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10 Coping Skills You Will Learn During Substance Abuse Treatment in Massachusetts

10 Coping Skills You Will Learn During Substance Abuse Treatment in Massachusetts

Recovery from addiction is an ongoing process that isn’t always an easy journey. When hard times happen, it’s important that you are aware of the various coping strategies you can use to stay sober and make recovery a positive experience.

While a substance abuse treatment center can help you learn coping mechanisms, it’s up to you to implement them into your daily life. Here are 10 helpful coping skills for addiction recovery.

1. Grounding Techniques for Relaxation

Anxiety and stress can be major triggers in recovery. If you don’t have a way to cope with these triggers, you could find yourself reaching for drugs and alcohol, instead. Substance abuse treatment centers will help you learn grounding techniques that keep you relaxed and present at the moment. These coping skills can help you stay sober in addiction recovery.

Examples of grounding techniques include:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Identify senses (what do you smell, taste, see, hear, and feel in the moment?)
  • Stretching or light exercise
  • Reciting a poem, mantra, or affirmation
  • Looking at your feet and breathing deep

While these practices seem simple, they can be groundbreaking for your coping abilities. They can help you relax and calm down when overwhelmed.

2. Playing The Tape Through

Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug or alcohol use, and many people who struggle with addiction also struggle with impulsivity.[1] Impulsivity can get you into a lot of troublesome situations. Acting on impulses to use substances can result in a relapse. Acting on impulses to engage in other negative behaviors can have its own consequences, too.

Playing the tape through is a cognitive-behavioral technique that encourages you to think about the potential consequences of your actions. Instead of impulsively using drugs or alcohol when you have a craving, this coping skill involves taking a minute to remember the reasons why you got sober in the first place as well as all of the bad things that can happen if you follow through with the impulse.

By the time you get done playing the tape through, the craving will likely pass.

3. Pausing and Thinking Before Responding

Similar to playing the tape through, sometimes it’s wise to wait before you respond. Learning to regulate your emotions, as well as your responses in high-intensity situations, can be difficult in early recovery. But, responding impulsively will only make things worse. Addiction treatment centers will help you develop the ability to pause and think before you react.

Coping Skills You Will Learn During Substance Abuse Treatment in Massachusetts

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4. Journaling for Emotional Clarity

Many substance abuse treatment centers will encourage you to keep a journal or to make daily gratitude lists. This is because writing can be an amazing way to express and work through any difficult emotions you may be dealing with. Seeing your thoughts written out on paper can help you deal with the situation with clarity and efficiency. Journaling as little as 5 minutes per day can have many positive effects on your mental health.[2]

A popular form of journaling is writing a daily gratitude list. This is easy to do, doesn’t take a lot of time, and can have immense health benefits. Keep a list by your bedside or download a journaling app on your phone so you can make your list on the go. The ability to reflect on the things you’re grateful for will help you stop focusing too much on the negative and help you develop the ability to make the best out of all situations.

5. Having a Sober Support Network

Isolation is a common characteristic of people who struggle with addiction, but recovery is all about connection. During rehab, you will participate in many group therapy sessions where you connect with other like-minded individuals. You will also learn about the importance of participating in a support group or 12-step fellowship after finishing treatment.

Places you can find a sober support network include:

  • Your rehab center’s alumni program
  • Group substance abuse counseling
  • 12-Step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • 12-Step alternatives like SMART Recovery or Celebrate Recovery

6. Exercise, Nutrition, and Regular Sleep

Exercise, nutrition, and a regular sleep schedule are all essential for a healthy, sober lifestyle. If you’re hungry or malnourished, struggling with poor sleep habits, or not taking care of your body you could be at an increased risk for relapse.

  • Exercise can reduce anxiety and depression, alleviate stress, and promote better sleep. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. This is even more beneficial if you can find some type of exercise that you enjoy.[3]
  • Balanced nutrition can reduce depression, boost your energy, and stabilize your moods throughout the day. Try not to eat too many processed foods or sugars. Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein into your diet.[4]
  • Regular sleep will improve your mental health as well as your decision-making capabilities–both of which are extremely important when it comes to staying sober.[5]

7. Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a practice you may learn during substance abuse treatment to help you work through negative thoughts and emotions, center yourself in the present moment, and observe and accept your emotions without self-judgment. Meditation can help you relax, cope with triggers, and work through painful feelings. It can also improve your self-control, reduce stress, and help you achieve mental clarity.

8. Distracting Yourself from Triggers and Cravings

Before getting sober, you likely spent most of your free time using drugs or alcohol, obtaining drugs or alcohol, or recovering from the effects of drugs and alcohol. Now that you’re sober, you have to find new ways to spend your time. Too much boredom can be a trigger for relapse–especially early in recovery.

During addiction treatment in Massachusetts, you will have the opportunity to participate in many holistic and complementary therapies that introduce you to activities you can do that not only serve as a distraction but also as healthy coping skills for addiction recovery.

Examples of ways to stay busy include:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Dancing
  • Playing music
  • Playing sports
  • Exercising
  • Spending time in nature
  • Volunteering
  • Yoga or Tai Chi
  • Learn a new language
  • Travel somewhere new
  • Go to a meeting

Keeping your schedule busy with healthy activities will support your recovery and your mental health.

9. Practicing Self Care

Self-care is a very broad term. While simple things like exercise, nutrition, sleep, friendship, and hobbies can be considered self-care, self-care can also mean setting boundaries with people who are a negative influence on your sobriety. It can mean knowing what your limits are and saying no when you mean no. It can also mean not taking life so seriously or stressing about the small things. Be sure you take time to consider your needs and tend to them.

10. Helping Other People for Fulfillment

Helping others is a great way to find fulfillment, reduce depression, and enjoy something you are passionate about. As you grow in your sobriety, you may find that there are many ways you can be helpful towards others. Ways to help others in sobriety include:

  • Sponsor someone when you complete the 12-Steps
  • Give another struggling addict or alcoholic a ride to a meeting
  • Volunteer with your local community
  • Call someone whom you know is going through a difficult time to be an emotional support

Realizing your purpose in life through helping others can help you stay sober.

Learn Effective Coping Skills for Addiction Recovery at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment

Here at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, we’re dedicated to helping you learn the coping skills you need to stay sober. Our evidence-based treatment programs combine a holistic approach with dual diagnosis care so you can overcome your addiction without having to look back. Don’t wait any longer to get the support you need. Call now to speak with an admissions counselor.


Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC
Clinical Director

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