Stress & Substance Abuse

Stress & Substance Abuse

Getting sober, although tough, is simple for most people. Staying sober is where the journey becomes tricky. Drinking and using drugs is only a small part of the disease of addiction. In order to fully recover from alcoholism or drug addiction, it’s important for a person to learn how to manage their daily life without picking up drugs or alcohol. It all starts by being able to acknowledge one’s triggers as well as finding healthy ways to deal with them.

What are Triggers?
Addiction involves a mental obsession and physical craving, and often times the cravings to use begin with a trigger. A trigger is a stimulus that leads to a desire to partake in activities related to the addiction. When a trigger occurs, the person’s brain begins to remember that drinking or using drugs was the way the person deals with the situation, so it makes the person begin craving their substance of choice. Much like when a person is dehydrated and their body craves water, the same thing happens with drugs or alcohol.

Stress is a Powerful Trigger
Many drug addicts and alcoholics drink or use in order to get rid of a feeling or find an escape, and stress is one of the most common triggers. In a person’s addiction, they may have drank or used drugs in order to deal with the stresses at work, paying bills or dealing with a significant other. When a person gets sober in a treatment center and is then discharged, stress is still going to occur in their daily life.

Different treatment centers teach a variety of different techniques for dealing with stress because it can be such a powerful trigger. It’s important to realize going into treatment that just because you’re receiving help, it doesn’t mean that life is going to stop happening when you return home. Those who get sober are still going to be dealing with the stresses of finances, relationships and other situations when they leave treatment, so it’s important to have recovery tools in place to deal with these stresses.

Mindfulness and Meditation for Stress Relief
A wide range of drug and alcohol treatment centers teach mindfulness and meditation. These methods have been scientifically proven to help reduce stress. Most addicts spend months or years running away from stress, and the practice of mindfulness is about accepting stress while being mindful of the present moment. A lot of stress is based on fears of what is already out of the person’s control. Whether they’re stressed about past decisions they’ve made or financial insecurities of the future, these fears can become debilitating.

Mindfulness and meditation are about staying in the moment and accepting the moment for exactly what it is. Not only does this help a person get in touch with their mind and body, but recognizing each moment for what it is can also help with preventing impulsive decisions like relapsing. Mindfulness has become such a powerful movement in a variety of different aspects of the medical field that the University of Massachusetts backs the method fully.

There are a variety of other ways to relieve stress as well while in recovery. Some people go for a walk, exercise, read a book or go to a 12-step meeting. If you’re in recovery, the trick is to try different ways of relieving stress and find the one that works best for you. Eventually, you’ll begin to find that situations that used to cause you stress will eventually become much easier to deal with.

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dave_freyDave Frey —Director of Admissions

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