Healthy Coping Skills in Recovery

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” -J. K Rowling

Cope: deal effectively with something difficult. Synonyms: manage, survive, subsist, carry on.

In life, we are faced with difficult situations, things out of our control and some a direct result of our actions. When we enter recovery, we must start developing new coping skills, our only coping skill at that point is to drink and use drugs. That is how we have learned to cope with anything and everything; good, bad or indifferent. Just as we’ve learned to use negative self-destructive temporary numbing as a solution, we can learn healthy and effective coping skills.

Coping with our Feelings

One of the hardest and most uncomfortable parts of sobriety that we deal with is our feelings coming back. Feelings are a coping skill; we don’t have to kill off all emotions anymore. It’s how we process those feelings that can cause them to escalate far beyond what they are. If we are processing a negative event such as losing a job as a reinforcement of “I’m a bad person” or “I’ll never be enough,” those negative thoughts will spiral downward faster than we can control. Allowing yourself to feel is important. You can feel that it was a negative experience, but you can look at it as an opportunity to look for another job. Your Higher Power doesn’t shut a door without opening another one or at least a window. When life gives you lemons, you can eat just a lemon and deal with the bitter taste in your mouth or make sweet lemonade.

In a Psychology Today article, Constance Scharff, Ph. D states that “Self-reflection and meditation, too, can create significant changes over time that leave you better prepared to handle disappointments. Creative work from doodling to collaging to making music to performance art can all go a long toward helping you bounce back from depression and anxiety. The key is to engage in activities that improve your overall health and relieve stress and help you get a better focus on the real issues at hand.” Self-reflection and meditation are one of the things that we learn are pertinent to our recovery in the rooms. We must be able to see why we act the way we do when it comes to stress.

Self-Reflection and Coping

Is it because we’re scared? Are we resentful? Is it a rational fear or irrational? Is it because we have expectations for an event due to past experiences? Not every stressful situation has to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, sponsorship and having a strong sober support group, such as a homegroup is so important. Getting plugged into a program immediately can be the difference between life and death for us. When we have someone to turn to when life gets a little shaky gives us a solid person to talk to. They can usually help you straighten out your thoughts. Sometimes getting to reflect for a minute gives us clarity that is desperately needed.

Sharing with a sponsor, at a meeting or with a therapist is how we learn to express our emotions healthily. It is uncomfortable at first, but once we learn to reach out to others for help, it lightens our emotional burden. Taking a moment to let the words get from our brain and out of our mouth we can often give ourselves the answer.

Other healthy coping skills are:
Meditation and relaxation techniques. Such as a guided meditation.
– Pets: take your dog for a walk, play with your cat, clean your fish tank. Animals can be incredibly therapeutic.
– Spirituality practices. Spirituality can be as simple as having a conversation with your Higher Power.
– Writing: write down what you feel, what the problem is and what are possible solutions. What are your fears? Can you pinpoint what it is that’s bothering you so deeply about the situation?
– Reading: Read your favorite book, set 15 minutes to sit quietly with a book. It gives you a much-needed healthy escape from your mind for a little.
– Physical Activity: go for a walk, hit the gym, lift weights, practice yoga. Physical activity can significantly improve your mental standpoint and can help you healthily deal with stress.

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