Stress is a six letter word that is probably one of the most damaging words in the English language when it comes to recovery from an addition. This is true for the “hard” addictions like alcohol and drugs as well as for addictions like shopping, love, internet use and pornography. However, as I discuss in the book “The Law of Sobriety” stress is not something that you can eliminate completely from your life.
If you can’t eliminate stress then you have to have a way to deal with it. This way has to be easier and more automatic than turning back to the addiction. In addition you need to choose an alternate or replacement activity that is not an addictive behavior in itself. Unfortunately, that is what many people do. For example, a person that is recovering from an alcohol addiction may find that when they are stressed they smoke more, eat more or go online and play poker. This is not a healthy way to deal with stress since you are really just substituting one problem behavior for another.
Having a plan to come up with stress is the best option. This plan needs to include three basic components. These components include:
1, Who – who can you talk to when you being to feel stressed that can help you to avoid turning to the addictive behavior. This could be a sponsor, coach, friend or family member but it has to be someone that is sober, supportive and available.
2. What – what is the replacement behavior that you are going to use. This behavior needs to be healthy, effective and easy to do regardless of where you may be. Deep breathing is a good stress relief option no matter where you may be. Swimming 50 laps is much less practical.
3. How – how does the replacement or alternate behavior make you feel? Does it reduce your stress and your cravings for the addictive behavior or substance? Not all stress reduction works for everyone so you need to customize your plan to meet your needs, not what someone else tells you will work.
An addiction recovery counselor, therapist or life coach can be helpful in developing a stress reduction plan. If you recognize that stress will occur in your life and map out a way to cope that is effective and successful your chances of falling back into the addictive behavior will be dramatically reduced.