The road to recovery


Drugs are addictive chemicals that activate our brain’s “pleasure circuit,” releasing excessive amounts of dopamine and making users experience an overwhelming sense of euphoria. When these addictive substances are used as a means to cope or to escape complex emotions, a person can become reliant on them to function and feel okay. Too often, this is where the addiction cycle starts.


In order to cope with drug addiction, a person needs to first understand the root of their problem – which emotions, which situations, which traumas drive him or her towards drinking and drugs? Then, he or she must relearn how to handle these stressors without the once-known blanket of drugs and alcohol. Those in recovery must develop healthy coping skills to prevent substance use and relapse.


Below, we break down examples of the types of coping skills that can help you truly conquer substance abuse and addiction.


  • Wait to Respond – When something stressful happens to you, take a moment to breathe deeply and clear your mind. Rushed decisions are often irrational reactions. By thinking and breathing before you react, you can address the situation with a level-head.
  • Mindfulness & Meditation – Use mindfulness and meditation techniques to help you work through difficult thoughts and emotions. It can allow you to focus on the present moment, to observe your internal experiences, and to accept them without judgment or negativity.
  • Keep busy – In the past, you likely spent your time seeking out, using, or recovering from drugs. Now, you have to replace those old actions with positive ones. Check things off of your to-do list. Do things you’ve been putting off. Watch TV, dance, play music, read a book, do what will make you feel good at the end of the day, and the morning after, too.
  • Stay healthy – Part of the recovery process means getting healthy physically – the drugs, without a doubt, took a toll on your physical health. Treat yourself to nutritious, satisfying meals and nourish your body with vitamins and nutrients.
  • Exercise – Part of getting healthy involves exercise, too. Due to the endorphins released during physical activity, exercise is a great way to relieve anxiety, stresses, and feelings of depression. It also helps rid the chemicals and toxins that were put into your body from drug abuse.
  • Journal – Rather than internalizing your feelings, your demons, your fears and your thoughts, put them down on paper. Get them out. Writing can be a great way to release and work out any thoughts that you are struggling with.
  • Talk to a therapist, counselor, or your sponsor – Are you internalizing feelings, or feeling alone in your sobriety? Your sponsor or your counselor/therapist are there to listen to you, to keep you from relapsing, and to keep you from negative thoughts. They can also help you work through difficult emotions or situations, and interpret situations appropriately.
  • Build a sober support network – Recovery is not easy, and is important to know that you are never alone in the process. Be open to new relationships that will support your recovery, and build a sober network of reliable, trustworthy peers who you can call at any time of need.
  • Go to 12-step meetings – Being an active part of a 12-step program can offer you a guided means of reducing or stopping drug use. By going to 12-step meetings, you can also meet other people in recovery, who can become a part of your sober network.
  • Find gratitude – Gratitude in recovery is one of the most important and empowering coping skills you can have. As you work through your struggles, remember others who are struggling. Remember who supports you, remember what makes you feel good, and be grateful.

Denis Mugambi

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