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10 Positive Coping Mechanisms for Addiction Recovery

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 7, 2024

Table of Contents

Positive coping mechanisms for stress and mental health issues can be highly beneficial during addiction recovery.

The relapsing nature of addiction means that effective treatment involves the creation of personalized and positive coping mechanisms, enabling people to deal with stressors without resorting to substance use.

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If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call our recovery specialists for help today at 866.330.9449.

What Are Positive Coping Mechanisms?

Positive coping mechanisms are healthy strategies that people use to deal with stress, emotional pain, or challenging situations in a constructive way. Unlike negative coping mechanisms, which can cause harm or lead to unhealthy habits, positive coping strategies promote well-being, resilience, and recovery.

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List of Positive Coping Mechanisms

Examples of positive coping mechanisms include:

  1. Journaling and practicing gratitude: Writing can be a powerful tool for processing thoughts and emotions. Recording daily experiences in a journal can help people understand their thoughts more. Practicing gratitude by acknowledging the positive things in life can help organize thoughts, manage emotions, and instill a more positive outlook during the transition from addiction to ongoing recovery.
  2. Physical activities: Engaging in regular physical exercise boosts mood and reduces the likelihood of cravings for drugs or alcohol manifesting. Physical activity releases endorphins, helping alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression.
  3. Mindfulness and meditation: Mindfulness and meditation can help people address challenging thoughts and emotions by grounding themselves in the present and acknowledging internal experiences without judgment. A large body of research illustrates the many benefits of these practices for improving self-control, mental clarity, emotional intelligence, and for reducing stress and anxiety.
  4. Strong support network: A robust and receptive sober support network is one of the most effective ongoing coping mechanisms for individuals in recovery. This may include friends, family members, and peer support group members. From attending meetings to seeking advice at challenging times, the strength of a person’s support network can reduce the likelihood of relapse disrupting recovery.
  5. Mastering the art of relaxation: Learning to relax, especially in stressful situations encountered daily, can help people avoid using negative coping mechanisms like substance abuse. Taking a long bath, reading a book, or practicing guided imagery can all reduce stress levels.
  6. Waiting before reacting: Developing the habit of pausing before reacting can help people manage impulses and make more thoughtful decisions. Learning to regulate emotions can help individuals in recovery avoid the temptation of reaching for drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.
  7. Yoga: Yoga is an ancient practice that offers dual benefits for the mind and body. It not only strengthens and revitalizes the body but also promotes emotional peace, helping to alleviate stress and improve concentration without any of the drawbacks of negative coping mechanisms.
  8. Avoiding addiction triggers: To thrive rather than just survive in sober living involves creating a lifestyle that steers clear of previous triggers. Avoiding people, places, or situations that are likely to provoke substance use is one of the most positive coping mechanisms for anyone in recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism.
  9. Keeping busy: Many people in recovery find that boredom or a lack of structure lead to substance use. Pursuing hobbies, learning new skills, or participating in sports can all help people deal with stress in a more positive way, reducing the chance of relapse in ongoing recovery.
  10. Seeking professional help: Seeking professional help is another positive step for anyone looking to achieve and maintain abstinence from drugs or alcohol. Central to treatment is the development of personalized and positive coping mechanisms.

Replacing Substance Use with Positive Coping Mechanisms

The shift from substance use to positive coping mechanisms, like the recovery process, is ongoing. Establishing personal goals and recognizing milestones in recovery can provide direction and a sense of purpose. Celebrating these achievements reinforces positive behavior changes.

Regular sessions with a therapist or counselor can offer continued support in continuing to develop coping skills and address underlying issues during the transition from addiction to sober living.

Spending time with supportive friends, family, and recovery groups creates a network that encourages ongoing abstinence from drugs or alcohol.

Volunteering and giving back to the community can promote a sense of purpose and belonging, filling the void left by substance use with meaningful engagement.

Engaging in mindfulness helps anchor people in the present moment, reducing the impulse to turn to substance use as an escape mechanism. Techniques like mindful breathing and meditation can be powerful tools for improving emotional regulation and minimizing negative coping techniques.

Regular participation in physical activities, from structured exercise routines to leisurely walks, supports physical health and mental well-being by reducing stress and improving mood.

Creative expression through art, music, writing, or dance provides a constructive way for people to process emotions and experiences.

Mastering stress-reduction strategies, such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation, equips individuals with the tools to manage stress without resorting to substance use.

Adopting these positive coping mechanisms can significantly impact the recovery journey and reduce the chances of relapse.

What to Do if You’re Using Drugs & Alcohol to Cope

Many people use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to self-medicate a range of mental health issues and life stressors. If you feel that substance use is disrupting your life, engaging with evidence-based treatment could help you replace these negative coping mechanisms, while at the same time addressing the physical and psychological side of addiction, helping promote sustained sober living.

Since the enactment of ACA (Affordable Care Act), treatment for drug and alcohol addiction is typically covered by insurance.

Click here to use our free & fast insurance coverage check for addiction treatment.

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Get Treatment for Drug & Alcohol Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

At Renaissance Recovery, we specialize in treating drug and alcohol addictions in an outpatient setting at our luxury facility in Huntington Beach, California.

After detoxing from addictive substances, you can engage with weekday therapy sessions at Renaissance while maintaining your everyday commitments. Not only is outpatient treatment more flexible and affordable than inpatient rehab, but you’ll also get a chance to practice the positive coping mechanisms you learn in real-world situations.

All of our addiction treatment programs account for the unique aspect of all substance use disorders by offering highly targeted interventions that include:

Call Renaissance at 866.330.9449 and begin your recovery from addiction in Southern California.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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