Coping Skills in Recovery from Addiction

Attending an addiction treatment center does not guarantee Recovery for Life. In fact, up to 60% of those in recovery still struggle with triggers and coping skills, which leads to a recurrence of use or relapse. For this reason, treatment should focus on building coping skills in recovery. 

What are Triggers?

Triggers have emotional, environmental, and social reactions that remind a person of past drug or alcohol use. When encountering a trigger, it can produce cravings or urges to use. Triggers can be people, places, substances, and even scents.

Triggers can be intense and emotionally distracting. They can happen when reflecting on the past or when talking about a traumatic event. Furthermore, the memories can lead to an emotional breakdown causing unhealthy coping skills for addiction. 

The misuse of drugs and alcohol for an extended time causes the brain to associate daily life and drug use. Therefore any trigger can cause uncontrollable cravings. But, relapse prevention programs help understand triggers and coping skills to reduce the chance of relapse. 

What are External Triggers and Coping Skills?

External triggers people, places, things, activities, and conflict that bring on cravings to use drugs or alcohol. While in treatment, therapists help design relapse prevention plans to avoid triggers and use coping skills for addiction. Coping skills in recovery will help fight the cravings when facing addiction triggers.

External triggers for addiction are dangerous because they can cause subconscious cravings without knowing. Sometimes, the people closest to the person in recovery can trigger cravings. For this reason, coping skills in recovery include avoiding friends and family that use drugs alcohol. 

Other coping skills in recovery may include avoiding places where substances were misused. These places can spark memories of using or traumatic experiences. But, focusing on what was taught in treatment about triggers and coping skills can prevent a relapse.

healthy coping skills for addiction

What are Internal Triggers and Coping Skills?

Internal triggers are more challenging to manage than external triggers. Substance misuse is associated with negative thoughts, feelings, or emotions. Without coping skills in recovery, internal triggers can be overwhelming, leading to cravings.

The emotions of internal triggers may include negative, positive, and frustrating feelings. Therefore, having a relapse prevention plan helps identify triggers and coping skills when such feelings occur. Besides, a plan reminds you to seek support when fighting internal triggers. 

Healthy Coping Skills in Recovery

Identifying and managing triggers is essential in addiction recovery. Self-awareness allows a person to recognize what drives their addiction. It also reminds them of coping skills in recovery to control their cravings.

Coping skills in recovery include:

These coping skills in recovery allow individuals to live in the moment. In addition, healthy coping skills for addiction help detach from stressful or painful memories that can be triggering.

Be Honest with Others and Yourself

Individuals can not be successful in recovery without being honest with themselves. The pain and anxiety from addiction must be addressed, or the pain just continues. Being honest with yourself teaches the compassion and understanding needed to heal. 

Learn to Relax

Triggers and coping skills can arise anywhere. For this reason, it’s important to be able to relax anywhere. Coping skills in recovery may be closing your eyes and taking a deep breath in a restaurant. They may also be finding a quiet spot and calling your sponsor. Triggers and coping skills are as personal as each person’s addiction.

Keep a Journal or Gratitude List

A daily journal can help individuals keep track of their feelings, struggles, and accomplishments. Write down the moments of joy and happiness. Reflecting on what you’re grateful for increases your happiness, which increases your chance at Recovery for Life. 

Find Support from Others in Recovery

Coping Skills in Recovery from Addiction

Building a healthy support system in recovery is important. Spending time with others who enjoy life without drugs and alcohol has many benefits, including:

Get Regular Exercise

Adding exercise to the list of coping skills for addiction can help relieve cravings. Plus, workouts add structure to the day. Exercising is a great way to meet people with like interests, which helps with depression and anxiety.

Meditation and Other Holistic Therapies

While in recovery, individuals must heal on every level to achieve long-term recovery. Holistic coping skills improve the mind, body, and spirit. For example, meditation has a range of benefits in recovery that include:

Proper Nutrition and Hydration

Addiction contributes to poor nutrition and malnourishment. Consuming drugs and alcohol deprives the body of essential nutrients leading to dehydration. Many drugs also suppress appetite. 

Without proper nutrition, the recovery process can be derailed. Individuals may have headaches, problems sleeping, and low energy – all signs of withdrawal. So, it can be challenging to know the difference. But, eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water are part of healthy coping skills in recovery.

Unhealthy Triggers and Coping Skills in Addiction

Coping skills in addiction are techniques used to deal with stressful and difficult situations. They may not solve the issue long-term. However, they do help in the moment of painful thoughts or triggers throughout the day. 

When trying new coping skills for addiction, don’t expect perfection. Developing new coping skills takes time. But, once coping skills for addiction are established, a healthier and happier life knowing you can resist cravings.

