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Learning to Deal with Life in Recovery

In order to truly recover from addiction, a person must begin to change their thought process when it comes to dealing with life, which is what you’ll learn by coming to treatment.

Struggling with Addiction? Get Help Now

There’s a common misconception that addiction is solely about a person’s drug and alcohol abuse. In reality, alcohol and drugs are merely a symptom of the overall problem. If all it took was eliminating drugs or alcohol from a person’s life to cure addiction, then everyone would stay sober after going through a detox program.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says recovery is considered a process of change in which people improve their health and wellness and live self-directed lives.[2] It takes time to make those changes. It’s critical to be patient with yourself.

Changing Your Thought Patterns

Learning how to live in recovery starts by changing unhealthy thought patterns. Unfortunately, these are very common.

In a poll of 2,000 adults, 37% reported that they felt that they were their own worst enemy. Another 34% felt their thoughts stopped them from achieving their goals.[3]

People with addiction may have similar or stronger negative thoughts. While you were struggling with addiction, you may have dealt with the following types of thinking.

Black & White Thinking

All-or-nothing thinking, also called black-and-white thinking, is a common part of the addiction recovery process. Examples of this type of thinking include the following:

  • Labeling: You might tell yourself, “I’m an addict, so I will always be powerless.” Know that addiction is a disease, not a character flaw. You can change yourself.
  • Perfectionism: You might tell yourself, “I either do everything just right, or I am worth nothing at all.” Know that you might have drug cravings or even relapse with a slip. There’s always the potential for progress.
  • Blaming: You might tell yourself, “Other people make me drink, so I am not responsible for my actions.” Taking responsibility is an important part of your recovery.


Catastrophizing involves fixating on the worst possible thing that might happen as the result of a common decision. Examples of this type of thinking include the following:

  • Failures: You might tell yourself, “If I relapse, I am a worthless human being that no one will love.” The reality is that relapse could be part of the process, and it doesn’t define your value as a human.
  • Futures: You might tell yourself, “My life is effectively over because I will never quit.” If you believe your relapse is inevitable, you might never quit for good.
  • Health: You might tell yourself, “I’ve used drugs for so long that my health will never recover.” This type of thinking can also lead right back into relapse.

Dealing With Your Past

A person’s past is one of the primary causes of their addictions, and each person has a different story. Many of the behaviors that stick with a person throughout their life are learned from a very young age.

For example, lying is something that many people do in their active addiction, and research suggests we get better with practice. For example, in a study of 42 people, some were trained to lie often, and others were encouraged not to lie at all. The researchers found that lying was easier for those participants who did it most often during the study.[5]

Trauma is another reason a person’s addiction is being fueled, and it’s difficult for most people to let go of their past. In an online survey of 4,025 people, researchers found a strong link between trauma and addiction. For example, among those exposed to sexual assault, the risk of alcohol use disorder was 15.4%.[4]

The problem is that holding onto one’s past is what’s keeping them sick, so it’s important to learn how to deal with these issues in a much healthier way.

Managing Stress

Stress is something that every person has to deal with, but those who struggle with addiction manage their stress in a way that only increases their stress levels. The insanity of addiction is that the cure (trying to relieve/cure the pain/stress) becomes another disease.

After long periods of drug use, your stress reactions can change. Researchers say that some drugs can change your nervous system, increasing your physical reaction to stressful situations.[1] You feel the discomfort more acutely, and your cravings for drugs rise.

These physical reactions are normal and natural. Knowing they exist matters. Knowing how to handle them is even more important.

Situations that could increase your stress include the following:

  • Moving to a new home
  • Divorce or the end of a relationship
  • Job loss or promotion
  • Conflict with friends or partners

If you’re dealing with stress, or you know that a stressful situation is coming, reconnect with your treatment team. Call your counselor or therapist and schedule extra sessions. Go to all of your meetings, and connect with your sponsor.

Learning to Deal With Life on Life’s Terms

The primary purpose of treatment is to teach people how to manage life on life’s terms without having to turn to a drink or drug. Treatment is meant to provide people with a solid foundation of recovery and provide each person with tools to use when they transition back into the world. 

It’s misleading to tell anyone that once they go through treatment all of their problems would go away. On a day-to-day basis, none of us know what the future holds for us. Life happens when it wants to, so it’s of the utmost importance to learn how to cope with both the good and the bad while in recovery.

What Can You Do to Improve Your Coping Skills?

Life will always come with challenges. After you quit using drugs and alcohol, you can’t lean on these substances when things get rough. You’ll need to develop new ways to handle the difficulties that might come your way.

These options might help:

  • Develop a hobby. Tasks like knitting or painting could keep your mind and hands busy when you’re feeling stressed or under pressure. You can also find a community of people who share your passion.
  • Try exercise. Find a physical activity that you enjoy, such as running, yoga, or weightlifting. You might develop an appreciation for what your body can do.
  • Build a community. Develop a list of friends and family you can call when you’re feeling stressed or under pressure.
  • Go to meetings. Join a community of others in sobriety. You may pick up new tools you can use when you’re tempted to relapse.

How We Can Help

Boca Recovery Center is here to provide you with the tools you need to live an incredible life without having to pick up a drink or drug. While life is still going to happen when you discharge from treatment, you’ll see that you have a new perspective on situations. 

Situations that may have caused an enormous amount of anxiety, depression or fear will be manageable by the time you leave treatment. These are incredible things you’ll learn to do when you come to get help for your addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Updated May 10, 2024
  1. Wemm S, Sinha R. Drug-induced stress responses and addiction risk and relapse. Neurobiology of Stress. 2019;10:100148.
  2. About recovery. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed April 12, 2024.
  3. Average person has up to 11 negative thoughts each day. StudyFinds. Published January 3, 2024. Accessed April 12, 2024.
  4. Levin Y, Bar-Or R, Forner R, et al. The association between type of trauma, level of exposure, and addiction. Addictive Behaviors. 2021;118:106889.
  5. Bockstaele B, Verschuere B, Moens T, et al. Learning to lie: Effects of practice on the cognitive cost of lying. Frontiers in Psychology. 2012;3.
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