Coping techniques: Substance use

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.

The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

  1. Consider why you want to decrease or stop substance use. What’s not working for you? Where and when do problems show up and what’s the nature of the problems? Develop your awareness of this dissatisfaction because it will help you meet your goal.
  2. There’s nothing wrong with having needs and acting to get them met. What needs does using meet for you? What are other ways to get these needs met? Did you used to have other means in your life to meet your needs?
  3. When you consider other ways to meet your needs, notice the first thoughts that come to you in response. Are these objections? Notice what inhibits you.
  4. In the first period of recovery focus in the present. Rather than thinking that you’re never going to use again, just remind yourself that you’re not going to use today. And if today seems like too long a period of time, tell yourself you’re not going to use this hour.
  5. It’s possible to learn skills to manage thoughts about using. These skills include challenging the thoughts, focusing on consequences of using, focusing on the benefits of not using, distracting yourself, postponing using, leaving situations where use is likely and making contact with someone who supports you in recovery.
  6. Craving is one part of using. It can be responded to in different ways. You can distract yourself when you feel craving. Craving can be observed without being acted on. Talk about craving with supportive non-using friends or family. Remember that episodes of craving don’t last forever—they last for about an hour, if you don’t respond to them by using. Over time not using ends craving just as using strengthens it.
  7. Time management skills are helpful. If using occupies a great deal of your time, plan alternative activities. Or, if you’re always busy, so that using is the way you reward yourself or unwind, make a list of other kinds of reward or relaxation. And if this is challenging, think back to what you may have done earlier in your life.
  8. Because using is often preceded by a state of tension relaxation techniques are helpful. These can include progressive muscle relaxation, focusing on the breath, and guided imagery.
  9. Some of us use in response to an emotional change, such as getting angry, experiencing frustration or disappointment or feeling worthless in response to a situation. Learn to recognize the triggers for these responses so that you can address them in a compassionate manner. One immediate way to do this is with soothing self-talk. For instance, in the presence of disappointment, tell yourself, “I’ll survive this. I’ve survived worse than this and I’m still here. I’m going to take good care of myself.”
  10. Practice clear communication skills. This includes learning how to say no if someone offers you whatever it is you’re recovering from. It also includes stating what you need.
  11. As you continue in recovery plan ahead. Identify the situations that are going to have triggers for using. For some people this can be holidays, for others it can be visits from certain family members, or having money, or working hard or having free time. Are there parts of town that are “slippery” for you, so that avoiding them is a good idea? Consider the people in your life: do they support you in recovery?
  12. Consider participation in a 12-step group. This is a leaderless peer group format where people can talk about the urge to use without acting on it, and find and give support. It’s also one of the most successful programs in terms of helping people enter and maintain recovery. Because of the wide range of substances and behaviors that can become addictive, and the wide variety of people in recovery, no two groups are exactly the same. So it’s a good idea to go to a number of different meetings to find one that’s a good fit for you. At meetings observe the other group members as they speak and interact. Identify those who seem to have “the recovery that you want.”