10 Coping Skills for Addiction Recovery

Discover ten healthy and helpful coping skills for addiction recovery in this comprehensive article.

Table of Contents

What Are Coping Skills for Addiction Reocvery?

Substance use disorders can be difficult to detox and recover from, especially without the proper tools to cope with the healing process. Addiction treatment often starts with undergoing detox at a medical facility and learning addiction recovery strategies in either outpatient or inpatient programs or through support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

The physical, mental, and emotional effects addiction has on the body can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, intense cravings, and serious side effects. Thus, learning healthy coping skills can help individuals manage the adverse effects properly and improve the recovery process. Read on in this article to learn different and beneficial coping skills for addiction recovery.

A Further Look into Coping Skills for Addiction Recovery

There are a range of coping skills for addiction recovery, from self-acceptance to creating and following a routine. It is important for patients to learn how to deal with triggers, cravings, negative thoughts, and everyday stressors, as they directly influence the longevity and success of treatment and recovery. Many of these tools can be learned and developed in therapy, both individual and group, with therapists helping patients discover and manage triggers, improve their mindset, and restructure their lives.

What Is the Cycle of Addiction?

There are three main stages that people with substance use disorders will go through. These stages make up the cycle of addiction, and many addiction treatment programs are centered around this cycle.


The first stage is when an individual is actively addicted or reliant on a substance. Addiction is characterized as the uncontrollable urge to use a substance despite its consequences. Coping with addiction can be difficult during this stage, as many people either don’t want to admit that they need help or simply don’t see that they have a substance use disorder.


Withdrawal is when the body is actively ridding itself of unwanted substances and toxins in the body. This stage can be difficult, as many people experience physical and psychological side effects, known as withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, insomnia, depression, and muscle aches. Of those with alcohol use disorder, approximately 50% experience withdrawal symptoms.1


This stage occurs when someone uses a substance of abuse after abstaining from it for a period of time. Recovering from addiction is not easy, and relapsing is a common part of the treatment journey. Multiple studies indicate that more than two-thirds of patients relapse within a few weeks to a few months after entering an addiction treatment program.2

What Is Relapse?

Relapse is a state of deterioration after a temporary improvement. Relapse typically occurs in three stages and can be influenced by triggers.

Stages of Relapse

  • Relapse Through Thoughts: The first stage is emotional relapse, which involves an increased pattern of negative thoughts and emotions, diminishing the willingness and ability to follow healthy coping strategies.
  • Relapse Through Behavior: The second stage is mental relapse, which involves thinking about and considering substance use. In this stage, cravings and thoughts that justify substance use begin to surface.
  • Relapse Through Controlled Use: The third and final stage is physical relapse, which involves using drugs or alcohol, usually caused by engaging in behaviors (external triggers) that can lead to substance use.

What Are Relapse Triggers?

Relapse triggers are internal and external factors that increase cravings for or influence substance use. Examples of external and internal triggers include:
  • External Triggers: Relapse can be triggered by external factors, such as people, places, objects, activities, and situations. For example, being around friends who influence substance use, seeing drug paraphernalia, or going to a bar or party.
  • Internal Triggers: Negative feelings (anxiety, depression, guilt), normal feelings (boredom, tiredness, pressure), and positive feelings (excitement, happiness, confidence) can influence relapse.
Everyone experiences relapse differently, and while it can feel like a detrimental setback, it’s important to understand that relapse is part of the recovery process. Studies have shown that the relapse rate for substance use disorders is 40% to 60%, and the relapse rate for other chronic illnesses, such as asthma and hypertension, is 50% to 70%. This data adds perspective to addiction treatment, proving that relapse is common among many illnesses and should be treated as part of the recovery process.3

10 Coping Skills for Addiction Recovery

There are many high-risk situations in recovery, so it is imperative for individuals recovering from addiction to discover their triggers and which coping skills work for them. Coping skills in recovery can make all the difference for your health. Some of the most common and effective coping skills for addiction recovery will be detailed below.

Learn to Relax in Any Situation

This may sound difficult, especially early on in your recovery process, but learning how to relax is an essential coping skill. Techniques such as yoga or meditation can calm you down when you encounter triggers in everyday life, such as stress at work, seeing friends you used to take substances with, or financial pressure.

Wait to Respond

It is easy to respond to situations impulsively; however, acting and reacting before thinking can lead to reckless decisions and risky behavior. Thus, learning how to take a step back, assess the situation, and give yourself time to make calculated judgments can result in better life choices.

Be Honest With Yourself and Others

One of the most important skills you can utilize is to be open and honest with yourself and others. This could mean reaching out to others, admitting you need help, or accepting treatment. Being honest is not always easy, but it will allow you to know your limits.


Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation can help you relax and become more in tune with yourself. Becoming more mindful and utilizing meditation techniques can increase your self-awareness, helping you cope with everyday stressors, anxiety, and triggers. One study examining the effectiveness of mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) compared to treatment as usual (TAU) found that patients reported a significantly lower risk for relapse and days of substance use (for those who relapsed) six months following treatment.4

Keep Busy

Surprisingly, one of the most common ways people relapse is due to boredom, as it often creates thoughts of using substances again. Keeping busy prevents you from giving in to these thoughts and cravings, and allows you to engage in positive, healthy activities, such as exercise, seeing friends, and participating in hobbies.

Keep a Daily Journal and Gratitude List

Keeping a list or journal of what you’re grateful for and how you’re feeling each day can help you keep track of your emotions throughout the recovery process, along with how far you’ve come from the start of your journey.

Exercise Regularly and Live an Active Lifestyle

Exercising and staying active helps release endorphins, which keep us happier and healthier. Keeping your body active can also help you work through any feelings of wanting to use substances again and channel that energy into a healthier lifestyle.

Build a Sober Support Network

It’s important to have a support network of sober individuals, such as friends, family, sponsors, or peers from your support group. A solid support network allows you to surround yourself with others who will help you throughout your recovery and improve your life.

Avoidance of Risks

Figuring out your potential relapse risks and learning to avoid them is paramount for your recovery. Knowing your triggers will help you navigate through everyday life without facing them, allowing you to focus on yourself and your healing process more effectively.

Helping Others

Lastly, helping others can make a huge difference in your recovery. Whether it is joining a support group or volunteering/working at a recovery clinic, helping others achieve sobriety can uplift your mood, build new friendships, and motivate you to continue improving your life.

Get Help Developing Skills for Long-Term Sobriety at Soledad House

If you or a loved one needs help learning coping skills for addiction recovery, Soledad House can help. Our women-only recovery center focuses on helping you heal and feel safe throughout the treatment process.

What We Offer

We offer highly-effective treatment programs for women seeking help for drug and alcohol addiction, such as 12-Step programs, group therapy, relapse prevention support, and family therapy. Our group therapy is especially conducive to learning and retaining coping skills, as it allows our patients to learn and support each other throughout recovery.

Additionally, Soledad House provides a supportive sober living residence for our guests, allowing each patient to receive holistic and evidence-based therapies in a comforting and positive environment. If you want to learn more about coping skills for addiction recovery, contact a member of our team today.

Contact Soledad House Today

Our supportive and knowledgeable staff will work with you to create a tailored plan specific to your needs to ensure you get the help and care you deserve. If you want to learn more about our recovery strategies and other coping skills for addiction recovery, don’t hesitate to contact us today. We will be with you every step of the way during your drug addiction recovery.