Addiction is a profound and complicated condition, one that is not always easy to understand. It is not uncommon for a person with an alcohol or drug addiction to find themselves wondering why. Why is this happening? Why do I keep turning to these substances when I know the damage they are causing? Why can’t I stop?
For some people, substances become a tool to cope with stress. You could be dealing with stress at home or work, stress from intense emotions or physical pain, or stress associated with a mental health disorder. Using substances seems to give your body and brain a bit of a break. Drugs and alcohol trigger the pleasure center in the mind, which helps to release feel-good hormones. Those bad feelings and intense worries seem to fade away, at least for a bit of time, when you use substances. The more you use substances to relieve stress, the more you risk becoming dependent on them.
What Are Coping Mechanisms?
A coping mechanism is a type of habit a person creates as a way to deal with stress. It can be healthy or unhealthy. Exercise, for example, can be a healthy coping mechanism unless it, too, becomes a way to avoid the problem rather than face it. In this way, even “good” coping mechanisms can become addictive if used for long-term escape and avoidance.
Substance use is not a healthy coping mechanism. It doesn’t help to protect you, nor does it allow you any real reprieve. Over time, substance use affects the brain, leading to additional complications and compromises to your physical and mental health.
Are You Using Substances to Cope?
It’s not always easy to recognize your own substance use patterns, but here are a few signs that you’re relying on substances as a coping mechanism:
- You feel the need to have a drink after work because the day is long and hard. You use alcohol to cope with work-related stress.
Sometimes you get so angry at a person in your life who does not understand you that you use substances in spite of their objections and concerns.
- It’s become necessary to use alcohol to calm your nerves before you have to work with other people or deal with a relationship.
- You use substances to help you to forget what happened in the past, and you often feel desperate to use something when you start having memories.
- Each day is filled with pain and emotional upheaval, and the only way you know to get through it is to use a numbing solution, like pain medications.
These are all very worrisome situations. Over time, using drugs or alcohol will lead to physical complications while serving only to worsen your health.
Finding Alternative, Healthy Coping Mechanisms
One of the tools you may learn in drug and alcohol addiction treatment is how to develop better ways to deal with intense and often negative situations. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, try one of these alternative coping mechanisms.
- Mindfulness meditation: Focusing your mind and bringing your full attention on the reality of the moment can help you clear away the negative thoughts and feelings you have. Learn how to meditate like this to gain more control over your circumstances.
- Exercise: Going for a run burns off the stress hormone moving through your body, providing you with relief from anxiety and frustration. Exercise in any way that you enjoy the most.
- Journal: Some people need to stop, recognize what they are fighting against, and work through it. Journaling is one way to do this. It allows you to create a safe place to overcome the mental health challenges you’re facing.
- Volunteering: As overwhelmed and stressed as you are, volunteering may seem out of place, but it could be exactly what you need. It allows you to move all the focus off of yourself to another area where you’re doing something good.
- Solve the problem: When possible, the best way to handle a difficult situation is to resolve it. Work with a therapist if needed to assess the underlying problem and work toward a solution.
Recognize When You Need Help
If your substance use has become an addiction and you are unable to stop using on your own, reach out for help. Our team at English Mountain Recovery in Tennessee can help you.
Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs. No matter why you are using substances, we can help you to rebuild your future.