What Is the H.A.L.T. Tool?

Healthy coping skills in recovery may include a tool known as H.A.L.T. This tool reminds individuals to ask themselves, am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Self-care and self-awareness are essential in maintaining life in recovery. 


Hunger is a physical and emotional need. It can be difficult to focus and keep emotions in check when hungry. This hunger can also lead to a recurrence of use. But, eating a tasty, nutritious meal with friends is positive coping skills in recovery.


Anger is a natural and healthy emotion. However, it’s essential to understand what is causing the anger and how to express it adequately. If you express your emotions in a way that hurts others, it’s essential to acknowledge and reflect on how to do better.


Loneliness can happen when a person is alone or in a crowd. But, being alone is typically a choice. Have you reached out to friends and family? Ask for support when your lonely, depressed, or just need to talk. Reaching out reduces the chance of relapse and improves emotional wellbeing. 


Being tired is overwhelming, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Individuals tend to ignore being tire because life can be busy. But, low energy can interfere with thinking clearly and managing triggers and coping skills. Therefore, listening to your body and resting when tired is part of healthy coping skills in recovery.

Managing Triggers and Coping Skills with Healthy Positive Friends

Staying away from friends who also use it is essential in early recovery. Instead, use the time to reflect and evaluate your friendships. Is this friend supportive of my recovery? Does that friend have positive influences on you?

If the answer is no to the qualifications you need in a friend, then it’s time to move on. For example, a friend who only likes to hang out when drinking can no longer be a friend. But how do you tell a friend you can’t be friends?

Start by being honest. If they are real friends, they will understand and appreciate the honesty. Furthermore, setting boundaries and limits are helpful coping skills in recovery.

Bottling Up Your Feelings: Unhealthy Triggers and Coping Skills

Many people bottle up their emotions and for many different reasons. But, this behavior can lead to the recurrence of use to cope with the feelings. There are, however, tips to making it easier to open up, including:

coping skills for addiction

10 Coping Skills in Recovery from Substance Use Disorder

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is an evidence-based substance use disorder treatment. CBT focuses on two essential steps. The first step is uncovering the negative thought patterns that influence the misuse of drugs or alcohol. And the other step is facing the issues head-on. 

CBT therapists help those in recovery change their thinking and foster positive reactions. Therapists also teach how to cope with traumatic emotions, cravings, and triggers of addiction. The learned coping skills in recovery will be useful throughout your recovery journey and include the following.

  1. Wait to respond. In a stressful moment, it’s crucial to stop and take a breath before reacting. Rushed reactions often result in irrational reactions. By taking a moment to breathe, the situation can be addressed with a level head.
  2. Mindfulness and meditation. When working through difficult emotions and thoughts, it can be helpful to meditate and use mindfulness techniques. These coping skills in addiction keep you in the present moment and accept without judgment.
  3. Keep busy. In addiction, most of your time is spent finding, consuming, and recovering from substance misuse. Now you must fill that time with positive, healthy activities. Complete that to-do list or read a book; just do things that make you feel productive and happy.
  4. Stay healthy. Coping skills in recovery include getting healthy. So, treat yourself to tasty, nutritious meals and take vitamins and supplements.
  5. Exercise. Part of being healthy is exercising. The endorphins released in exercise relieve anxiety, stress, and depression. Exercise also helps the body rid itself of residual toxins from drugs and alcohol.
  6. Journal. Put your thoughts and feelings on paper. Keeping them inside can fester and result in a recurrence of use. 
  7. Talk to a therapist or sponsor. Expressing your struggles in difficult times can ease the struggles. Calling your sponsor when fighting a craving can get you through the temptation. At the same time, your therapist can help you manage the emotions of past trauma. 
  8. Build a healthy support system. The recovery journey is hard. Even with the best coping skills for addiction, having a support system is the best way to avoid recurrence of use. A healthy support group will include people who are reliable and trustworthy.
  9. Attend 12-step programs. A 12-step program offers a guided journey in the recovery process. Much of your healthy support system may come from 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
  10. Find Gratitude. One of the most important coping skills for addiction is finding gratitude in recovery. As you work the recovery journey, remember some are just beginning their journey and be grateful. Also, be grateful for those who support you, and without them, you may still be battling active addiction.

Coping skills in recovery can help you overcome triggers that lead to substance misuse. But, everyone’s addiction journey is unique. So, coping skills in recovery that work for one may not work for another. But, addiction treatment helps find the coping skills for addiction that work for you.

Start Your Recovery Journey at Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use disorder, help is waiting. Our comprehensive treatment can show you there is hope, and you are never alone. Contact us today to learn more.