Addiction as a Coping Mechanism

Addiction as a Coping Mechanism
Category: recovery

No one begins to use drugs or alcohol with the goal of becoming addicted. In reality, substance use disorders form for countless reasons. Many people find themselves reliant on drinking or drug use as a way to alleviate stress, relax after a long day, or let loose on the weekends. Today, we’ll examine the formation of addiction as a coping mechanism.

Developing an Unhealthy Coping Mechanism

Childhood is the time when we are supposed to learn to deal with life’s ups and downs. However, if our parents don’t model appropriate behavior or teach us to self-soothe, we may enter adulthood without the proper tools for stress relief. People in this position struggle to handle day-to-day difficulties, changes to plans, and major life events. They may also find it hard to form healthy relationships and personal independence, instead fostering codependency. For many people, this is when problematic substance use begins.

A coping mechanism is something that helps you to get through tough times. This may include rough patches in your relationship, tight deadlines at work, or the loss of a loved one. These struggles can also be related to untreated mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.

Addiction can begin as an attempt to…

  • “Take the edge off”
  • Catalyze intimacy
  • Avoid major issues
  • Silence anxious thoughts
  • Get a quick rush
  • Keep from addressing mental illness
  • Spend time with people who use substances
  • Get to sleep
  • Provide the courage needed for social interaction

The Dangers of Addiction as a Coping Mechanism

While it may seem reasonable to have a glass of red wine at dinner or a glass of scotch before bed, ongoing substance use can create an array of physical, mental, and financial issues.

Unresolved Issues

If you turn to drugs and alcohol instead of getting to the root of your problems, nothing will get solved. In fact, you’ll probably have more issues than you did in the first place.

Relationship Problems

Addiction causes major rifts between spouses, parents, children, friends, and coworkers. It impacts every aspect of your life. If you cope by drinking or using drugs, you’ll alienate the people who want to help you.

Reckless Behavior

When people are under the influence, they behave in ways that may be totally out of character. Impulsive, dangerous behaviors can have lifelong consequences.

Worsened Health

Substance use negatively affects your health. For example, methamphetamine can cause serious dental problems, opioids impact the body’s pain receptors, and inhalants can destroy nerve cells in the brain. Those with a substance use disorder are at higher risk for stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, lung disease, and other conditions.

Financial Strain

Addiction is expensive, especially if you’ve become dependent on cocaine or designer drugs. In time, substance use can place you and your family in serious financial trouble.  

Finding Healthier Ways to Cope

Fortunately, our coping skills aren’t set in stone. It’s easy to learn new ways of handling situations, especially if you seek professional help. Here are a few positive coping mechanisms to practice when you face life’s challenges.

Clear Your Head

Not everything needs an immediate response! If you’re in an emotionally charged situation, resist the urge to react in the moment. Instead, breathe deeply, clear your mind, and choose to address the situation when you have calmed down.

Get Moving

Exercise releases endorphins, which provide an all-natural mood boost. If you’re feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious, take thirty minutes to go for a jog, follow a workout video, or practice yoga. You may be surprised by how much better it makes you feel.

Write It Out

Many people with poor coping mechanisms practice avoidance. They don’t understand their feelings and may even struggle to identify them. Writing down the day’s events – and how you feel about them – can help you to process what’s going on in a constructive way.

Participate in 12-Step Meetings

If you want to overcome an addiction, the best thing to do is seek support. Find and participate in local AA or NA meetings in your area. This will help you to find people in your community who are facing the same things that you are – all without the use of drugs or alcohol.

Ask for Help

Professional help can also be the answer for those looking to learn better coping mechanisms. Reaching out to a recovery center like HVRC can serve as a stepping stone to therapy, life skills training, and pain management services.

Find Hope and Healing at HVRC

Even if you’ve always used alcohol or drugs to deal with obstacles, there is always an opportunity to make better choices. HVRC specializes in the treatment of unique populations, including first responders, military personnel, and older adults. In our programs, we offer care that is tailored to your needs. We help you to become the person you’ve always dreamed of being. To learn more, contact our admissions team.