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Coping Tools That Work for My Recovery

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I know how helpful it is for me to hear from other folks in recovery about what works and doesn’t work for them, so I like to offer up my own experiences. I’ve shared before about how I incorporate naltrexone into my recovery from alcohol use disorder, but today I want to focus on a less clinical aspect: the coping tools that work best for me.

Moving my body is important

Some people will call this “exercise,” which is all well and good for those who like to exercise. Unfortunately for me, I HATE exercise. I don’t do running, and nothing sounds less fun than “going to the gym.” I can get behind the idea of just “moving my body,” however. Sometimes what I’m doing to move my body happens to be something that can be traditionally considered exercise, like going on a bike ride. Other times it’s something a little less traditional, like having a dance party in my bedroom.

I think it’s important to recognize that moving our bodies is about more than just living longer or trying to achieve a certain body shape. Vigorous body movement can also cause our bodies to release endorphins, one of our natural feel-good chemicals. When done with other people, it can help to build and maintain social ties. Increased breath rate also promotes the increased intake of oxygen, and increased release of carbon dioxide made in our bodies.

When it comes to moving my body, I try to make sure that I’m meeting one of two criteria: getting my heart rate up or getting out of the house. Bonus points when I do both! But not every time I move my body is going to be a marathon-level endeavor. In fact, it can be as simple as walking to the corner store instead of driving, or hopping up to get my groove on when that favorite track comes on instead of just bopping my head to the beat. The key is to find some way to move my body that is fun, and then to practice making that particular kind of fun part of my regular routine.

When in doubt, don’t forget to HALT

When I find myself really jonesing—caught in an intense craving—I always make sure to HALT. For those unaware, HALT is a handy acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. It may be cliche, but don’t dismiss it out of hand! It’s amazing how often one or more of these things happen to be affecting me when I start getting really itchy. It can be pretty astounding how fast addressing the underlying HALT symptom can ease and eliminate the craving! It may seem overly simple, but it really does work.

If I start noticing that one of the HALT signs is starting to affect me more regularly (or more intensely) than normal, I take steps to make sure that the symptom is met before it starts happening. Making sure that I’m eating throughout the day and going to bed on time can sound a tad silly, but it’s amazing what a big impact it can have. The same can be said for managing my anger and avoiding isolation.

I have to be honest about how my recovery is doing

There are a lot of reasons why I may want to be less-than-honest about how my recovery is going. It can feel tempting to pretend like everything is okay all the time, that I’m some kind of emotional giant who never struggles with things. When I’m struggling with something that had been coming easily before, it can feel embarrassing to admit and tempting to ignore. It can be scary to confess that sometimes I don’t feel as solid in my recovery as other times. During low points, I’m frustrated to discover that there are situations I need to avoid, even if they wouldn’t bother me under other circumstances.

But the reality is that sometimes things happen to disrupt the stability of my recovery. Sometimes it can be a bout of depression. Other times an argument or disagreement with loved ones may be the culprit, or disappointment that something isn’t quite going the way I had hoped or planned.

Truth be told, there are also times I feel less stable in my recovery, and I have absolutely no idea why.

But the most dangerous thing of all is hiding or lying about the fact that any of these things are happening. If I don’t admit that something isn’t right or that I’m not feeling as secure in my recovery as before, I can’t take any steps to safeguard my recovery. But if I freely admit that I’m struggling, I can both address any obvious reasons why and also take some extra precautions that may be helpful. Sometimes this is as simple as skipping a party or function where there will be drinking and using. Talking with a medical provider to make sure that my medication doses are on track (including my MAT meds) is also incredibly important.

I want to point out that what works for me won’t necessarily be what’s best in your recovery. Everyone is different. But when you find a coping tool that works for you, make note of it and remember to rely on it as you move forward in your recovery journey.

Derek has been involved with recovery and recovery networks for over half of his life. With a strong background in both customer service and healthcare, he is uniquely situated to help guide new members to Workit Health

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