway to relapse. Tension and stress builds when you don’t take care of yourself, and that is a dangerous place for someone in addiction treatment to be! If you are hungry, eat! If you are tired, then sleep, and so on. Taking good care of yourself is an essential aspect of addiction recovery.
Meditation is scientifically proven to relax the mind and has a positive effect on the physical body as well. Meditation, when practiced properly, can bring you into the present moment and away from painful memories that often fuel relapse. It is also a very simple skill that you can do anywhere.
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