How to Cope With Addiction: Learning Coping Skills

Recovering from addiction and getting sober is the first step in a fulfilling life free of drugs and alcohol. Maintaining sobriety, however, is the next step. Developing proper coping skills for addiction is the key to getting back to living life and avoiding relapse. Developing these skills will help you or your loved one live a satisfying sober life.

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Drug and Alcohol Abuse in America

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is an issue that impacts millions of individuals and families across America. It does not only negatively impact the person suffering with the addiction, but also his or her friends and family. In 2012, 9.2% of Americans used an illegal drug or abused psychotherapeutic medication such as pain relievers in the past month. This was up from 8.3% ten years prior.

treatment_stat_1Many Americans suffer with alcohol or drug dependence. 6.8% of Americans were dependent on alcohol or abused alcohol in 2012. Additionally, millions of Americans are dependent on drugs such as prescription painkillers (2.1 million) and cocaine (1.1 million).

These significant numbers, however, are unfortunately not met by similar numbers of people being treated. There is a large gap between the number of people suffering from addiction, problematic drinking and drug abuse and those receiving treatment. In fact, only 2.5 million people received treatment at a specialized facility. Compared to 23.1 million Americans struggling with addiction issues, 2.5 million is too small a number.

Effects on the Family

Drug and alcohol abuse not only negatively impacts the individual with the addiction, but it can also hurt the family in detrimental ways. People struggling with addiction are often unreliable and cannot be counted on to do what they say they will. They may forget or get distracted because they are focused on obtaining drugs and alcohol. They may even lie or steal to get their substance of choice. If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, you may be unsure of how to cope with an addict.

Coping with an addict can be very challenging for family. The unreliability and distraction caused by drug and alcohol abuse directly impact an addict’s loved ones. Addicts may lose their jobs due to their dependency on drugs or alcohol. They may neglect their responsibilities as a parent or caretaker. They may do bad things, such as committing crimes or infidelity, which they would not otherwise have done.

In addition to these more concrete negative impacts, addiction can impact families in less obvious ways. It can inflict a large emotional toll on the family members who watch their loved ones do harm to themselves physically and mentally. It can cause chaos as loved ones struggle to cope with having an addict in the family.

Societal Effects

In addition to the personal and local effects an addict has on his or her family and loved ones, addiction also causes a large financial and societal burden on a national level. The impact of substance abuse and addiction costs the US economy over $600 billion annually.

The financial costs to society manifest in a range of different forms. Firstly, there are substantial impacts in health care. The healthcare system experiences strains from the large amount of patients admitted due to their substance addiction. Addiction causes hospitals to be overworked and incur large costs in the form of hospital treatment and Medicare.

Society is also impacted by drug and alcohol addiction in relation to crime. Addicts may commit crimes when trying to obtain money to buy drugs. Those under the influence often are not thinking rationally and commit crimes. This impact goes beyond the individual to affect his or her community and society as a whole.


Decreased work productivity is also a result of alcohol and drug addictions. Those struggling with addiction may be less productive at work or may be unable to hold down a job. This negatively impacts the economy as well as the individual and his or her loved ones.

Hope to Cope With Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Though struggles with addiction can be very difficult, they are not impossible to overcome. With treatment, you or your loved one who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction can get sober and learn to live life without the aid of these substances. 12 Keys Best Rehab helps those struggling with addiction learn to live a fun and fulfilling life without drugs or alcohol.

In addition to helping individuals get sober, 12 Keys Best Rehab can help develop healthy recovery skills and coping skills. During treatment, clients and loved ones learn how to cope with addiction. Coping skills allow people struggling with addiction to return to everyday life equipped to meet the challenges they face. They allow for a life in recovery, not just a temporary period of sobriety while at the center.

Why Do You Need Coping Skills for Addiction?

After someone has stopped abusing drugs or alcohol, changes are necessary to maintain a fulfilling sober lifestyle. Someone who no longer drinks or abuses drugs but otherwise maintains the same past behaviors may find it difficult to continue to avoid using. It may be easy to return to old habits and friends who negatively impact the ability to live a sober life. Coping with addiction is not easy, but employing coping skills is tremendously helpful.

Coping skills allow those recovering from substance abuse issues continue to make progress in their recovery. This means learning to deal with issues that their addiction has masked — whether it is emotions such as anger, happiness or stress or mental or behavioral health issues. It may also be more tangible elements such as poverty or unemployment. Coping mechanisms will help avoid getting stuck in old patterns of bad behaviors and deal with these issues head on.


What Are Coping Skills?

