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What Are Coping Skills?

People who go into drug addiction treatment face two primary tasks. First, they must understand what needs they have that cause them to use drugs and alcohol. Second, they must find another way to meet those needs. That second area is where coping skills come into play. The goal is to return to a normal life with your family with a clear, strong mind and body.

Knowledge About the Drug

If you or someone in your family is abusing substances, you may be surprised to find out how much you don’t know about that substance. Your substance abuse counselor will provide the means to learn what the drug does to your body, what it does to your mind, how it affects your soul, and why it puts stress on the family.

There are many more physical effects than cirrhosis or cancer. People experience hypertension, cardiac rhythm disturbances, decreased bone density, damage to the nerves in your hands and feet, bleeding in the stomach and intestines, and even strokes. Many people suffer severe dental problems related to drug or alcohol use. Depression and anxiety become a way of life.


Do you know what a trigger is? Give a cigarette smoker a cup of coffee and they want to light up: The coffee triggers the urge to smoke. People who abuse drugs and alcohol have triggers, too. Your coping strategies will teach you that you cannot dismiss the triggers that affect you. What you will learn, instead, is how to handle them.

What are the activities that lead up to drinking or using drugs? What are the emotions that lead up to using? You will study them and also, as part of your drug addiction treatment, you will face and study the consequences of those activities.


Anger management and negative thinking contribute to drug use. You will learn how to recognize anger before it takes hold of you. You will also increase your awareness of negative thinking processes so that you can combat them. Some people are not even aware that they become angry or have negative attitudes.


Many addicts have forgotten how to enjoy the good things in life, including their skill areas. When you were younger, perhaps you dabbled in painting, music, or art. Maybe you used to read or go to see movies. As you enter into treatment, you become aware that the search for your next high and the consequences of your last one have occupied most of your time. It’s time to become reacquainted with yourself!

Relaxation and Meditation

Guided imagery, movement classes, breathing exercises—they are just a few of the many ways to relax and meditate. Relaxation helps you to cope with stress, anger, insomnia, anxiety, and cravings.

Making Decisions, Solving Problems

All people, whether or not they are in drug addiction treatment, must learn how to make decisions and solve problems in life. However, people who have been preoccupied with addiction or dependency generally are not very good at these important skills. Classes offered at your substance abuse treatment center can help you learn how to review options and make good choices. You will also learn how to establish emergency plans to help you handle Life’s little curve balls.

Change Your Future Vision

Some people take a solid step into treatment armed with a supportive family structure, financial security, and a clear career path. However, many others stumble into treatment forced by the courts because they know no other way of life. For many, substance abuse is a common rotten fruit on the family tree, and those people can never imagine having a strong family, real security, or a good job. No matter which background you come from, you will learn to envision a future for yourself that’s totally different from whatever you pictured before. 

Here we’ve been discussing intrapersonal coping skills. In another article we will talk about coping skills that the addict can put to use in his interpersonal relationships.

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