All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

10 Ways to Cope Without Drugs

coping without substances

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

Table of Contents

Negative emotions and substance use are often tightly intertwined. Alcohol, in particular, occupies a unique role in American culture as an acceptable form of recklessness. It’s not uncommon for many people to start a lifelong relationship with stress by turning to drinking or drug use to cope with bad news or quell negative feelings. As a person in recovery, it’s important to grow away from the “screw it; I’ll just get drunk” mentality and discover alternative forms of emotional outlets. Here are ten approaches you can use to begin finding effective tools to cope with destructive thoughts:
Searching for help with drug and/or alcohol addiction? Call us now at (800) 643-2108.

1. Try to See Yourself From a Bird’s-Eye View

In moments of stress, try to look at the situation objectively and visualize how the version of you that you want to be would act in this situation. This approach is similar to methods used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It can be useful for helping you to step outside of the destructive emotions you’re experiencing at the moment and make decisions from a place of stability and cognizance of your future.

2. Work It Off

Running, swimming, working out–however you choose to get your blood pumping, exercise can be a rapid method of dissolving negative feelings. Aggressive physical activity can help you work through destructive emotions positively, making you feel as though you’re acknowledging them and releasing them without harming your long-term wellbeing. Plus, you’ll get into better shape!

3. Plan Your Future

If you’re in a truly trying circumstance, plan to see what you can do to avoid being in the same position again. You can’t control everything, but you can control your actions. Setting goals or rules for your future can help you feel in control and set a course for different outcomes later on.

4. Reach Out to Your Support System

Sometimes all it takes is sharing your problems with somebody you trust to gain a fresh perspective and smooth the sharp edges of a difficult situation. Whether it’s your friends, family, or peers in sobriety, don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s something you need to get off your chest.

5. Indulge Safely

Just because you aren’t going to drink or use substances doesn’t mean you can’t alleviate stress or other negative emotions by indulging (safely) in other things you enjoy but might not usually allow yourself to have. Suppose you ever crave unhealthy foods, sleep in later than you should, or spend all day engaged in a pleasurable but unproductive hobby. In that case, it’s still a better choice to allow yourself to partake in any of those than it is to allow yourself to drink or use.

6. Get a Change of Scenery

If you’re in a bad mood and can’t seem to make headway, try taking a long walk or a drive. Placing yourself in a new environment can help your mind reset and feel some distance from your problems, which may allow you to consider new perspectives for solving them. It can also let you vent your frustrations without affecting the people around you back home or damaging your living space.

7. Express Yourself

Like exercise for the mind, you can harness the power of a negative emotional state to create art. Playing an instrument, composing a song, writing a poem or story, creating a painting or drawing, or any other form of self-expression can be a healthy outlet that allows you to channel your feelings constructively. Your creation can embody all the darkness or anger inside you without harming your well-being or future. You may even find you enjoy creating something.

8. Meditate

Meditating gives you a chance to clear your mind and approach your situation anew in the heat of a bad mood. You can practice different meditation and mindfulness, so do some research when you’re already in a stable place and try a few methods to find one that works for you.

9. Do Something Completely Different

Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do for yourself is surprised your brain from an emotional rut. This is similar to the bird’s-eye approach, only reversed: think of what you’d normally do in this situation, then do the opposite. Most of our reactions are knee-jerk emotional responses built up out of habits; try building some new ones.

10. Reach Out to Professional Help

If these methods aren’t working to help you overcome negative emotions, reach out to professional support. Whether you receive guidance from your sponsor, healthcare professionals, or therapist, options are available to you for moments of extreme challenge that you don’t want to handle alone.

Need Help With Addiction?

It’s crucial to understand that recovery is a process with ups and downs, just like the rest of your life. No matter how well-prepared or confident you are in your support system, in the healthy habits you’ve gained, and in the outlets you’ve established, there may come the day when none of those things seem to be enough to keep the destructive urges at bay.

Don’t let your recovery wither on the vine when that day comes. You haven’t tried everything. No matter where you are in your progress, there is effective help available to you.

Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, provides personalized support for your unique circumstances to help you get back on your feet and live the life you deserve.

From coping methods to continued care, you no longer have to struggle with substance use or mental illness alone. Call (800) 643-2108 to learn more.

Let us help you start your journey to recovery.

Get compassionate evidence- based and trauma focused substance abuse treatment in Arizona.

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estil wallace founder ceo

Estil Wallace

Founder/CEO of Cornerstone Healing Center

lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Clinical Reviewer, Clinical Director

Lionel, a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC) with over 4 years at Cornerstone. Passionate about helping those with addiction, he has trained as an EMDR therapist  adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues of addiction, providing an empathetic approach to addiction.

Articles written prior to August 2023 were also clinically reviewed by Karen Williams, LPC 

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