Coping skills are the tools that people use to deal with the ups and downs of life. This can include positive changes that are exciting or negative ones that are scary or sad. Addicts use drugs or alcohol to deal with life changes, whether they are positive or negative. Once drugs or alcohol are no longer a part of life, an addict must not only learn how to cope with drug addiction or alcohol addiction, but also all the twists and turns that life brings.

Coping skills are different for different people. Some techniques work for some people and don’t for others. It may take some experimentation to determine what works for a person. Different skills may also work for some situations and not for others. Through this experimentation, however, people who have suffered with addiction can learn how to deal with the highs and lows of life without the aid of their substance of choice.

Social Support

A key coping mechanism for a recovering addict is having friends or family that support his or her sober lifestyle. Having social support is instrumental in maintaining the recovery process. Recovering from addiction can feel like an isolating and lonely process. Having a social support network can mean the difference between using and maintaining sobriety. A support network can provide a sense of belonging and inclusion.

A social support network goes beyond this, however. It also can help you or your loved one struggling with addiction find the resources needed to continue the recovery process. This can mean providing information — sharing recovery techniques, websites or personal experiences. It can also mean providing material resources, such as a book about recovery. It can take the form of providing concrete assistance, such as childcare or a ride to a doctor’s office. And of course, a social support network can provide emotional support — someone to encourage, listen and understand.

How Do You Find a Social Support Network?

When in the process of recovery, you should evaluate if existing social networks will provide the support needed to continue on the path to lifelong recovery. Will friends and family provide the acceptance, inclusion and resources needed to maintain sobriety? If the existing social networks will not provide the kind of support required to maintain sobriety, you may need to strengthen your social network.


Where can you find a social support network that provides these qualities? A therapist can act as a confidant to assure a level of acceptance and trust. They can provide a basic level of support from which to build a healthy and fulfilling social network.

Anger Management Skills

Developing appropriate anger management is another coping skill that can also be instrumental to getting through life’s stresses without drugs or alcohol. Everyone experiences anger on occasion, and it can be easy to turn towards old habits to get through hard times. You may feel more anger than usual as you learn to confront issues previously masked by substance abuse.

Anger is not inherently a negative thing. However, anger is negative when it masks other emotions. Being consumed by anger can mean not dealing with other issues. It is how one copes with anger that distinguishes whether anger is a dangerous emotion or not. Instead of falling back on old habits, implementing proper anger management skills can lead to dealing with anger in a positive way.

One effective coping skill for dealing with anger is controlled breathing and muscle relaxation. When you get angry, your heart rate and breathing rate go up. These physical responses can lead to anger escalating and increasing. Instead of letting these responses escalate, however, it is possible to control these responses and decrease anger, but it takes serious commitment to the following techniques.

Controlled Breathing

To relax, start by focusing on your breathing. When your breathing rate begins to increase, take several slow and deep breaths, then exhale for twice as long as you inhale. Focus on your body as you breathe. This means feeling the air fill your stomach, chest and lungs. Your ribs expand as you inhale and then contract again as you exhale.

How can focusing on breathing help you cope with anger? It helps your breathing return to a normal, relaxed pattern. As your breathing rate slows, so will your heart rate. It may even lead to some relaxation in the muscles. Relaxing tense muscles is the next step in controlling anger.


Muscle Tension

When you get angry, you may feel tension in your neck and shoulders. This tension can remain even after you are no longer angry. It is important to confront this muscle tension immediately instead of letting it grow and expand.

When you feel tension gathering in your neck, start by slowly and gently moving your head shoulder to shoulder. Roll your head side to side as you continue to practice controlled breathing. Relieve your shoulder tension in the same way — slowly and gently roll your shoulders forward and backwards until you start to feel the stress dissipate.

As your shoulders and neck relax, relaxation should naturally spread to the rest of your body. It may take some patience and practice to learn how to relax your body when you are feeling anger, but practicing these muscle relaxation techniques can be the key to not letting anger control you.

Controlled Thinking

When experiencing anger, it can be easy to let anger overwhelm you and cloud your thinking and judgment. It can become difficult to resolve situations as you no longer pay attention to the situation but are focusing on the anger instead. Controlling your thinking, however, will help you focus on the situation you are facing rather than the surrounding emotions.

How do you control your thinking? It starts with the controlled breathing and muscle relaxation previously discussed in this article. Once your body returns to a more relaxed state, you can focus on your thinking.

Ask yourself, why are you experiencing anger? What is it about this specific situation that is causing you to feel anger? By understanding exactly what it is that is causing anger, you can better control it and get to the heart of the issue.

Dealing With Anger


Learning to focus on your breathing, relax your muscles and control your thinking are key to responding positively to anger. It takes practice to properly implement these techniques, but in time it becomes easier to deal with anger. You become less likely to lash out or turn to bad habits to cope with anger. And you are more likely to get to the heart of what is actually causing anger in each situation.

