Coping Mechanisms for Relapse Prevention

Coping Mechanisms: Dealing With Difficult Situations Post-Rehab

Posted on December 28th, 2016

Addiction treatment is designed to help you understand your disease and establish long-term sobriety. However, completion of rehab won’t stop you from facing situations in everyday life that are capable of triggering a relapse back into active drug or alcohol use. Fortunately, you can learn specific coping mechanisms that will help you deal with emotional and situational post-rehab triggers.

The Types of Relapse Triggers

Experts divide prompts for drug and alcohol use into two basic categories: internal triggers and external triggers. Internal triggers are the thoughts and emotions that consciously or unconsciously drive you toward drug use. External triggers are outside factors that increase your chances of wanting to use drugs or alcohol (e.g., specific people, times of day or situations that you associate with substance abuse). As a rule, you’ll have an easier time identifying external triggers. Still, just knowing that internal triggers also exist will make coping easier.

Stay Away From Situations That Increase Your Risks

One excellent coping mechanism for situations that could provoke substance abuse is to avoid them in the first place. In public, this means staying away from places where drinking and drug use occur (e.g., bars, certain kinds of social gatherings and drug dens), as well as staying away from people who may actively or passively encourage you to drink or get high. In private, it means keeping drugs and alcohol out of your home.

Dealing With Unavoidable Situations

After you leave rehab, you’re certain to encounter situations where you just can’t avoid exposure to drug or alcohol triggers. When these unavoidable situations arise, you can choose from a variety of coping strategies. Some of the most effective include:

  • Countering internal triggers with physical activity (e.g., exercising, participating in a favorite hobby or engaging in a distracting conversation)
  • Directly challenging thoughts and emotions that you know increase your chances of drinking or getting high
  • Finding a way out of the situation as soon as possible
  • Seeking counsel from a trusted friend or advisor
  • Letting a drug craving pass without reacting to it
  • Purposefully reminding yourself of the previous damaging consequences of substance abuse
  • Articulating and restating your specific reasons for remaining sober (either verbally or with the help of notes or other physical reminders)

Government resources, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, maintain online resources for anyone interested in developing a detailed plan for surviving difficult post-rehab situations.

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