Addiction recovery is an extremely sensitive process; progress can be undone in a matter of minutes. If a person relapses, they can feel like all the work they’ve put into their recovery has been foiled. Though this isn’t true, it’s understandable that recovering addicts feel as though they have failed when they relapse. However, what they may not realize is that relapse is a part of the recovery process. Because we are human, we sometimes fall short because we are not perfect. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t relapse or even develop an addiction in the first place. But, to better understand relapse after detox or recovery, we need to take a look as to why this happens. Today, we’re going to talk about stress and anxiety: the recovery killers. 

How Does Stress and Anxiety Affect Recovery?

Most of us struggle with some sense of anxiety or stress. Whether it be those butterflies you get in your stomach before doing a presentation or that fear you get when the boss calls you into the office, we all experience anxiety or stress. However, some people experience these things in much stronger waves than normal. There are people who live in constant fear and constantly deal with seemingly stressful situations. Did you know that anxiety/stress disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States? Over 40 million Americans, or 18.1% of the entire U.S. population, struggle with this kind of mental illness. Even more alarming is the fact that statistically, only 36% of these in individuals seek help for their condition.

Prolonged exposure to stress and anxiety can lead to some serious health issues. If left unchecked, this sort of mental health issue can lead to depression and even suicidal tendencies. If a person has a constant feeling of overwhelming anxiety, they will find ways to cope with it. More often than not, they find extremely unhealthy ways of coping. Substance abuse is one common way for these individuals to cope with stress and anxiety. People who develop this kind of unhealthy coping mechanism for stress lead themselves down a dark path to addiction. When they use substance abuse as a coping mechanism, this kind of behavior can be hard to rid oneself of. If an addict decides to live a life in sobriety, they face the challenge of dealing with stress without substances. If they are unable to develop strong, healthy coping strategies for dealing with stress, they will surely fall right back into their addictive habits. So, how can a person properly deal with stress during recovery without falling victim to relapse and substance abuse?

New Ways of Coping

Stress and anxiety are things that every recovering addict has to deal with. Not only do they have to learn to live a life without substance abuse, but they also need to learn how to live it without turning back. This can be difficult to do since most addicts use drugs and alcohol as a way to feel happy. When addicts feel stressed out, they tend to fall back on drug or alcohol abuse to numb their anxiety and feel happy. Living life in sobriety means finding healthier ways of being happy. We’ve laid out a list of some positive, healthy habits that every addict should adopt if they want to better cope with stress and prevent relapse.

Method #1 – Take Mental Breaks: This is a vital step in the recovery process. We live in a society that is fast-paced and hectic, it can be hard to find some serenity among the organized chaos. Something we often forget to do is take a break and take some time for ourselves. Taking mental breaks and setting aside some time for self-care is a great way to start developing healthy habits in life. If a recovering addict does not take time for mental breaks, they could easily give in to their mental desires to use again. These breaks can help a person get into a positive frame of mind; bringing some peace to their new lifestyle change.

Method #2 – Exercise: One of the healthiest habits for a former addict, and anyone for that matter, to take up is regular exercise. This can be weight lifting, running, yoga, cycling, swimming, and pretty much anything that gets the blood flowing and the body moving. Yes, this is not news to most of us, but let us explain further why this sort of activity is essential for former addicts. Regular exercise can help eliminate boredom, which could cause someone to relapse or develop other unhealthy habits. It can also help a person destress through physical exertion. Lastly, exercise can make a person feel happy because of the release of dopamine. During a workout, dopamine is released in the brain which lets the body know what you are currently doing is good for it.

Method #3 – Pick Up New Hobbies: As we mentioned previously, boredom is something that can greatly affect a person’s ability to stay sober. If a recovering addict starts to feel bored, they could be tempted to use substances again so as to not feel so stuck in boredom. We encourage any recovering addict to pick up new hobbies to fill up their free time. There is a wide range of hobbies a person can pick up to fill in their free time. Start going on hikes, spend more time with friends, join a club sports team, start making art, journal your thoughts/feelings/emotions, start reading, there is so much you can do!

Method #4 – Attend Therapy: Attending therapy is not always an easy thing to do. We as humans can have a hard time asking for help, especially since we live in a society that is more “do it yourself” than “do it together”. People have a hard time admitting they need help, but we’re here to tell you it’s okay to ask for help. Seeing a therapist and regularly attending counseling sessions can help a recovering addict vent out any feelings they have, giving them an outlet to voice their struggles. If they keep these feelings bottled up, they’re bound to break out one way or another and it likely won’t be very pretty.

There are countless ways to deal with stress and anxiety during recovery, it’s up to the recovering addict to find what ways work for them. We encourage anyone going through recovery to use these methods in dealing with stress and anxiety. Using methods like these can help a person fight off the lingering desire to use substances.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center® holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.