For those who use drugs or drink alcohol, stress relief is a no-brainer. Crack a bottle of beer, light a joint, or pop a pill. Of course, as addiction to intoxicating substances takes hold, the individual’s stress level rises as they scramble to find and pay for their drug of choice, keep their habits hidden from family and friends, and watch their life crumbling before them. It’s a textbook example of a vicious cycle, and sooner or later the addict will hit bottom.
Once you have achieved sobriety, you may struggle to deal with everyday problems. Unless you have learned about sober techniques to keep stress in check, the risk of relapse is high.
Here are some good alternatives to drugs and alcohol that can help you banish stress and remain sober.
8 Sober Techniques for Dealing with Stress As an Addict
Which of these techniques works best for you depends on your interests, and it may take some trial-and-error before you find the most effective way to cope with stress. Keep an open mind and give all of these a try before you dismiss them!
Focus on the Moment with Meditation
Although the practice of meditation is ancient, in the Western world it has been soaring in popularity over the last few years.
Meditation and mindfulness emphasize living in the present moment, as well as accepting whatever feelings you are experiencing. This can be particularly difficult for recovering addicts, who are accustomed to doing anything it takes to avoid their emotions. However, that’s exactly what makes meditation so valuable and effective as a sober technique for stress relief.
There are many meditation apps available. Check out Headspace and Stop, Breathe, Think. However, you don’t even have to use an app to harness the power of mindfulness or meditation as a stress buster. Simply sit still, close your eyes, deepen your breathing, and try to empty your mind. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them and bring your attention back to the breath.
From “Oh No” to “Ohhhmmm”
Yoga is a form of exercise that can run the gamut from gentle stretching to a vigorous workout. It is similar to meditation in that it asks the practitioner to focus on their breath. Yet yoga does much more than tone the physical body. It can be a truly transformative emotional and even spiritual practice.
Best of all, even a few minutes’ worth of yoga goes a long way. Once you learn some of the basic poses, you may find yourself doing them at intervals throughout the day, whenever you need a mini-break. Try some of the beginner videos offered by Yoga with Adriene, a popular YouTube channel.
Sweat the Small Stuff — Literally
If yoga and meditation aren’t your thing, how about a good, old-fashioned sweat session? Go for a run, lace up some skates, or hit the elliptical trainer. Working out is a wonderful way to recommit to your physical health in the early days of sobriety, and it offers unparalleled stress relief.
Need a little help getting to the gym? Enlist a workout buddy who will motivate you to get regular exercise. And when your stress spikes or you’re facing an addiction trigger, get your sweat on for immediate relief.
Take To the Natural World
Spending time in nature can be incredibly restorative for your mind, body and soul. Find a serene spot near the water or in the woods where you can retreat when your tension threatens to get the better of you.
You don’t need to backpack to Walden Pond to reap the benefits of the Great Outdoors, either; take a ten-minute walk and feel the sun on your face, or sit in a park and listen to the birds singing.
Tap Into Your Creative Spirit
Remember how it felt to be a kid, to open a fresh 64-pack of crayons and spend hours coloring or doodling? Guess what? That feeling is still available to you. Adult coloring is all the rage, largely because of how soothing and stress-relieving it is. So treat yourself to a set of colored pencils or markers and let your inner artist come out to play!
Many recovering addicts find that bullet journaling is a great way to track their mental and physical states and unleash their creativity. Of course, regular journaling is also immensely helpful as a relaxation technique. Writing and/or drawing your thoughts and emotions is one of the best ways to combat stress.
Give Back to Your Community
Find yourself with a lot of spare time on your hands? It’s a common occurrence for newly sober people; acquiring and taking drugs is surprisingly time-consuming. Why not put your time to good use by volunteering it?
Whether it’s walking dogs at the local shelter, mentoring at-risk teenagers, helping sort donations at a food pantry, or building houses for veterans, volunteering will do your heart good. Find an organization that needs a helping hand, and pitch in.
Lose Yourself in a Fictional World
Have you ever gotten so engrossed in a book that you’ve lost all track of time? Reading can transport you out of your own life and into another world — which is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.
If television or movies are more your speed, start working your way through that Netflix queue! Or try a podcast or audiobook to leave your hands free while you journal or take a walk. No matter what the genre, entertainment can be a godsend when you’re trying to take your mind off your own problems or chill out after a stressful day.
Spend Time with Sober Friends
Sobriety isn’t easy, and it’s nearly impossible if you are isolated and alone. Seek out the company of fellow recovering addicts, who will understand what you’re going through. By surrounding yourself with caring, supportive, and sober people, you increase the odds of staying clean even in your most stressful moments.
Support groups are a good way to find friends, of course. But don’t limit your social life to meetings. Meet a pal for coffee, make plans to go for a bike ride or a hike together, or invite friends over for a sober poker night.
A Few Final Thoughts
Stress is a fact of life, but by developing some good habits and learning what sober techniques for stress relief are most helpful, you will be able to ride out even the toughest times.
How do you like to relax and destress? Have we left any essential techniques off our list? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below!