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Our addictions are very often the coping mechanisms and defense mechanisms we’ve adopted to help ourselves deal with the pain in our lives. We use all kinds of thought patterns, emotional patterns and behavioral patterns as our ways of coping with the stress of everyday life, our complex relationship issues, and the tough situations and life circumstances we’re going through. After a stressful day at work, we make ourselves feel better with a drink. When we’re upset about our partner, we turn to our drug of choice. When we don’t want to face the pain of our traumatic past, we use sex to distract ourselves. Our coping mechanisms are our tools of avoidance, denial, suppression and distraction. They are forms of escapism. They make us avoid our problems not actually deal with them. Part of our work in recovery is learning healthy coping skills so that we have ways of helping ourselves navigate the difficult process of actually confronting our issues.

Let’s identify which thoughts, feelings, stressors and issues we’re using coping mechanisms for. Perhaps it’s our feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Perhaps it’s our fear of losing someone we love. Maybe it’s our traumatic memories from childhood. Identifying what it is we’re trying to cope with is an important part of figuring out what coping skills we’ll need to develop to help ourselves deal with them. What healthy things would actually help us to resolve our issues and genuinely feel better? What can we do to comfort, soothe and nurture ourselves in healthy ways? How can we give ourselves some relief, in ways that are conducive to our healing process rather than that detract from it. Many of us find it extremely beneficial to write out our thoughts, to express on paper all of our painful issues and troubling concerns. We feel lighter and freer and feel more clarity and openness after writing. Some of us use support group meetings as a way of coping with stress and the difficult emotions that come up in recovery. Many of us find that therapy and spiritual guidance help us to cope in deep and meaningful ways. Learning healthy coping skills in our recovery is all about exploring what works for us and figuring out how we can best support ourselves as we heal.

Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you uncover the issues fueling your addictions. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.