We strive to develop positive coping skills in recovery because they help us deal with urges, cravings, and our triggers to use.  Remember, coping skills can be healthy or unhealthy – and are the sum total of ways that we deal with stress, trauma, and other problems we face.

In our addictions, we got into habits of using negative coping skills to deal with life: in fact, drinking and drugging was our “go-to” coping mechanism. Conflict at work? Take a pill. Wife has custody of the kids this week? Get an 8-ball. Bills piling up? Head to the bar. Boyfriend won’t talk to me? Get trashed.

These negative coping skills became automatic. Other examples of negative coping skills:  manipulation, lying, isolation, avoidance, aggressiveness/anger/violence. Maybe we became  passive-aggressive, became people-pleasers, or acted out.

How then to unlearn and change? The first step is to recognize and call-out our old behaviors. This, as the Big Book states, requires “rigorous self-honesty.” Sorry, you may wish for this, but there is no “easier, softer way.” It takes hard work and practice to identify, replace and change our old ways of thinking. But isn’t that what you signed up for in recovery? Isn’t that what you really want? Because our old ways just don’t cut it any more. And haven’t for quite some time. Healthy coping skills are the foundation of a new way of life.

Take a look at the photo of a recent group we did. What would you add to the list? How many positive and negative coping skills can you identify with?