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Life naturally brings periods of tension, anxiety, or uncertainty. Stress can stem from our workplace, our family life, financial insecurity, and other situations that feel difficult to manage. When these discomforts arise, we need to use coping mechanisms to relieve ourselves of the negative feelings that accompany them. Before we begin our recovery, our addictions are typically our default coping methods. Harmful behavior and drug use are a learned practice that we have employed in the past to calm down or avoid daily hardships. Occasionally, these behaviors are encouraged within our workplaces or families. Coworkers drink or use drugs together to relieve the stress of a tough day, week, or month. Families may have traditions to drink together, as a form of bonding. While some people can drink or use drugs in a normal way,  without the inability to stop, we cannot overcome our obsession. A happy hour with fellow employees on a Friday evening can become our personal relief every weekday. An argument with our family can turn into a weeklong binge. As addicts, we do not cope with stress in the same way as most others do. For many of us, stressful situations only fuel the flames of our addiction and make us believe our drinking or drug use is justified. 


Where Does This Behavior Come From?

Problematic coping mechanisms are a root issue for many addicts and alcoholics. Many of our drinking and drug use began due to our inability to manage our lives, even from a young age. Maybe we have experienced trauma in our past or our childhood, we felt unworthy, or unloved from a young age, or never truly believed that we were accepted by our peers. Due to this, we often turn to unhealthy ways of dealing with the negativity that weighed heavily on us. Most of us have exalted and even tried to recreate our first time drinking or experience with a particular drug. This experience is linked with freedom from all of our discomforts. Perhaps we were more social and felt more liked by others or even loved. Perhaps we became fearless and accomplished a task we were previously unwilling to face, or a situation that once felt unlivable. Maybe we felt like our trauma and anxiety were falling away and we could be present in the moment. Ultimately, we finally felt comfortable in our own skin or found a sense of safety. From that moment forward, we associate drinking or our drug of choice with reconnecting to these positive feelings once again. This becomes harder and harder to accomplish. We use these unhealthy coping mechanisms to repeatedly fill a void and eventually, it stops working. We need more alcohol or more drugs to reach a level of peace. We must drink or use more constantly, because we want to avoid the pain and negativity more often, potentially every day. When we do encounter stress at work or at home, we use this learned behavior to attempt to solve our problems. These solutions are temporary and never truly nullify the discomfort and anguish that we are desperate to escape. 


Learning New Behavior

Stress is going to be a part of our lives, regardless of our addiction or sobriety. In recovery, we learn healthy ways to handle the stress, instead of drinking or falling back into our addiction. As we embark on the journey to recovery and attain consistent freedom from mind-altering substances, we regain a sense of clarity. Attending meetings and creating a support system gives us helping hands, who are available and willing to help us withstand difficult times. When there is pressure at work or at home, we pause and call a friend or our sponsor. Recovery connects us to others who understand what we are going through and who can navigate alongside us towards positive solutions. We no longer need to rely on alcohol or drugs to briefly distract us from our discomfort. Together, with our fellows and sponsors, with our prayer and meditation, we can face our struggles, find a resolution, and more satisfying relief. 


One Day At A Time

Realizing that our addictions were merely a quick fix for our problems, and increased our pain, we come to believe that there must be better ways to handle them. Reaching out for help takes practice. Out of habit and out of our disease, we instinctively want to fall back on negative coping behaviors. Changing our perspective of stress is a large part of recovery. Similar to our addiction, we must face our problems one day at a time. Luckily, we are not alone. When you encounter a bad day at work, or anxiety in your home life, or simply a negative experience, take a moment and reach out to someone from a meeting, or your sponsor. In early sobriety, this can be an unfamiliar task. Begin by calling one person. Take their suggestions. Meditate for a few minutes, or step away to pray. Find someone to accompany you to a meeting that day. You have access to a multitude of others who have experienced what you are going through, some of their struggles have even been worse than yours. They have gotten through it. Allow them to show you how they dealt with their stress using the tools they received in recovery, and you will learn healthy behaviors to approach your own stress. Eventually, these tools will become your first instinct, and the thought of reaching for a drink or a drug will not be a representation of relief. With practice, you will realize how many healthy coping mechanisms you have access to and will strengthen your recovery. One day, someone will reach out to you for advice and support in the same way, and you will be able to guide them. Practicing these healthy techniques will prepare you to be the support that another addict or alcoholic needs. Helping another, being of service, and finding growth in ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can receive and reciprocate in our recovery. The feeling we get from this is true freedom and true relief. 


The Guest House Ocala staff is trained and excited to help you begin your journey into recovery You are worthy of a healthy and fulfilling life. Our program is designed to help you find relief and freedom, and healthy ways to cope when life becomes stressful. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.