Preventing Addiction Relapse with Coping Skills


Updated on 2/3/2023

Leaving your comfort zone for the unknown is often intimidating. You don’t know what to expect or how you will react to different situations. Relapse is possible at any stage of recovery, so it’s important to learn coping skills early on and to use them throughout your recovery journey.

Preventing Addiction Relapse

When you enter treatment, you are learning to identify your triggers, recognize unhealthy habits or discover how to cope with mental health issues. After you leave active treatment, you can bolster your sobriety by attending aftercare groups, 12-Step meetings and ask for help when needed. Addiction treatment is like any other effort to change your lifestyle. There are times when you fall back into old habits because they are comfortable. If you do make a mistake and fall into old patterns, you have relapsed. Relapse is when you begin to use a substance again after being sober for a period of time. Making a mistake is normal and you can go back to treatment to restart your sobriety. Whether you make a mistake or revisit old habits, you can benefit from healthy coping skills.

Coping Skills for Navigating Sobriety

Coping skills are the methods you learned to address uncomfortable or stressful situations that can cause you to relapse. Often these skills help a person face the circumstances, assess the appropriate response and respond in a healthy manner. When you use your coping skills, you are employing healthy thoughts and behaviors to guide you through internal and external stress-inducing circumstances. 

While in treatment, you learn various life and self-management skills. Before you leave treatment, review them with your therapist. The time you spend with your therapist is also the time to discuss any worries or fears about returning to your routine or relapsing. You can revise your goals and put in place a system to help you feel less stressed, anxious or depressed. 

Proactive vs. Reactive Coping

The skills are often stable responses or habits that can become consistent. There are generally two forms of coping skills:

  • Reactive coping: This is how you react after a situation arises. Reactive coping is used in environments that can change or are fluid.
  • Proactive coping: This form of coping occurs when you plan to reduce future stress. When you use proactive coping skills, you are in situations that are structured; therefore, more comfortable to predict how to react to an event.

Identifying Warning Signs

Coping skills are important tools for your recovery in every level of care and recovery stage but especially when you leave treatment. Now that you are out in the world experiencing stressful or emotionally charged situations, you can work on using your skills. When you face a problem that heightens your sense of anger, confusion, anxiety or fear, stop, think and process before you react. You know your coping tools. As you use them, they become a habit. Many of the skills you learned are cognitive-based. While you were in group and individual therapy sessions, you worked on skills like: 

  • Learning the early warning signs of an emotion such as anger
  • Understanding and coming to terms with the consequences of your anger
  • Spotting lapses in your thought process and creating sensible options to counter any negative thoughts
  • Practicing your coping skills with others
  • Finding ways to pause initial responses and replace them with the skills you learned

Integrating Stress Reduction Techniques

For some, integrating stress reduction techniques into their lives helps reduce anxiety, relapse or potential conflict:

  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Art therapy
  • Yoga

Substance addiction treatment teaches you how to integrate relapse prevention skills into every stage of your recovery journey. Coping skills will help you maintain your sobriety as you learn how to self-manage your emotions, reactions and responses. When you finish your addiction treatment, you can feel anxiety about living in the real world. Casa Palmera is here to support you every step of the way, whether that be while you’re in treatment or if you are looking for support through 12-step meetings. We believe in your recovery journey. Call us today to learn more, including how our weekly Continuing Care Group could be a beneficial addition to your ongoing sobriety work.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.