Coping Skills: Addictions

Coping skills are one part of the puzzle that is sobriety. With the right knowledge and skills, you will be better prepared to face life's challenges without falling back into their old habits.

The Coping Skills: Addictions worksheet organizes skills into five major categories: Social support, diversions, building new habits, prevention, and managing emotions. Each section provides a summary of the skill, and how it can be used to reduce the risk of relapse.

Social Support

Few things are as powerful as having a supportive person in your corner. Just knowing that friends, family, or even a fellow group member or sponsor are pulling for you can make all the difference.

Daily Social Support

There's more to social support than having someone to call during moments of crisis. People who have strong relationships are more resilient when facing life's obstacles, and more likely to beat addiction. Make a point to strengthen your relationships, attend support groups, and build new friendships.

Crisis Social Support

When in crisis, it's helpful to have a person you can count on for support-someone who you can call, who will help to talk you through the situation. Make a list of people who you can contact during these situations, and how you can reach them.


Cravings are brutal. They grow and grow, gnawing at your willpower, demanding that you relapse. In the middle of a craving, it might feel as if there's no escape but to use. But then, if you resist, the craving starts to fade. Eventually, it disappears. Most cravings end within one hour of starting.

The goal of diversions is to buy yourself time during a craving. If you can distract yourself for just one hour, you will have a much better change of avoiding relapse. Come up with a list of activities you genuinely enjoy that will keep you at a distance from your temptation.

Building New Habits

Most addictions require a lot of time. Thinking about, acquiring, and indulging an addiction can fill most of a day. When you quit, one of your greatest new resources is time. However, if your newfound time isn't filled with healthy activities, it will pose a risk for falling back into old habits.

Building new habits is different then diversion because of the focus on long-term or permanent life changes. This isn't about riding out a craving-this is about building a better life for yourself.

Foster New Relationships

  • Join a casual sports league.

  • Attend a local meetup for one of you interests or hobbies.

  • Get involved in your community by volunteering or supporting a cause you care about.

Develop New Professional Skills

  • Return to school to pursue a subject you are interested in.

  • Find a full-time job, or seek a new career that you enjoy.

  • Build new skills on your own using free online resources, or practice your existing skills.

Refocus on Existing Relationships

  • Build a routine around socializing with friends and family. For example, have Sunday dinners with family, and evening walks with a friend.

  • Be proactive-don't wait for others to reach out to you.

  • Say "yes" to every social invitation that will not put you at risk of relapse.


Avoid Triggers/Risky Situations

Don't wait until you're in a bad situation to figure out how to escape it. Instead, avoid those situations altogether. Create a list of the people, places, and things that will likely lead to relapse, and come up with a plan to avoid them in the future. Sometimes this is as simple as taking a different route home from work, and other times it might mean a significant lifestyle change.

Healthy Lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle will make you more resilient when faced with obstacles. Many unhealthy habits, such as insufficient sleep and exercise, have been closely linked to many forms of mental illness. Focus on creating a routine that accounts for the following aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

Managing Emotions/ Relaxation

Most addictions serve as an escape from uncomfortable emotions such as stress, anxiety, and anger. When the cutch of addiction is taken away, you may need to re-learn how to manage your emotions. If you don't learn how to relax, tension will build and build, until it leads to relapse. These techniques, when practiced regularly, will help you manage your emotions in a healthy way.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is a simple technique that's excellent for managing emotions. Sit comfortably and place one hand on your abdomen. Breath in deeply enough that your hand begins to rise and fall. Imagine you are trying to completely fill you lungs with air. Time the inhalation (4s), pause (4s), and exhalation (6s) during every breath. practice for 3 to 5 minutes at a time.


Writing about personal experiences gives your brain the opportunity to process information and organize it into manageable chunks. Some of the many benefits of journaling include improved mental well being, and the reduction of uncomfortable emotions. As you journal, be sure to describe your feelings alongside the facts of your experiences.

Try these prompts:

  • Daily Log: Jot down a few notes about each day.

  • Letter: Write a letter to someone with whom you would like to tell something. Remember to describe your feelings.

  • Gratitude: Describe three good things from your day, no matter how minor they seem.


Your brain has the power to turn thoughts into real emotions, and physical responses. Think about it: Your mouth waters at the thought of your favorite food, and a happy memory can make you laugh. With the imagery technique, you will use this power to your advantage.

Take a moment to think of a relaxing location or situation. This could be a memory, or something entirely made up. Maybe you're on a warm beach, alone at the top of a mountain, or at dinner with close friends. next, imagine this scene though each of your senses. Don't just think about each detail for a second an move on - really imagine them. What do you see? What sounds do you hear? What do you feel? What smells are around you?

Use imagery for about 5 minutes when you need a quick escape.

1. How can you use daily and crisis social support to help you cope and maintain your sobriety?

2. What kinds of diversions do/can you use to avoid cravings of drugs and alcohol?

3. Name three habits you can use as a long term change to staying sober during recovery.

4. Name the people, places, and/or things that will likely lead you to relapse.

5. What coping skills can you utilize to maintaining a healthy lifestyle in your recovery?

6. What techniques can you use to manage your emotions?

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©2019 by Christopher Thompson.