While in treatment many addicts learn to develop a series of skills that will prove helpful once in the real world of recovery. Far from the safe walls of a treatment center coping skills are used to help those suffering from substance abuse disorder.

Any good treatment center will equip their clients with a range of different coping skills that can be used under different circumstances. Our staff of therapists here at the Cove Center for Recovery provides all clients with coping skills that both fit their needs and are applicable to various situations.

Here are six coping skills every addict needs:

Self Soothing

This skill goes beyond whispering sweet words of comfort to yourself. Self soothing requires you to comfort yourself using all five senses. For example, if you are feeling antsy you can self soothe by touching something like animals or a stress ball. Continue this routine through all five senses until all feelings of anxiety subside.

Here are some more examples:

Something to hear: Calming music or meditation guides.

Something to See: Pictures or happy memories or videos that embody a happy experience.

Something to Taste: Mints, tea, chocolate even something sour can help!

Something to Smell: Lotions, candles or essential oils.


This may not be as easy as it seems and takes some time to develop as a skill. Distracting yourself is a great way to temporarily ease your worries. This should not be a long term solution! Engage in activities that require you to focus like puzzles, reading, knitting, or sewing. Other recreational activities like playing a sport or creating art are great ways to cope. Even gazing at a beautiful site of nature like a river or tree can achieve the same goal.

Opposite Action

When you get the urge to use a great way to cope is doing the opposite of that! Some even make a game of this skill. If you feel like smoking instead create the opposite emotion and look for affirmation or inspiration. This skill is often tied to distraction as you can create the opposite emotional response while engaging in a distracting activity. For example, if you feel like cutting instead you can try watching something cheerful to lift up your spirits.

Emotional Awareness

Often times the need or urge to relapse comes from being emotionally blocked. Expressing your emotions is key in keeping the pressure to do something negative at bay. When you are experiencing a rough patch it’s important to take time out to analyze your feelings and find an outlet. Whether it is poetry, art, writing in a journal, listening to music or talking at meetings you must find the time to express your thoughts, no matter how hard it may be for you.


In the real world these coping skills cannot be used at everyone’s convenience. If you feel like you are losing your grip it is important to note this and take a break to ground yourself. Ask for a quick 15 minute break and practice meditation, breathing or other  relaxation techniques. These can help as you grow and learn how to properly access difficult situations and apply coping skills to remedy the situation.

Crisis Plan

When things are spiraling out of control and you can feel yourself on the verge of a relapse this is the time to enact your crisis plan. Contact your support group and inform them you’ve used all your coping skills available and you need more help. Your support group can include friends, family, therapists or even a hotline number.

These coping skills were created to help those in recovery manage their urges but are not a full proof system. Everyone should have a crisis plan prior to leaving treatment. This plan is to ensure even if you’ve begun to relapse you can still get the help necessary.

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