Stress Management

Stress is a problem impacting a third of America. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2007 “Stress in America” poll, one in three Americans experience extreme levels of stress. One in five reported experiencing high levels of stress at least 15 days each month.

What is stress? Stress is a series of emotional, physical and cognitive responses to a change. This change could be positive or negative — a new job, death in the family, getting married or losing a relationship. Stressors are not always so clear, however. Stress can also manifest in smaller life events. Stress stemming from smaller changes can still be overwhelming and difficult to deal with.

Everyone experiences change and stress. However, stress can become an overwhelming factor in one’s life. If you are abusing drugs and alcohol, addiction stress can be problematic. However, it is how one deals with stress that matters most. Instead of retreating from problems or reacting negatively to them by returning to old habits, try these stress management techniques.

Stress Reduction

Decreasing stress will reduce the unhealthy emotional effects while helping you avoid giving into stress from the beginning. As in anger, controlling your breathing is the first step to controlling stress. High levels of stress can lead to labored or erratic breathing. Focusing on slow and controlled breathing helps you return to normal levels of relaxation and makes you more able to face the causes of stress.

Focusing on breathing, however, may not be enough to overcome stressful symptoms. The way stress presents tension throughout your entire body may take larger focus. Relaxation and meditative practices build on controlled breathing to relax the entire body.

Relaxation and Meditation

In 1975, Harvard cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson discovered a series of stress reduction techniques that can be used to dissipate the automatically triggered symptoms of stress. One method is a simple breath-oriented technique that can be practiced wherever you are feeling stress, whether at home, at work or out.


You may not achieve relaxation and remove your stress the first time you practice this stress relieving method. But through time, with practice, the relaxation response should come more easily.

There are many other types of meditation as well to help you cope with stress and anger. You may not think of yourself as someone who practices meditation. Maybe you think of it as a religious or spiritual practice that you do not want to do. But in reality, meditation is nothing more than putting your mind at ease and controlling your thinking and focus. Meditation can be for anyone, and it can be extremely helpful in helping manage stress and anger.

Spiritual Practice

Though not for everyone, spiritual practice can also help improve your coping skills in dealing with addiction. Healing is important in the physical, psychological and social realms of your life. Understanding what is contributing to these three aspects is fundamental in coping with addiction. In addition to these three elements, however, understanding your spirituality can help overcome addiction.

Spiritual practice and understanding can take many forms. It can mean belief in a God or gods. It can also mean spiritual practice outside of a religion, however. Whatever your spiritual beliefs are, however, they are united by a belief that life has a purpose and meaning. Spirituality can help you understand that there is meaning to your life beyond your addiction.

What people discover in their own spirituality is different for everyone. Motivation for change can come in part by looking outside of oneself and understanding your role within the greater community.

Maybe you do not believe that God would want you to live with a drug or alcohol abuse problem. Or maybe you see that your children, parents or spouse are being negatively impacted by your behaviors. Maybe you think you could do more with your life without drugs or alcohol impacting it. Whatever form your spirituality takes, understanding this spirituality can be helpful as a coping skill to move forward from alcohol and drug addictions.

Physical Activity for Coping

exercise_6Engaging in physical activity can also act as a coping skill for staying on the path of sobriety. Physical activity such as walking or other exercise can strengthen the ability to remain on the path to recovery from alcohol or drugs.

Engaging in exercise can boost mood levels by stimulating the brain. Research shows that exercise can promote the formation of blood vessels in the brain and enhance repair of neural tissue. These benefit your mood and can help in the recovery process.

Learning and Developing Coping Skills

Developing strong social networks, learning how to manage anger and addiction stress, exploring spirituality and engaging in physical activity can all help you get sober and continuing down the path of recovery. It can seem like a lot to manage, but learning and incorporating these skills is fundamental to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Learning coping skills means you can learn how to cope with a drug addiction or alcohol addiction. You can learn the skills to maintain sobriety and live a healthy lifestyle.

Recovery programs such 12 Keys Best Rehab can help you learn these coping skills. Not only will you detox and get sober, but you will also learn the skills you need to continue a healthy lifestyle in your day to day life. The 12 step process is not just a process for quitting drinking or drugs, but is a “design for living.” Learning coping skills will help ensure you are able to live a healthy lifestyle.

The support of peers, staff and qualified therapists will help you or your loved one struggling with addiction learn the skills needed to achieve long-term recovery. These skills can then be implemented in everyday life. Coping with addiction or coping with an addict can be difficult, but with the right skills and support it can be done. Call 12 Keys at 1-800-338-5770 today to find out how we can help you or a loved one get through the struggles of addiction.


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