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Relapse Prevention: Six Ways to Cope With Urges

You’ve already learned how your thoughts can cause you to relapse.  Counselors in drug rehabilitation centers teach you to recognize the thoughts that can endanger your recovery, and you’ll find some information about that on this website.

All addicts use excuses at one time or another as justification for relapse.  Once you’re aware of these common rationalizations, you can put your knowledge to work. You can prevent relapse by developing some positive coping skills to stay sober. Try some of them, try all of them—just try them!

Call Someone

When you’re working on recovery, one of the things you do is put together a support network. The idea is to assemble the names and phone numbers of several people, so that if you can’t reach one person you can reach someone else. Another reason for developing multiple contacts is because each person in your recovery network has some kind of specific knowledge about you as a person. Call a friend. Call a counselor. Call a sponsor from your 12-step group. Just call someone.


If you’re already in recovery, then you know the way that substances affect the neurotransmitters in the brain. One thing you can do to defeat thoughts of using is to exercise. Exercise releases endorphins and can increase levels of dopamine. One of the reasons substance abuse becomes so compelling is because it likewise increases levels of dopamine. With exercise, you are catching that wonderful wave of euphoria but it’s being generated by something healthy like exercise instead of negative, dangerous activities.  Many doctors are seriously looking at exercise programs as ways to defeat addictive behaviors and enhance positive coping skills.

Meditation and Prayer

Meditation helps because it takes you to a place where you sit back and think about placing value on yourself. But there’s more to it than that: Most cravings are rooted in anxiety and stress, and learning positive coping skills through meditation provides you with a natural outlet. You will be less likely to give in to your urges if you can leverage an emotional calmness at such times. In addition, studies are showing that meditation can increase dopamine levels and reduce cortisol production. Meditation can be a way to stop thinking about bad things that have happened to you in the past. Meditation can help you remember what a worthwhile person you are. Counselors in top-notch drug rehabilitation centers spend time teaching meditation skills; time well spent.


Keeping a journal about your thoughts can be a tremendous way to stay focused on your recovery goals. When you were using regularly, you gave no thought to the idea of writing down your feelings because you were focused on your next high. Now is a good time to start a journal, whether you write in it daily or weekly, to keep track of how you feel. If you don’t like to write, maybe you should invest in a sketch pad, or maybe music is your thing. The recovery process helps you to relearn your natural skills, and practicing them regularly will help you move past difficult thoughts.

12-Step Meetings

No matter what substance you’ve been using, there are no coping skills more positive than a 12-step meeting. It’s true that groups like AA and NA bear a little competitive edge toward one another. It’s also true that every addict is willing to help another addict, no matter what his substance of choice is. As part of your recovery process, you will assemble a list of 12-step meetings available in your area. Go to meetings often. Try out different groups; you’ll find that you like some better than others. When you are worrying about how to prevent relapse, take time out of your schedule to visit a 12-step.  Just take it one day at a time. Easy does it.

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